270 Commonwealth was designed by Mackay and Dunham, architects, and built in 1895-1896 by Mead, Mason & Co., builders, as the Hotel Tuileries, an apartment hotel. At about the same time, they also designed and built the Hotel Empire at 333 Commonwealth.
Henry Squarebriggs Mackay (McKay) of Mackay and Dunham purchased the land for 270 Commonwealth on November 13, 1895, from Ellen A. (Larrabee) Johnson, the wife of Henry M. Johnson. She had purchased the land in three lots in 1886 from Mary T. (Cumston) Richardson, the wife of Spencer Richardson, Elmira A. (Reed) Stone, the wife of Joseph Lyman Stone, and Mary (Fisk) Colburn, the wife of William H. Colburn. The lots were part of a tract of land originally purchased by Nathan Matthews on January 2, 1871, from David Sears, Jr., Frederick R. Sears, and Knyvet Sears.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 270 Commonwealth, and click here for further information about the land between the south side of Commonwealth and Alley 432, from Fairfield to Gloucester.
Henry S. Mackay had purchased the land for 333 Commonwealth in February of 1895, also from Ellen Johnson.
On November 2, 1895, the Boston Globe, reported on plans for 270 Commonwealth, noting that “Henry S. MacKay of the well-known architectural firm of MacKay & Dunham is to erect on Commonwealth av., south side, east of Gloucester st., a handsome six-story apartment hotel, from plans by his firm, to cost completed above the land about $200,000. The materials of construction will be Indiana limestone, with brick backing, with a frontage of 70 feet and a depth of 104 feet. The foundation will be block granite. There will be 25 suites of from four to six rooms each.”
An article by architect Albert Winslow Cobb on “Recent Boston Architecture” in the July 3, 1897, issue of Architecture and Building commenting on “family hotels” noted “The extent to which classic elegance is carried in some buildings of this class is exemplified by ‘The Tuileries,’ a Commonwealth Avenue establishment whose ground-floor apartments offer a cleverly wrought object lesson in French architectural periods from ‘Louis Quinze’ to ‘The Empire,’ the culminating apartment being a grand dining hall in white and gold Corinthian of ‘Empire’ flavor, its wall panels adorned with superb paintings illustrating French history.”
An April 27, 1899, Boston Globe article described the hotel’s early years of operation: “The Tuileries was opened about three years ago, and from the magnificence of its appointments, at once took its place among the ultra fashionable hotels of the city. It differed from other Boston hotels in its internal policy as regards waiters, for instead of the plain suit of either black or white and black, the rules prescribed for waiters obliged them to wear knee breeches and silk stockings and dress after the style prevailing among the English aristocracy.”
To finance the Tuileries and the Empire, Henry Mackay had entered into multiple mortgages on both properties, including mortgages with Ellen Johnson when he purchased the land, several additional mortgages on each building, and a blanket mortgage covering both buildings with Mead, Mason & Co., the builders.
Ellen Johnson died in November of 1898, and on December 22, 1898, Henry Johnson foreclosed on her mortgages to Henry S. Mackay on both properties. He was quoted in a March 27, 1899, article in the Barre (Vertmont) Telegram as saying “’The property is simple [sic] covered up with attachments, and it was to clear up the title that foreclosure proceedings have been brought. I never saw such a muddle in my life.’”
In early February of 1899, Henry Mackay and his family left Boston for the west, where they were noted as staying in a hotel in Salt Lake City in the February 10, 1899, edition of the Salt Lake Tribune. According the Barre (Vermont) Telegram article, they had gone west “to make, as it was understood, a temporary visit to his gold mine in the West. He has not been heard from since.”
Henry Mackay was declared bankrupt in April of 1899. He and his family remained in the west and he became a mine engineer, promoter, and investor, with interests in the southwest and Mexico.
333 Commonwealth was sold at auction on March 31,1899. It was purchased by Frederick (Fred) Wellington Ayer, a lumber dealer and paper and pulp manufacturer from Bangor, Maine. His wife, Marietta Rollins (Mann) Ayer, was Ellen Johnson’s niece, and he was acting for the Johnson family.
270 Commonwealth sold at auction on April 26, 1899. In May of 1896, Ellen Johnson had assigned the mortgage to Ellen Louise (Tileston) Hemenway, the widow of Charles Porter Hemenway. She was the successful bidder and took possession of the property.
By November of 1899, the Tuileries was leased to Frederick Marshall Crosby, who advertised in the Boston Globe that the hotel would “shortly reopen under new management” with “suites of from two to eight rooms and bath” and a “banquet hall for receptions, dances, dinners, etc.”
