31 Commonwealth and 33 Commonwealth were built ca. 1863, two of three contiguous houses (29-31-33 Commonwealth) built at the same time, and two of ten contiguous houses (29-31-33-35-37-39-41-43-45-47 Commonwealth) built in the same design between 1864 and 1873.
Bainbridge Bunting’s Houses of Boston’s Back Bay indicates that 31-33 Commonwealth were built ca. 1864 and does not attribute them to a specific architect. However, a May 15, 1863, article in the Boston Transcript indicates that they were designed by Gridley J. F. Bryant and Arthur Gilman.
31 Commonwealth was built in 1863-1864 as the home of woolen manufacturer and merchant Joseph Sawyer and his wife, Ann Maria (Dillaway) Sawyer. They previously had lived at 11 Sheafe. He purchased the land for 31 Commonwealth from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on June 3, 1863.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 31 Commonwealth.
In early 1898, several of the textile mills for which Joseph Sawyer’s firm served as selling agent went into receivership, and he and his partners liquidated their firm and formed a new one. As part of these financial reversals, on February 18, 1898, he assigned his property, including 31 Commonwealth, to Frederic E. Snow, an attorney, as trustee for the benefit of his creditors. Joseph Sawyer’s affairs stabilized and on February 28, 1899, Frederic Snow transferred 31 Commonwealth back to him. On March 3, 1899, Joseph Sawyer transferred the property to his wife.
Joseph Sawyer died in May of 1901. Anna Sawyer continued to live at 31 Commonwealth until shortly before her death in December of 1905. From about 1903, she was joined by her daughter, Mary (Sawyer) Rogers, the wife of investment broker Franklin B. Rogers.
On June 1, 1905, 31 Commonwealth was acquired from Charles Henry Dillaway, Ann Maria Sawyer’s brother and guardian, by Marcus Morton Kimball, an attorney. He and his wife, Jeanie Lawrence (Perkins) Kimball, lived at 343 Beacon
On January 7, 1907, Marcus Kimball entered into a party wall agreement with William F. Wharton, Edward A. Bangs, and George E. Cabot, trustees of Metropolitan Associates, who owned Haddon Hall at 282 Berkeley (29 Commonwealth). Among its provisions, the agreement specified that the owner of 29 Commonwealth would retain the right to have windows in the party wall “until such time as” 31 Commonwealth or a new building on “said estate shall be carried up to such height as to cover the same.”
On January 31, 1907, 31 Commonwealth was acquired from Marcus Kimball by Howard Stockton. He was a widower and lived there with his unmarried children: Lawrence Mason Stockton, Ethel Stockton, Jane Mason Stockton, and Howard Stockton, Jr. His widowed mother, Mary E. (Remington) Stockton, lived with them. They previously had lived at 390 Beacon.
Howard Stockton was an attorney and also served as an officer or director of various railroad, textile mill, banking, and other companies. Among his positions, he was treasurer of the Cocheco Manufacturing Company from 1876 through 1887 and of the Salmon Falls Manufacturing Company from 1880 to 1887, president of the American Bell Telephone Company from 1887 to 1889, and Actuary of the Massachusetts Hospital Life Insurance Company from 1901 until his death in 1932.
Mary (Reminton) Stockton died in January of 1908.
Ethel Stockton married in May of 1909 to attorney Alexander Whiteside, Jr. After their marriage, they lived at 192 Beacon with his widowed mother, Eleanor (Shattuck) Whiteside (with whom he had lived before their marriage).
Jane Mason Stockton married In January of 1911 to banker Samuel Parkman Shaw, III. Prior to their marriage, he had lived with his parents, Samuel and Gertrude (Bramwell) Shaw, at 184 Marlborough; after their marriage, they lived with Howard Stockton at 31 Commonwealth. Howard Stockton and the Shaws also maintained a home in Wareham.
Howard Stockton died in April of 1932. Howard Stockton, Jr., an attorney, moved soon thereafter to the Somerset Club at 41 Beacon (he died in December of 1934; he was unmarried). The Shaws continued to live at 31 Commonwealth during the 1933-1934 winter season, but moved thereafter to Needham. 31 Commonwealth continued to be owned by the Stockton family and leased to others.
By the 1934-1935 winter season, 31 Commonwealth was the home of retired marine engineer William J. DuBois and his wife, Mary A. (Beatty) DuBois, who operated it as a lodging house. They previously had lived in New Hampshire. They continued to live at 31 Commonwealth until his death in December of 1937.
