31 Fairfield was built in 1877-1878 by John F. Richardson and Silas W. Merrill, builders, one of four contiguous houses (31-33-35-37 Fairfield). The houses are designed in a symmetrical block, centered on the paired entrances to 33-35 Fairfield, with 31 and 37 Fairfield flanking them. The original building permit application does not indicate the architect, but Bainbridge Bunting’s Houses of Boston’s Back Bay indicates that it was Ober and Rand, shown as the architects on the permit for 35 Fairfield.
The houses were built for banker and real estate investor Asa Perkins Potter (who lived at 29 Fairfield, built ca. 1876), who is shown as the owner on the original building permit application for 31 Fairfield, dated November 12, 1877. At about the same time, he also had four houses built across the street (32-34-36-38 Fairfield).
By 1880, 31 Fairfield was the home of Charles E. Robinson, an oil and paint merchant, and his wife, Sarah A. (Spencer) Winslow Robinson. In 1878, they had lived at 304 Shawmut. Sarah A. Robinson is shown as the owner of 31 Fairfield on the 1883 Bromley map.
They continued to live there in 1884.
By the 1884-1885 winter season, 31 Fairfield was the home of real estate and mortgage broker (and auctioneer) Herbert L. Perry and his wife, Emma J. (Tilley) Perry. In 1883, they had lived at 3 Park Square. Herbert L. Perry, trustee, is shown as the owner of 31 Fairfield on the 1888 and 1890 Bromley maps.
Herbert Perry died in March of 1892. Emma Perry continued to live at 31 Fairfield until about 1910, when she moved to the Hotel Vendôme. She may had returned to 31 Fairfield for the 1911-1912 winter season (she is listed in the 1912 Blue Book at both 31 Fairfield and the Hotel Vendôme) but was living at the Hotel Vendôme again by the 1912-1913 season. The Heirs of Herbert L. Perry are shown as the owners on the 1898, 1908, and 1917 Bromley maps.
The house was not listed in the 1913-1928 Blue Books.
Jennie G. Knowland is shown as the owner of 31 Fairfield on the 1928 Bromley map. Miss Jennie Goodwin Knowland lived in Marblehead.
In 1928, 31 Fairfield was owned by real estate dealer Victor Kaufman. In March of 1928, he filed for (and subsequently received) permission to remodel the property from a single-family dwelling into a single-family dwelling and store, including adding a new storefront. Although the permit was granted, the work was not done.
Soon thereafter, 31 Fairfield was purchased by Charles Lawrence Bond (known as Lawrence Bond) as rental property. He was a civil engineer and real estate investor. At the time of the purchase, he was living at 128 Commonwealth with his mother, Isabella (Bacon) Bond, the widow of Charles Henry Bond. In May of 1928, he filed for (and subsequently received) permission to remodel the property and convert it from a single-family dwelling into two apartments.
In his memoirs, he described the house as follows: “31 Fairfield was a three story building with a full basement. I drew plans and had a contractor remodel two apartments, but it was two years before both were rented. As it turned out, I was also forced to bring the building up to code by installing a new fire escape.”
In 1929, one of the units was rented to wool merchant and investment banker Richard Whiting Searle and his wife, Allan Joy (Ayers) Searle. They previously had lived at 316 Newbury. They lived there until about 1932 and also maintained a home in Marblehead. After they moved, the unit they had occupied became the home of Miss Gertrude S. Taber. She continued to live there in 1935, but had moved to an apartment at 90 Commonwealth by 1936.
By 1930, the other unit was the home of Brooks Faxon, a civil engineer, and his wife, Virginia Grub (Parrott) Faxon. They had moved by 1931.
Lawrence Bond married in July of 1930 to Barbara Dailey. After their marriage, they lived at 31 Fairfield in the unit previously occupied by the Faxons. They also maintained a home in Topsfield. They continued to live at 31 Fairfield until 1934, when they made Topsfield their year-round home. Lawrence Bond continued to be shown as the owner of 31 Fairfield on the 1938 Bromley map.
By 1937, one of the units at 31 Fairfield was the home of Harold A. Mack and his wife, Caroline Stevenson (Saltonstall) Mack. They previously had lived at 45 St. Botolph. Harold Mack was an importer, with offices and a store, The Artisans, at 165 Newbury. Caroline Mack was secretary of the Consumers League of Massachusetts and an active environmental conservationist. They continued to live there in 1939, but had moved to 31 Hereford by 1940.
In 1937 and 1938, the other unit at 31 Fairfield was occupied by Mrs. Mary Wrenn (Allen) Stockton, the former wife of John Wilson Stockton. Their son, Philip Brent Stockton, probably lived with her. By 1940, they were living in an apartment at 207 Commonwealth.
31 Fairfield was shown as vacant in the 1940 Boston City Directory.
By 1941, the upper unit at 31 Fairfield was the home of Dr. Susan M. Coffin, a child welfare physician with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. She continued to live there until about 1947.
In about 1947, the upper apartment became the home of John Cornish Nott and his wife, Genevieve Margaret (Cronin) Nott. They were dance instructors with a studio on Newbury Street, first at 110 Newbury and then at 123 Newbury. The Notts continued to live at 31 Fairfield until the early 1960s, when they purchased and moved to 375 Beacon.
Also from about 1947, the lower apartment at 31 Fairfield was the home of Mrs. Gladys (Lawson) Stanwood French, the widow of Eben Blaine Stanwood and of Philip French. She previously had lived at 14 Gloucester, where she operated a lodging house. She continued to live at 31 Fairfield until 1949, when she purchased and probably moved to 29 Hereford.
In about 1949, 31 Fairfield was acquired by Eugene L. Metz and his wife, Gloria (Eastman) Metz, who made their home in the lower apartment. He was an English teacher at Thayer Academy. In 1952, they moved to Europe where he became a director of the Free Europe Committee, which distributed books promoting democracy to European and African students.
In about 1954, the lower apartment became the home of Dr. John Adam Twaddle, a physician, and his wife, Anne (Canty) Twaddle. They previously had lived in Maine. They continued to live at 31 Fairfield until about 1961, when they purchased and moved to 241 Marlborough.
31 Fairfield changed hands and in April of 1962 was acquired by Eleanor Kanegis Levin. In May of 1975, she filed for permission to change the legal occupancy from two apartments to two apartments and a law office. She subsequently abandoned the application.
In November of 1975, John O’Connor purchased 31 Fairfield from Eleanor Kanegis Levin. In April of 1989, he filed for (and subsequently received) permission to change the legal occupancy to two apartments and an office, legalizing the occupancy which probably had existed since he purchased the property.
The legal occupancy of 31 Fairfield remained two apartments and an office. It was assessed as a two-family dwelling in 2014.