308 Commonwealth was designed by architect Samuel D. Kelley and built ca. 1889 by Thomas R. White, builder, as a twelve unit apartment house (two units per floor plus one in the basement for servants and janitors), The Imperial, for real estate dealer and auctioneer George W. Nason. He is shown as the owner on the original building permit application, dated December 27, 1888. The building was listed as 308-310 Commonwealth in the Blue Books through the 1930s.
George Nason purchased the land for 308 Commonwealth on November 14, 1888, from James N. Thompson, a real estate dealer, and Joseph Feldman, a builder. They had acquired it that same day from Charles W. Pierce. The lot had been part of a 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 308 Commonwealth, and click here for further information about the land between the south side of Commonwealth and Alley 431, from Gloucester to Hereford.
On May 26, 1889, the Boston Globe reported on the nearly-completed building. “There are 13 apartments in all, having 9 rooms to a suite, besides one in the basement for servants. The finish throughout is hard wood, and steam heat, gas and electric lighting may be found in every part of the building. There will be two elevators and the floors will be provided with a special preparation of hair felt and asbestos, as a non-conductor of sound and protection against fire. The exterior of the first story is of rough Longmeadow stone, the front being circular in form, with heavy and elaborate carving of handsome design about the main doorways.” The article also noted that the “builders are Messrs. Thompson & Fieldman” (presumably James N. Thompson and Joseph Feldman, from whom George Nason purchased the property). However, the original building permit application indicates the builder was Thomas R. White, who also built 362-366 Commonwealth in 1889-1890).
Among the first residents were boot and shoe dealer Henry White and his wife, Frances Elizabeth (White) White. They previously lived at The Thorndike at 91-92 (230-240) Boylston. They continued to live at The Imperial during the 1902-1903 winter season, but moved thereafter and by 1910 were living in New York City.
Also among the first residents were William Henry Burlen, a hide and leather dealer, and his wife, Caroline Clapp (Baker) Burlen. They had married in November of 1889. He previously had lived at 53 Hereford with his parents, Moses Burlen and Sarah A. L. (Dickinson) Burlen. William and Caroline Burlen were joined at 308 Commonwealth by her mother, Sarah Bryant (Dennie) Baker, the widow of William Wilson Baker. She previously had lived at 120 West Concord. The Burlens and Mrs. Baker continued to live at The Imperial during the 1892-1893 winter season, but moved thereafter to 258 Beacon.
On March 2, 1891, 308 Commonwealth was purchased from George Nason by the Webster family: one-half interest by David Locke Webster, a leather and morocco dealer, and one-half interest by the trustees under the will of his brother, John Gerrish Webster. On October 1, 1892, the trustees under John Webster’s will transferred the property to a separate trust for the benefit of John Webster’s widow, Mary (Moulton) Webster, and their children: Ella Elisabeth (Webster) Hill, the wife of Chicago attorney James M. Hill; Mary Alba Webster; Clara Eunice Webster; and Frances Maria Webster.
On December 9, 1891, the Webster family purchased a 54.62 foot lot to the east, at 304-306 Commonwealth, with the intention, according to a January 7, 1892, Boston Evening Transcript report, of building a seven-story addition to the Hotel Imperial. Instead, they left the land vacant for several years. In May of 1895 they sold the lot at 304 Commonwealth and in 1896 they built 308 Commonwealth as the home of Henry Howard Dwight and Mary Alba (Webster) Dwight, who had married in September of 1895. He was an architect and designed the house. In 1897, the Webster family transferred 306 Commonwealth to Mary Alba (Webster) Dwight, including in the deed restrictions for the benefit of 308 Commonwealth which limited the buildings that could be constructed in the rear of 306 Commonwealth and preserved the right of 308 Commonwealth to maintain windows in the party wall, subject to the right of the owners of 306 Commonwealth to close them up if necessary in conjunction with constructing any building or addition on their property.
On April 15, 1901, the trust for the benefit of Joseph Webster’s widow and children acquired David Webster’s one-half interest in 308 Commonwealth.
On July 15, 1902, 308 Commonwealth was acquired from the Webster trust by Mary Alba (Webster) Dwight and her sister, Frances Maria (Webster) Eldredge. Frances Webster had married in October of 1892 to Zoeth Skinner Eldredge, a bank examiner and local historian in San Francisco, where they lived.
Mary Alba Dwight died in March of 1908 and Frances Eldredge died in December of 1917. Their estates continued to own 308 Commonwealth.
On April 3, 1939, the Franklin Savings Bank of the City of Boston foreclosed on a mortgage it held on 308 Commonwealth and took possession of the property, and on April 26, 1939, it sold the property to Louis D. Ziman, a real estate dealer and managing director of the Hotel Hemenway at 91 Westland Avenue. He and his wife, Mary (Evanstein) Ziman, lived in Brookline.
On December 27, 1941, Louis Ziman transferred 308 Commonwealth to his five children: Gertrude M. (Ziman) Saklad, the wife of David Saklad; Celia D. (Ziman) Masters, the wife of Edward R. Masters; Lillian G. (Ziman) Fleisher, the wife of Theodore Fleisher; Martin Ziman; and Stanley Ziman. On the same day, they transferred the property to the Ziman Realty Company.
On December 30, 1952, Ziman Realty transferred the property to the Langden Realty Corporation, on February 3, 1955, Langden Realty transferred the property to the High Realty Corporation, on May 31, 1955, High Realty transferred the property to the Chip Realty Corporation, and on May 23, 1961, Chip Realty transferred the property to Sanroma Realty, Inc. Stanley Ziman was president of all four companies.
On November 1, 1976, 308 Commonwealth was purchased from Sanroma Realty by Edward E. Zuker.
On March 25, 1977, 308 Commonwealth was purchased from Edward Zuker by Kevin O’Reilly, trustee of the 308 Commonwealth Avenue Trust. On November 10, 1977, he converted the property into thirteen condominium units, the 308 Commonwealth Condominium.