287 Commonwealth was designed by Rotch and Tilden, architects, and built in 1892-1893 by Connery & Wentworth and Ira Hersey, builders. It was built as the home of Herbert Mason Sears and his wife, Caroline B. (Bartlett) Sears. They had been married in June of 1891 and had lived temporarily at 170 Beacon while their new home on Commonwealth was being built.
He is shown as the owner on the original building permit application, dated March 31, 1892, and on the final building inspection report, dated November 13, 1893.
Herbert Sears was a banker and trustee of estates.
In her book, Ogden Codman and the Decoration of Houses, Pauline C. Metcalf indicates that, between 1903 and 1910, the Sears retained Ogden Codman, Jr., to provide interior decoration at 287 Commonwealth.
Caroline Bartlett died in January of 1908. Herbert Sears continued to live at 287 Commonwealth until his death in February of 1942.
By 1943, 287 Commonwealth was owned by Fred L. Arata, a retail liquor dealer and real estate investor. He and his wife, Annette Flossie (Crovo) Boggiano Arata, lived in Brighton. In August of 1943, he applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a single-family dwelling into a lodging house.
In the mid-1950s, 287 Commonwealth was purchased by Dr. Edward Francis Bowman, a physician. It continued to be apartments (legally a lodging house). After acquiring 287 Commonwealth, he moved his medical offices there from 322 Beacon; he and his wife, Doreen Simpson (Woodyatt) Bowman, lived at 149 Beacon.
In March of 1964, 287 Commonwealth was acquired from Edward Bowman by the International Institute of Boston. It previously had been located at 190 Beacon.
The International Institute of Boston was established in 1924, part of a national effort started in 1910 in New York City by Edith Terry Bremer under the auspices of the Young Women’s Christian Association. It’s goal was to assist newly arrived and second-generation immigrant girls and women by providing English classes, recreational and club activities, and assistance in dealing with employment, housing, naturalization, and other problems. Among the organization’s principles was “keeping close to the thinking of foreign communities as a whole” and, towards that end, the Boston Institute began with a staff drawn from a diverse group of nationalities. The overall goal, as summarized in Raymond A. Mohl’s The International Institute Movement and Ethnic Pluralism was that “diversity rather than conformity, cooperation rather than conflict, was the essence of American democracy.” In 1935, the International Institute of Boston joined a number of chapters in other cities in ending its affiliation with the YWCA and forminga new national organization, the National Institute of Immigrant Welfare, which Edith Terry Bremer was the founder and first executive director.
In August of 1964, International Institute applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a lodging house into offices and meeting rooms. As described in documents associated with its application, the Institute proposed to use the property “to provide a centre for information, service, education, and assembly for the use of people of all nationalities” with the goal of developing “international fellowship and understanding” and promoting “the welfare of our foreign population.”
In November of 1997, Gordon Reger, trustee of the Gordon Reger Acquisition Trust, purchased 287 Commonwealth from the International Institute. In August of 1997, prior to acquiring the property, he had filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert it from organizational meeting rooms and offices into eight apartments.
In July of 1998, he filed for (and subsequently received) permission to reduce the number of apartments from eight to six by combining three units.
In November of 1998, it converted the property into six condominium units, The HMS Sears House at 287 Commonwealth Avenue Condominium.