3 Commonwealth was built ca. 1861, one of a pair of academic brick houses (3-5 Commonwealth) built at the same time in a symmetrical design, each with a bay extending through the mansard roof. 3 Commonwealth was built on a lot with a 50 foot frontage, and 5 Commonwealth on a lot with an 80 foot frontage. The houses were about the same width, with 5 Commonwealth slightly larger and the western portion of the lot – about 20 feet wide — left open. Both houses included stables at the rear of the property.
3 Commonwealth was built as the home of Benjamin Smith Rotch and his wife Annie Bigelow (Lawrence) Rotch. 5 Commonwealth was built for his brother-in-law and his wife, Abbott and Harriette (Paige) Lawrence.
Both men purchased the land on which the houses were built from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on May 2, 1860.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 3 Commonwealth, and click here for further information about the land between the north side of Commonwealth and Alley 422, from Arlington to Berkeley.
By 1862, Benjamin and Annie (Lawrence) Rotch had made 3 Commonwealth their home. They previously had lived at 66 Boylston. They also maintained a home and farm, Pine Tree Brook, in Milton.
Benjamin Rotch was a merchant and founder of the New Bedford Cordage Company. He also was an accomplished landscape artist.
The Rotches’ five surviving children lived with them at 3 Commonwealth: Edith Rotch, Arthur Rotch, Aimée Rotch, Annie Lawrence Rotch, and Abbot Lawrence Rotch.
Aimée Rotch married in December of 1873 to Winthrop Henry Sargent, an attorney. After their marriage, they lived at 5 Marlborough with his parents, Henry Winthrop Sargent and Caroline (Olmstead) Sargent.
Benjamin Rotch died in August of 1882. After his death, his children established and endowed the Rotch Travelling Fellowship of the Boston Society of Architects to provide grants to young architects, enabling them to travel in Europe and further their knowledge of the field.
Annie (Lawrence) Rotch continued to live at 3 Commonwealth with their unmarried children.
Annie Rotch married in April of 1890 to Horatio Appleton Lamb, a dry goods commission merchant. After their marriage, they traveled abroad and then made their home in Milton. During the 1891-1892 winter season they were living at 122 Commonwealth, where their son, Thomas, was born in January of 1892.
Annie (Lawrence) Rotch died in August of 1893.
Abbott Lawrence Rotch married in November of 1893 to Margaret Randolph Anderson. He was a professor of meteorology at Harvard and in 1885 had founded the Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory in Milton. After their marriage, they lived in Milton; during the 1894-1895 winter season, they were living at 265 Commonwealth.
Edith Rotch continued to live in Boston and at her home in Lenox, The Gables (also known as Gusty Gables), which she owned with her friend, Mary Carey, daughter of Samuel Carey of New York. Edith Rotch died there in May of 1897.
On November 27, 1894, 3 Commonwealth was purchased from the Rotch family by Louisa (Norton) Bullard, the wife of William Story Bullard. They previously had lived at 5 Mt. Vernon. They also maintained a home, Highgate Manor, in Stockbridge, which they had purchased in 1857.
William Bullard was a former East India shipping merchant in partnership with his brother, Stephen Hopkins Bullard, and Henry Lee, Jr.
Three of the Bullards’ adult children lived with them: Stephen Bullard, Francis Bullard, and Katherine Eliot (born Catharine Norton) Bullard. Their son, Dr. William Norton Bullard, a neurologist, lived at 89 Marlborough, and their other son, Charles Bullard, lived at his home, Merrywood, in Stockbridge.
William S. Bullard died in August of 1897. Louisa Bullard continued to live at 3 Commonwealth with Francis and Katherine Bullard. Stephen Bullard moved to live with his brother, William, at 89 Marlborough, until about 1900, when he resumed living with his mother and siblings at 3 Commonwealth.
By the 1907-1908 winter season, they were joined by Wllliam S. Bullard’s niece, Ellen Twistleton Bullard, the daughter of Stephen H. Bullard and his wife, Elizabeth Lyman (Eliot) Bullard.
Stephen Bullard died in September of 1909, Charles Bullard died in December of 1911 (still a resident of Merryhill in Stockbridge), and Francis Bullard died in February of 1913). None had married.
Louisa Bullard died in September of 1915, and Katherine Bullard and Ellen Bullard moved soon thereafter to 39 Commonwealth.
On May 17, 1916, 3 Commonwealth was purchased from the Bullard family by John Stanley Ames. He and his wife Anna (Nancy) McKinley (Filley) Ames, made it their Boston home. They previously had lived at his family home at 306 Dartmouth. They also maintained a home, Langwater, in North Easton, that had been built for his parents, Frederick Lothrop Ames and Rebecca (Blair) Ames.
John Stanley Ames’s family had founded the Ames Shovel Company in North Easton and later became major investors in the Union Pacific and other railroads. John Ames was a trustee of his family’s investments and bank director, and a noted horticulturalist.
In June of 1916, he applied for (and subsequently received) permission to remodel the house, including adding a two-story brick addition at the rear, 22 feet wide and 14 feet deep. The work was designed by architects Little and Browne. Plans for the remodeling and addition, including detailed drawings of various interior features, are included in Historic New England’s Arthur Little and Herbert W. C. Browne Architectural Collection.
In about 1929, John Ames’s sister, Mary Shreve (Ames) Frothingham, the widow of Louis Adams Frothingham, made 7 Commonwealth her home.
John and Nancy Ames continued to live at 3 Commonwealth and in North Easton until his death in June of 1959.
In his will, John S. Ames left 3 Commonwealth to the Unitarian Society of North Easton. His son, businessman and state legislator Oliver Filley Ames, decided to keep the home and on April 26, 1960, he purchased it from his father’s estate with the consent of the church. By 1961, he had leased it to the French Consulate; it previously had been located at 178 Beacon.
The consulate moved in 1995 and on March 27,1996, Oliver Ames sold the house to Modern Continental Enterprises, Inc. Modern Continental applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property into six units, including constructing a 20′ x 22′ structure in the rear connecting the house with the existing garage.
On June 8, 1997, Modern Continental converted 3 Commonwealth into five condominium units with a garage accommodating up to seven vehicles: The Residences at Three Commonwealth Avenue.
In May of 1998, Modern Continental applied for (and subsequently received) permission to reduce the number of units from six to five, conforming the legal use to the actual number of units built.