297 Commonwealth was designed by Peabody and Stearns, architects, and built in 1899-1900 by Woodbury & Leighton, builders, for textile machinery manufacturer George Albert Draper and his wife Jessie Fremont (Preston) Draper. They lived in Hopedale, where George Draper’s firm was located, and built 297 Commonwealth as their winter home. Jessie P. Draper is shown as the owner on the original building permit application, dated November 6, 1899, and on the 1908 and 1917 Bromley maps.
Plans for the house are included in the Peabody and Stearns Collection in the Boston Public Library’s Arts Department (reference PS/MA.051). The plans reference a November 2, 1899, contact between Jessie Draper and Woodbury & Leighton.
Click here to view the original plans for 297 Commonwealth.
The Drapers’ two surviving children — Wickliffe Preston Draper and Helen Howard Draper — lived with them. Helen Draper married in February of 1917 to Walbridge Smith Taft, the nephew of President William Howard Taft. After their marriage, they lived in New York City.
Jessie Draper, who had been ill for several months, died the day after her daughter’s marriage.
Wickliffe Draper served in the British army and then the American army during World War I, and then resumed living with his father.
Helen (Draper) Taft divorced in 1920 and by the 1921-1922 winter season was living at 297 Commonwealth with her father and brother.
After his death, Wickliffe Draper traveled abroad and then lived in New York City and Hopedale. He became an ardent eugenicist, advocate of racial segregation, and supporter of various ultra-conservative causes. Helen (Draper) Taft also moved from 297 Commonwealth, probably to the Draper home in Hopedale where she married again in May of 1924 to Nathaniel Farwell Ayer. They lived at 518 Beacon (which had been his home prior to their marriage) and in Hopedale and Marblehead.
By the 1923-1924 winter season, 297 Commonwealth was the home of retired leather merchant Charles Anderson Proctor and his wife, Grace (Hopkins) Proctor. They previously had lived at 34 Gloucester. Charles Proctor is shown as the owner of 297 Commonwealth on the 1928 Bromley map. They also maintained a summer home at Little Point in Swampscott.
Charles Proctor’s mother, Ellen Augusta (Perkins) Proctor, lived with them until shortly before her death in January of 1930.
Charles Proctor died in February of 1936. Grace Proctor continued to live at 297 Commonwealth until about 1939. Henry H. Proctor (their son), et al, at shown as the owners on the 1938 Bromley map, and were the assessed owners through 1940.
In 1941 and 1942, 297 Commonwealth was the home of Raymond E. Nilson, a masseur and health instructor, and his wife, Katherine B. (Janes) Nilson. They previously had lived at 18 Fayette; by 1943, they had moved to 206 Newbury.
John J. O’Donnell was the assessed owner of 297 Commonwealth in 1941 and 1942.
Royal Lee was the assessed owner of 297 Commonwealth from 1943 through 1947.
The house was shown as vacant in the 1943-1947 City Directories and was not included in the 1943-1947 Boston Lists of Residents.
By 1947, 297 Commonwealth was owned by the Society of Jesus of New England. In May of 1947, the Society of Jesus applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property into a residence for fifteen priests.
The residence, known as Loyola House, remained there until the 1980s.
In October of 1987, James A. Magliozzi of J. F. White Properties applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a residence for fifteen priests into six apartments and a five-car garage.
In November of 1988, James A. Magliozzi, Peter T. White, and Robert P White, trustees of the Investor Equity Trust, purchased 297 Commonwealth from the Society of Jesus of New England.
In May of 1989, they converted the property into six condominium units, the 297 Commonwealth Avenue Condominium.