31 Commonwealth continued to be a lodging house.
Among the residents from 1937 was Dr. Frederick Spaulding DeLue, a physician, who also maintained his medical office there. He previously had lived and maintained his office at 6 Commonwealth. He was a widower. His son, Gerald Hood DeLue, an office manager, also lived at 31 Commonwealth and previously had lived at 6 Commonwealth. It appears that he had separated from his wife, Venia May (Greene) DeLue at about the time he and his father moved to 31 Commonwealth. They continued to live there until about 1940, when they moved to West Roxbury.
Among the residents at 31 Commonwealth from about 1940 were Dr. William Frederick Boos and his wife, Margaret Therese (Eskridge) Boos. William Boos was a biological chemist and physician specializing in internal medicine. A noted toxicologist, he provided expert testimony in criminal cases. In 1939, they had lived at 17 Brimmer, and in the mid-1930s had lived (and he had maintained his medical office) at 196 Beacon. He also maintained his medical offices at 31 Commonwealth. They continued to live at 31 Commonwealth until about 1942.
On January 24, 1941, 31 Commonwealth was acquired from the Stockton family by Edward C. Tonra, a salesman, and his wife, Louise P. (Behan) Tonra. They lived in Brighton and continued to operate 31 Commonwealth as a lodging house.
On December 20, 1943, 31 Commonwealth was purchased from the Tonras by Louis Benedictis (deBenedictis), who continued to operate it as a lodging house. He previously had lived at 5 Hancock. By 1947, Mrs. Lily (Lillian) M. (Fleming) Baker was also living at 31 Commonwealth as the lodging house manager. She and her husband, Theodore Baker, previously had managed the lodging house at 5 Hancock where Louis Benedictis had lived. He died or they divorced by 1946. In 1948, Louis Benedictus and Lily Baker married, and on February 14, 1948, he transferred the property into her name.
They continued to live at 31 Commonwealth and operate it as a lodging house until about 1957.
On August 1, 1957, 31 Commonwealth was acquired from Lily DeBendictis by Bullfinch Realty, inc. That month, they applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a lodging house into nine apartments.
On March 19, 1965, 31 Commonwealth was acquired from Bullfinch Realty, Inc., by Elisha Russell (Greenhood) Greenwood and his wife, Constance (Baldwin) Greenwood. it remained a nine-unit apartment house.
E. Russell Greenwood was a wool broker and real estate manager and developer. He and his wife lived in an apartment at 3 Arlington, which they also owned.
In September of 1965, E. Russell Greenwood applied for permission to remodel 31 Commonwealth, removing the mansard roof, adding another story, and increasing the number of apartments from nine to eleven. The remodeling was not done.
On April 24, 1968, 31 Commonwealth was acquired from the Greenwoods by Howard N. Levin, trustee of the 37 Burbank Trust. In February of 1965, he had acquired 282 Berkeley (29 Marlborough), and in July of 1968, he acquired 33 Commonwealth.
33 Commonwealth was built in 1863-1864 as the home of Charles Henry Dalton and his wife, Mary (McGregor) Dalton. They previously had lived at 59 Hancock. They also maintained a home in Beverly Farms. He purchased the land for 33 Commonwealth of Massachusetts on November 24, 1863.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 33 Commonwealth.
Charles Dalton was a commission merchant and investor in various businesses. During his career, he served in a variety of positions, including as president of several railroads, president of the Consolidated Coal Company, treasurer of the Manchester Print Works, and treasurer of the Merrimack Manufacturing Company. He also was the first treasurer of MIT, serving from 1865 to 1867, and was president of Massachusetts General Hospital for many years.
Charles Dalton died in February of 1908. Mary Dalton continued to live at 33 Commonwealth until her death in March of 1920.
On June 30, 1921, 33 Commonwealth was purchased from the Dalton family by Charles Arthur Vail.
On December 22, 1922, 33 Commonwealth was acquired from Charles Vail by Mrs. Elizabeth A. (Patterson) Brady, the widow of Hugh E. Brady. In March of 1923, she applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the house into a four-family dwelling, indicating that the house had been a multiple dwelling when she acquired it.
Elizabeth Brady lived in one of the apartments at 33 Commonwealth with her daughter, Emily A. Brady. They previously had lived in Brighton. By 1925, Emily Brady (and probably Elizabeth Brady) had moved to Medford.
On November 19, 1924, 33 Commonwealth was acquired from Elizabeth Brady by Leo Francis Walsh, a civil engineer. He was unmarried and lived in Roxbury.
