284 Commonwealth

284 Commonwealth (2018)

Lot 27' x 124.5' (3,362 sf)

Lot 27′ x 124.5′ (3,362 sf)

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, mason, as the home of Sumner Rust Mead and his wife, Anna Maria (Baldwin) Mead. He is shown as the owner on the original building permit application, dated June 28, 1880.

Sumner Mead purchased the land for 284 Commonwealth on May 20, 1880, from the Boylston National Bank of Boston. It was part of a parcel acquired by the bank on June 2, 1876, from Nathan Matthews. The parcel also included the lots where 286-288 Commonwealth and 30-32-34-36 Gloucester were built. The parcel was part of a larger 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 284 Commonwealth, and click here for further information about the land between the south side of Commonwealth and Alley 431, from Gloucester to Hereford.

By the 1881-1882 winter season, Sumner and Anna Maria Mead had made 284 Commonwealth their home. They previously had lived at 249 Berkeley.

On October 1, 1881, probably at about the time they moved to 284 Commonwealth, Sumner Mead transferred the property into his wife’s name.

Sumner Mead was a dealer in hosiery, gloves, and small wares.

He died in July of 1885. Anna Maria Mead continued to live at 284 Commonwealth.

284 Commonwealth (1904); Boston Herald, 30Dec1904

During the 1887-1888 winter season, Anna Maria 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 Cohasset.  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 Maria 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.  Frederick Mead married in June of 1890 to Katharine Rand, and moved to Brookline.  Anna Maria Mead moved soon thereafter to an apartment at 366 Commonwealth.

On April 28, 1890, 284 Commonwealth was purchased from Anna Maria Mead by Sarah E. (Kempton) Potter, the widow of druggist Warren B. Potter. Prior to her husband’s death in December of 1899, they had lived at the Hotel Kempton at the southeast corner of Berkeley and Newbury (237 Berkeley/48 Newbury), owned by Warren Potter and named in honor of Sarah Kempton’s family. Sarah Potter also maintained a home, Golden Oaks, in Sharon.

The deed for 284 Commonwealth specified that 284 Commonwealth was to be the property of Sarah Potter during her lifetime, and thereafter would become the property of Warren Potter’s siblings, Andrew Howard Potter and Cynthia A. (Potter) Read, the widow of Joseph R. Read, and Warren Potter’s nephew, John Frank Perry, the son of John Howland Perry and Harriet Newell (Potter) Perry.

Andrew Potter died in May of 1899, and in December of 1902, his heirs, Cynthia (Potter) Read, and John Frank Perry transferred their interests in 284 Commonwealth to Sarah Potter.

She continued to live there until her death in September of 1904.

On December 28, 1904, 284 Commonwealth was purchased from Sarah Potter’s estate by Bessie (Pardee) van Wickle McKee, the wife of wholesale shoe and boot merchant William Leander McKee. 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.

The McKees also maintained a home, Blithewold, in Bristol, Rhode Island, which had been built in 1896 by Bessie McKee’s first husband.  It was destroyed by fire in June of 1906 and subsequently rebuilt by the McKees, with Kilham and Hopkins as architects.

From about 1908, the McKees leased the stable at 331 Newbury. They purchased it in October of 1909 and continued to own it until 1920.

284 Commonwealth as shown on the 1908 and 1912 Bromley maps

Also in about 1908, the McKees had 284 Commonwealth remodeled by Kilham and Hopkins. The permit for the remodeling has not, as yet, been located.  However, a November 15, 1908, Boston Post article on Kilham and Hopkins includes William McKee’s residence on Commonwealth among the firm’s work (as well as “the beautiful McKee residence at Bristol, R. I.”), and a photograph of the remodeled interior, credited to the firm, appeared in the March 9, 1910, issue of the American Architect and Building News. As part of the remodeling, the mansard roof was enlarged into a full story, the front entrance was lowered to street level, and the rear of the building was modified to extend the southwest corner to the same plane as the rest of the rear façade and to add a one story terracotta ell on the east side (the modified rear façade and ell are shown on the 1912 Bromley map but not on the 1908 map).

Marjorie van Wickle married in June of 1914 to George Armstrong Lyon. After their marriage, they lived at 41 Pilgrim Road. Augustine van Wickle married in June of 1919 to Quincy Adams Shaw, III, of 11 Exeter. After their marriage, they lived briefly at 284 Commonwealth and then at 101 Chestnut.

William and Bessie McKee continued to live at 284 Commonwealth during the 1931-1932 winter season, after which they made Blithewold their year-round home.

On July 26, 1932, Bessie McKee transferred 284 Commonwealth to her daughters.

284 Commonwealth (ca. 1942), photograph by Bainbridge Bunting, courtesy of The Gleason Partnership

284 Commonwealth (ca. 1942), photograph by Bainbridge Bunting, courtesy of The Gleason Partnership

284 Commonwealth was not listed in the 1933-1937 Blue Books and is shown as vacant in the 1933 City Directory.

By 1934, 284 Commonwealth was occupied by the Boston Speech School for Crippled Children and the Copley School of Expression, operated by Mrs. Emma Louise (Grinnell) Tunnicliff, the former wife of Dr. Edmund Harrison Tunnicliff, Jr. She also lived at 284 Commonwealth. The schools (and her home) previously had been located at 1083 Boylston.

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.

In 1937, 284 Commonwealth became the home of Philip E. Saltman and his wife, Babette (Belloff) Saltman. They 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.

284 Commonwealth (2018)

Philip 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.

On April 1, 1946, Philip and Ruth Saltman purchased 284 Commonwealth from Marjorie (van Wickle) Lyon and Augustine (van Wickle) Shaw Toland (Quincy and Augustine Shaw had divorced in 1936 and she had remarried to Robert Toland).

Philip Saltman continued to operate 284 Commonwealth as a music 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, Philip Saltman applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert 284 Commonwealth into a school and dormitory.

284 Commonwealth (2018)

The school continued to operate at 284 Commonwealth in the 1980s, with the lodging house/dormitory component (characterized as apartments in the City Directories) having increased to thirty residents.

On January 3, 1985, 284 Commonwealth was purchased from the Saltmans by Jason Long and Keith Gordon, trustees of the 284 Commonwealth Avenue Realty Trust.

On August 18, 1987, 284 Commonwealth was purchased from Jason Long and Keith Gordon by John A. Coppola, trustee of the Orange Star Trust. 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.

On January 30, 2004, John Coppola transferred the property to the 284 Commonwealth LLC, of which he was the manager of record.

On July 30, 2015, 284 Commonwealth was purchased from the 284 Commonwealth LLC by the 284 Hexagon LLC (Sandra Edgerley, manager of record). It remodeled the building into 23 lodging units which Hexagon Properties operated as a guest house.

284 Commonwealth remained a guest house in 2021.