284 Commonwealth is located on the SW corner of Commonwealth and Gloucester, with 282 Commonwealth to the east, across Gloucester, 286 Commonwealth to the west, 20 Gloucester to the north, across Commonwealth, and 30 Gloucester to the south, across Alley 431.
284 Commonwealth was designed by Kirby and Lewis, architects, and built in 1880-1881 by Asa H. Caton, builder, as the home of Sumner Rust Mead and his wife, Anna Maria (Baldwin) Mead. In 1881, they had lived at 249 Berkeley while awaiting completion of their new home. He is shown as the owner of 284 Commonwealth on the original building permit application, dated June 28, 1880, and Anna M. Mead is shown as the owner on the 1883, 1888, and 1890 Bromley maps.
Sumner Mead was a dealer in hosiery, gloves, and small wares.
During the 1887-1888 winter season, Anna Mead was living elsewhere and 284 Commonwealth was the home of Lawrence Barrett and his wife, Mary F. (Mayer) Barrett. Lawrence Barrett was an internationally known actor and was performing in a series of plays with Edwin Booth at the Boston Theatre. After the season, Lawrence Barrett continued his acting tour and Mary Barrett probably moved to their summer home in Walpole. Barrett and Booth repeated their series of performances at the Boston Theatre during the 1888-1889 season, and the Barretts lived at 147 Beacon for that season.
By the 1888-1889 winter season, Anna Mead was once again living at 284 Commonwealth. Living with her was her step-son, Frederick Sumner Mead, a stockbroker, the son of Sumner Mead and his first wife, Ada (Lawrence) Mead. He married in June of 1890 to Katharine Rand, and moved to Brookline. Anna Mead moved soon thereafter to an apartment at 366 Commonwealth.
By the 1880-1891 winter season, 284 Commonwealth was the home of Sarah E. (Kempton) Potter, the widow of druggist Warren B. Potter. Prior to her husband’s death in December of 1889, they had lived at the Hotel Kempton at 237 Berkeley (48 Newbury).
In late 1904, 284 Commonwealth was purchased from Sarah Potter’s estate by wholesale shoe and boot merchant William Leander McKee and his wife, Bessie (Pardee) van Wickle McKee. The transaction was reported in the Boston Globe on December 29, 1904. They previously had lived at 1 Gloucester. Bessie van Wickle was the widow of Augustus Stout van Wickle, a Pennsylvania coal operator and bank president. Her daughters from her first marriage, Marjorie Randolph van Wickle and Augustine van Wickle, lived with them.
Bessie P. McKee is shown as the owner of 284 Commonwealth on the 1908, 1917, and 1928 Bromley maps.
The McKees also maintained a home, Blithewold, in Bristol, Rhode Island, which had been built in 1896 by Bessie McKee’s first husband. In 1908, it was destroyed by fire and rebuilt by the McKees.
Marjorie van Wickle married in June of 1914 to George Armstrong Lyon, and Augustine van Wickle married in June of 1919 to Quincy Adams Shaw, III.
William and Bessie McKee continued to live at 284 Commonwealth until about 1932, when they made Blithewold their year-round home. Bessie McKee died in February of 1936, and Blithewold and 284 Commonwealth were inherited by her daughters.
284 Commonwealth was not listed in the 1933-1937 Blue Books and is shown as vacant in the 1933 City Directory.
By 1934, 324 Commonwealth was occupied by the Boston Speech School for Crippled Children and the Copley School of Expression, operated by Mrs. Emma G. Tunnicliff, who also resided there. The schools (and her home) had been located at 1083 Boylston in 1933.
By 1935, the schools and Mrs. Tunnicliff had moved to 408 Beacon and 284 Commonwealth was once again shown as vacant in the City Directory.
By 1936, 284 Commonwealth was the home of Ella G. (Adams) Eells Haig, the widow of John H. Eells and of Dr. Andrew A. Haig, and her sister, Evelyn G. (Adams) Wardwell, the widow of George J. Wardwell. They previously had lived at 86 Bay State Road. They operated 284 Commonwealth as a lodging house., By 1937, they had moved to 116 Beacon.
284 Commonwealth was shown as vacant in the 1937 City Directory.
In 1937, 284 Commonwealth became the home of Philip E. Saltman and his wife, Babette (Belloff) Saltman, who rented it from the van Wickle daughters (Augustine van Winkle Shaw et al are shown as the owners on the 1938 Bromley map and were the assessed owners through 1946). The Saltmans previously had lived at 115 Newbury.
Philip Saltman was associated with his father’s shoe findings business and also was a pianist and music teacher. He operated Phil Saltman Studios at 284 Commonwealth, where he taught piano and his wife taught voice. He also owned the Kenmore Music Company, music publishers.
Phil and Babette Saltman divorced in about 1945. Babette Saltman moved to an apartment at 250 Commonwealth and continued to teach voice at the school. Phil Saltman remarried by 1946 to Ruth Bensusan and they moved to Rumford, Rhode Island. They later lived in Marblehead.
In 1946, Phil Saltman purchased 284 Commonwealth and continued to operate it as a school. In 1950, the Saltmans founded Camp Encore/Coda in Marblehead (later relocated to Sweden, Maine), a summer camp for teenagers focusing on music.
In June of 1953, Phil Saltman applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert 284 Commonwealth into a school and dormitory, with rooms to be located on the third and fourth floors.
The school continued to operate at 284 Commonwealth in the 1980s, with the lodging house/dormitory component having expanded into between twenty-five and thirty residents, characterized as apartments in the Boston City Directories.
In January of 1985, Jason Long and Keith Gordon, trustees of the 284 Commonwealth Avenue Realty Trust, purchased 284 Commonwealth from Philip and Ruth Saltman.
In August of 1987, John A. Coppola, trustee of the Orange Star Trust, purchased 284 Commonwealth from Jason Long and Keith Gordon. In June of 1988, he applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a music school and dormitory into a lodging house.
284 Commonwealth remained a lodging house (assessed as a combined residential/commercial building) in 2015.