On April 25, 1925, 33 Commonwealth was acquired from Leo Walsh by real estate dealer James M. Burr. On August 5, 1930, he sold the property to A. F. Baker & Co., Inc., and on March 23, 1933, it transferred it to the State Street Realty Corp.
After 33 Commonwealth was converted into apartments, the longest residents were William George Ellicott and his wife, Minnie (Myers) Ellicott, who lived in one of the apartments from about 1924. They previously had lived at 22 Bullfinch Place. He was sexton of the Bullfinch Place Unitarian Church and also served as janitor of 33 Commonwealth. The continued to live there in 1931, but then moved to 11 Bullfinch. They resumed living at 33 Commonwealth in about 1933. Minnie Ellicott died in December of 1950, and William Ellicott continued to live at 33 Commonwealth until about 1954, when he retired from his position at the Bullfinch Place Church. At the time of his death, he was a resident of 19 Myrtle and St. Petersburg, Florida.
Also among the longer-term residents at 33 Commonwealth were advertising executive Richard Benjamin Salinger and his wife, Dorothy Maud (Smart) Salinger, who lived there from about 1924. They previously had lived in Brookline, They continued to live at 33 Commonwealth in 1930, but moved thereafter to Cambridge.
In addition to being a multiple dwelling, by 1929, 33 Commonwealth also was the headquarters of the Boston branches of the English Speaking Union and of the British Apprentice Club (renamed the British Officers and Apprentices Club after World War II). It continued to be located there until the mid-1950s.
On March 15, 1938, the Franklin Savings Bank transferred 33 Commonwealth and a number of other properties it had acquired, largely through foreclosure, to Charles S. Kimball. On the same day, he entered into a mortgage with the bank, secured by all of the properties, and then transferred them to the Boston Management Corporation, a real estate management firm. On September 27, 1943, the Boston Management Corporation transferred 33 Commonwealth and a number of other properties back to the Franklin Savings Bank.
33 Commonwealth changed hands and on December 7, 1945, was acquired by Shirley Clifford Speed. He and his mother, Flora E. (Clifford) Speed, the widow of David George Speed, lived at there and operated it as a lodging house. They previously had lived at 247 Beacon. S. Clifford Speed was a real estate dealer who converted many Back Bay houses into lodging houses and apartments.
Flora Speed died in 1952 and S. Clifford Speed moved soon thereafter to 94 Beacon. By 1956, he was living at 107 Beacon.
On May 16, 1955, 33 Commonwealth was acquired from S. Clifford Speed by the Kirby Realty Corp. On July 1, 1968, it transferred the property to its president, Mary E. Kirby of Wellesley. On the same day, it was acquired from Mary Kirby by Howard N. Levin, trustee of The Kensington Trust. He also owned 31 Commonwealth and 282 Berkeley (29 Commonwealth).
After they were purchased by Howard Levin, 31-33 Commonwealth continued to be multiple dwellings, either apartments or lodging houses. 31 Commonwealth was held by Howard Levin as trustee of the 37 Burbank Trust, and 33 Commonwealth was held by him as trustee of The Kensington Trust, which also owned Haddon Hall at 282 Berkeley (29 Commonwealth). On September 25, 1985, he transferred each property to new and separate trusts.
On October 1, 1986, TFG-1 Associates purchased 31-33 Commonwealth from the trusts administered by Howard Levin. At the same time, TFG-1 Associates purchased 109-111 Commonwealth, also from Howard Levin, as trustee of another trust. TFG-1 Associates was a general partnership of Wesley E. Finch, Richard N. Houlding, Gloria Chaban, and Robert A. James, Jr. (“TFG” stood for “The Finch Group”).
By December of 1986, the general partners of TGF-1 Associates were Edgard Puente and David Boersner. On December 23, 1986, they transferred 31-33 Commonwealth and 109-111 Commonwealth to themselves as trustees of the Boston Commonwealth Trust, and entered into a mortgage with the First American Bank for Savings secured by all four properties.
In August of 1987, The Boston Group (presumably on behalf of the Boston Commonwealth Trust) filed for (and subsequently received) permission to combine 31 and 33 Commonwealth into a single property and remodel the combined building into twelve apartments and two offices. At the same time, they also combined 109-111 Commonwealth and remodeled them into seven residential units.
In December of 1988, First American Bank filed for (and subsequently received) permission to remodel 31-33 Commonwealth into seven apartments.
On January 30, 1989, First American Bank for Savings foreclosed on the mortgages on 31-33 Commonwealth and on 109-111 Commonwealth.
On January 31, 1990, First American Bank converted 31-33 Commonwealth into seven condominium units, the 31-33 Commonwealth Avenue Condominium.