285 Commonwealth was designed by Winslow and Bigelow, architects, and built in 1903-1904 by Ira Hersey, builder, as the home of Frederick Thomas Bradbury and his wife Harriet J. (White) Bradbury. They previously had lived at 197 Marlborough. Harriet Bradbury is shown as the owner of 285 Commonwealth on the original building permit application, dated October 31, 1903, and on the 1908, 1917, and 1928 Bromley maps.
A Boston Transcript news article from 1903 described plans for the new house: “The substantial and costly dwelling to be erected on lot numbered 285 Commonwealth avenue, Back Bay, near Gloucester street, for Mrs. Harriet J. Bradbury, as already announced in the Transcript, will be built of stone and brick and will cost upwards of $60,000 above the land. In dimensions the house will be four-stories high, with a frontage of twenty-six feet and a clear depth of seventy-five feet. Winslow and Bigelow have the plans in preparation…”.
George Robert White, Harriet Bradbury’s brother, lived with the Bradburys. He had lived with them at 197 Marlborough. He also maintained a home, Lilliothea, at Smith’s Point in Manchester. He was managinging partner in the Potter Drug and Chemical Company (manufacturers of Cuticura soap) and a real estate investor. George White was a major benefactor of the Museum of Fine Arts and other Boston institutions. In 1910, he purchased the bronze statue, “Bacchante,” by Frederick Macmonnies, from the Yerkes Estate in New York City and later donated it (on permanent loan) to the MFA. The statue had been commissioned by architect Charles F. McKim in 1897 and donated to the Boston Public Library (designed by McKim, Mead, and White), but the public furor over the “indecency” of the statue resulted in McKim withdrawing the donation.
Frederick Bradbury was teller of the Provident Institution for Savings until 1907, when he became treasurer of Potter Drug and Chemical.
Frederick Bradbury died in March of 1919.
George White continued to live at 285 Commonwealth with Harriet Bradbury until his death in January of 1922. At the time of his death, he was described as the city’s largest individual taxpayer; in his will, he left the City of Boston $7 million for “works of public utility and beauty.”
Harriet Bradbury continued to live at 285 Commonwealth until her death in April of 1930.
The house was not listed in the 1931 Blue Book.
By the 1931-1932 winter season, 285 Commonwealth was the home of John Coleman Kiley and his wife, Bertha (O’Conner) Kiley. They previously had lived in Chestnut Hill. Bertha Kiley is shown as the owner of 285 Commonwealth on the 1938 Bromley map.
John Kiley was a real estate broker and auctioneer.
Bertha Kiley died in November of 1950. John Kiley died in June of 1952.
In July of 1953, Dr. Philip E. Meltzer acquired 285 Commonwealth from the estate of John Kiley.
Dr. Meltzer was an ear, nose, and throat specialists, and a professor at Tufts College Medical School.
In September of 1953, he filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property into a single-family residence for himself on the fourth and fifth floors, and medical offices on the lower floors.
He subsequently transferred the property to himself and Milton S. Schwartz, trustees of the Meltzer Realty Trust.
Philip Meltzer died in March of 1967. The property remained medical offices, with the residential unit occupied by the building superintendent, William G. Holland, and his wife, Evelyn.
In January of 1977, Nevin S. Scrimshaw and his wife, Mary Ware Scrimshaw, purchased 285 Commonwealth from Milton Schwartz and David Baye, trustees of the Meltzer Realty Trust. In June of 1977, they applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property into two apartments.
In April of 1981, they converted the property into two condominium units, the 285 Commonwealth Avenue Condominium.
285 Commonwealth (Demolished)
When it was built in 1903-1904, 285 Commonwealth replaced a house built in 1881-1882 by Keening and Fellows, builders (no architect is identified on the original building permit application) for real estate dealer Henry Whitwell, for speculative sale. He is shown as the owner on the original building permit application, dated September 28, 1881, and on the 1883 Bromley map.
By the 1886-1887 winter season, it was the home of Washington Butcher Thomas and his wife, Caroline (Wadleigh) Thomas. In 1885, they had lived at the Hotel Brunswick (southeast corner of Boylston and Clarendon) His father, Joseph B. Thomas, is shown as the owner on the 1888 Bromley map.
Washington Thomas was an executive of the Standard Sugar Refinery, owned by his father, and later would become president of the American Sugar Refining Company. A major investor in real estate, in 1895, he built The Marlborough apartment house at 416 Marlborough, and in 1898-1899, he built the Hotel Cambridge at 483-485 Beacon.
Washington and Caroline Thomas continued to live at 285 Commonwealth until 1896, when they purchased and moved to 20 Gloucester.
The house was not listed in the 1897 Blue Book.
By the 1897-1898 winter season, 285 Commonwealth was the home of Albert Ivins Croll, a yarn dealer, and his wife, Sarah Helen Merrill (Knowles) Croll. They previously had lived at The Abbotsford at 188 Commonwealth. He is shown as the owner of 285 Commonwealth on the 1898 Bromley map.
They continued to live there during the 1902-1903 winter season. By 1904. they had moved to Manchester, where they made their year-round home until 1905, when they spent the 1905-1906 winter season at 183 Marlborough.
In the summer of 1903, the Crolls sold 285 Commonwealth to Frederick T. Bradley and his wife, Harriet J. (White) Bradbury. The transaction was reported in the Boston Globe on September 1, 1903. In October of that year they filed a permit application to replace it with a new townhouse.