Henry Johnson died in September of 1900. In his will, he left one fourth of his estate to each of his wife’s three nieces: Marietta Rollins (Mann) Ayer (daughter of Jonathan Mann and Harriett Louise (Larrabee) Mann), wife of Fred W. Ayer, of Bangor; Ella Frances (Mann) Guild, wife of Charles H. Guild, of Bangor; and Ellen (Nellie) A. (Strickland) Goodnow (daughter of Philo Augustus Strickland and Mary Elizabeth (Larrabee) Strickland), wife of Walter Richardson Goodnow, of 293 Commonwealth (and formerly of 47 Hereford). The remaining fourth he left in trust to his nephew, George F. Johnson of Lynn, son of his brother, Samuel H. Johnson and Mary Ann (Burchsted) Johnson.
In May of 1901, Fred W. Ayer, as executor of Henry Johnson’s estate and administrator of Ellen Johnson’s estate, acquired the mortgage on 270 Commonwealth from Ellen Hemenway. On June 20, 1901, he foreclosed on the mortgage and took possession of the property.
270 Commonwealth and 333 Commonwealth remained the property of Henry Johnson’s estate until March 9, 1918, when each devisee under Henry Johnson’s will received his or her one-fourth interest in each property.
From September of 1901, the Hotel Tuileries and the Hotel Empire were managed by Harry Lamprey Brown, who previously had managed the Hotel Westminster (southwest corner of St. James and Trinity Place) and also was the summer season manager at the Islesboro Inn in Dark Harbor, Maine. He left in 1902 and became proprietor and manager of the Hotel Victoria at 273 Dartmouth. In about 1911, he became treasurer of the Waltham Watch Company.
From 1904, the Tuileries and the Empire were managed by the firm of Ainslee & Grabow (later the E. R. Grabow Company), which also managed the New Ocean House in Swampscott and several other properties. The firm announced its management of the two hotels in the September 3, 1904, edition of its New Ocean House Reminder, indicating that “under the new management both houses will be thoroughly renovated and made ready for occupancy on September twenty-fifth, the American plan will be continued, and those who desire a select, retired city home for the winter season will find their wants here satisfied.”
On May 25, 1920, the Boston Globe reported that 270 Commonwealth and 333 Commonwealth had been sold to a “purchasing syndicate” that intended to make “extensive improvements.” The article also reported that “after the present leases have expired,” E. R. Grabow Company would cease management of the properties and they would be managed by Fannie L. Randall.
On August 26, 1920, 270 Commonwealth and 333 Commonwealth were acquired from the heirs of Henry Johnson by Fannie L. Randall, probably acting on behalf of the investment syndicate mentioned in the Globe article. Fannie L. (Whitney) Giles Randall was the widow of Charles W. Randall. After acquiring the properties, she lived at 333 Commonwealth. She previously had lived in Brookline.
On August 10, 1921, 270 Commonwealth was acquired from Fannie Randall by Charles E. Abbott, president and treasurer of the Professional Building Co., Inc. He transferred the property to his company, and in June of 1922, the company also acquired 333 Commonwealth from her. On the same day, it also acquired 353 Commonwealth from Stanley W. Lovejoy, a real estate dealer associated with the company.
The same month it acquired 270 Commonwealth, the Professional Building Company applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a hotel into medical offices. 353 Commonwealth was converted into medical offices at about the same time, while it was owned by Stanley Lovejoy.
On November 14, 1922, 270 Commonwealth, 333 Commonwealth, and 353 Commonwealth were acquired from the Professional Building Co. by the Commonwealth Home and Office Trust, the trustees of which were Russell S. Codman (trustee of the Central Building Trust and other concerns), Allan Forbes (president of the State Street Trust Company), and Leavitt C. Parsons (president of Marshall & Co., Inc.).
On April 16, 1923, 270 Commonwealth was re-acquired by the Professional Building Co. The Commonwealth Home and Office Trust retained 333 Commonwealth and 353 Commonwealth.
270 Commonwealth remained a medical office building for the next forty years.
In February of 1952, the Professional Building Co. acquired 274-278 Commonwealth, which also were operated as medical office buildings.
On May 31, 1962,270-274-276 Commonwealth were purchased from the Professional Building Co. by Chamberlayne School and Chamberlayne Junior College, located at 128 Commonwealth. In August of 1960, Chamberlayne had acquired the four neighboring houses at 260–262–264–266 Commonwealth and converted them from lodging houses to dormitories. In June of 1966, it acquired 278–280–282 Commonwealth.
In June of 1962, Chamberlayne applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert 270 Commonwealth from professional offices into a dormitory.
Chamberlayne went bankrupt in the mid-1970s and sold many of its properties.
In February of 1977, George J. Brennan, Jr., Rocco Losano, Louis Musco, and Frank Carroll (doing business as Commonwealth Management Associates, also known as Garden Halls Dormitories) purchased 260 and 262 Commonwealth from Chamberlayne.
264-266-270 Commonwealth remained the property of the Stratford Foundation, successor to Chamberlayne School and Chamberlayne Junior College, and continued to be dormitories in the 1980s.
On November 6, 1989, 264-266-270 Commonwealth were purchased from the Stratford Foundation by Berklee College of Music.
264-266-270 Commonwealth remained Berklee College dormitories in 2020.