321 Commonwealth was designed by Kirby and Lewis. architects, and built in 1879-1880, one of three contiguous houses built by building contractor Asa Harden Caton for speculative sale on land owned by wallpaper merchant Charles Henry Hayden. 319 Commonwealth was built first and completed in 1879; 321-323 Commonwealth were completed in 1880.
Charles Hayden purchased the land for 319-321-323 Commonwealth on July 1, 1878, from Grenville T. W. Braman, Henry D. Hyde, and Henry M. Whitney, trustees of a real estate investment trust that had purchased several parcels of land on March 1, 1872, from the Boston Water Power Company.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 321 Commonwealth, and click here for further information on the land on the north side of Commonwealth between Hereford and Massachusetts Avenue.
The original building permit applications for 319 and 321 Commonwealth have not been located. The original permit application for 323 Commonwealth, dated March 26, 1879 (and indicating that it is for “1 in a block of 2″ houses) shows Asa Caton as the owner and the builder. Probably based on this permit application, Bainbridge Bunting’s Houses of Boston’s Back Bay indicates that Asa Caton was the original owner of all three houses. In fact, however, Charles Hayden owned the land and appears to have entered into an agreement with Asa Caton to build the houses on it. When 319 Commonwealth was completed, Charles Hayden sold the house and land to Andrew Wheelwright. When 321-323 Commonwealth were completed, Charles Hayden sold them to Asa Caton, who then resold each property on the same day he acquired it, probably thereby recovering his costs for purchasing the land from Charles Hayden and building the houses, plus a profit. The final building inspection report for 321 Commonwealth, dated October 5, 1880, shows Asa Caton as both the owner and builder (the inspection reports for 319 and 323 Commonwealth have not been located).
Bunting does not attribute 319-321-323 Commonwealth to a specific architect, and no architect is named on the permit application for 323 Commonwealth, nor on the final inspection report for 321 Commonwealth. However, a drawing of 319 Commonwealth (without the address given) in the November 23, 1878, edition of the American Architect and Building News, indicates that it was designed by Kirby and Lewis, and a drawing of 321-323 Commonwealth in the November 27, 1880, edition of the American Architect and Building News indicates that they, too, were designed by Kirby and Lewis. In 1880, Asa Caton built three additional houses on land owned by Charles Hayden at 337–339–341 Commonwealth. Bunting attributes all three of these houses to Kirby and Lewis.
A July 30, 1879, article in the Boston Herald also indicates that 321-323 Commonwealth were designed by Kirby and Lewis, and describes the two houses in some detail. “No. 321 is of 24 feet front by 63 feet in depth, of three stories and a French roof and basement. It has a very fine gothic front. The other house, which is 26 by 68 feet in size, and of a corresponding height, has a front fashioned after the German style. Some novel features about this may be mentioned. There is a heavy balustrade on the second story and a second story porch — something altogether new in Boston architecture. There is also a tower on 323, the top of which is 70 feet above the street level. The fronts of both houses are of brick and Ohio stone, and the block, for both houses constitute a symmetrical block, presents a very fine appearance. The insides of the buildings are finished in hard woods, and they will cost respectively $20,000 and $23,000.”
On February 5, 1880, Asa Caton purchased 321 Commonwealth from Charles Hayden, and on the same day he sold it to retail boot and shoe dealer Henry Hall Tuttle. He and his wife, Elizabeth Lawrence (Pettes) Tuttle, made it their home. They had married in June of 1879 and probably had lived briefly at 234 Clarendon, which had been his home prior to their marriage (he had lived there with his first wife, Helen Maria (Smith) Tuttle, who died in March of 1874).
Laura Tuttle married in February of 1914 to Henry Richardson Hallett, a paper and twine dealer. After their marriage, they lived in Brookline. Elizabeth Tuttle moved soon thereafter, also to Brookline.
On September 15, 1884, 321 Commonwealth was purchased from Henry Tuttle’s estate and from Elizabeth Tuttle and Laura (Tuttle) Hallett, as his heirs, by Elizabeth Bishop (Beals) Kendall, the widow of merchant Isaac Kendall and the daughter of William Beals, co-founder of the Boston Post. In 1881, she had lived at 123 Commonwealth.
Elizabeth Kendall continued to live at 321 Commonwealth during the 1894-1895 season, but moved thereafter. She continued to own 321 Commonwealth and lease it to others.
By the 1899-1900 winter season, 321 Commonwealth was the home of George Nathaniel Dana, a merchant and agent for the Eagle Sugar Refinery, and his wife, Caroline Melissa (Dodge) Dana. They previously had lived at 318 Beacon.
They continued to live at 321 Commonwealth in 1901, but had moved to 260 Commonwealth by 1902.
During the 1901-1902 winter season, 321 Commonwealth was the home of Miss Helen Turner. She previously had lived at The Marlborough at 416 Marlborough.
321 Commonwealth was not listed in the 1903 Blue Book.
On November 29, 1902, 321 Commonwealth was purchased from William Beals, conservator of the property of Elizabeth B. Kendall, by Zerviah (Brown) Dane, the widow of boot and shoe manufacturer Francis Dane. She previously had lived at 532 Massachusetts Avenue.
Her nephew, Edward Lester Potter, lived with her. He was chief clerk of the US Sub-Treasury in Boston.
She continued to live 321 Commonwealth until her death in November of 1909. In her will, she left 321 Commonwealth to her nephew.
Edward Potter continued to live at 321 Commonwealth and, by the 1910-1911 winter season, he had been joined there by Dr. Freeman Clark Hersey and his wife, Evelyn (Johnson) Hersey. They previously had lived in an apartment at 362 Commonwealth.
Freeman Hersey was a physician and maintained his medical offices at 321 Commonwealth. He was a leader in the Masons and served as Grand Master of the Massachusetts Knights Templar.
The Herseys continued to live (and he to maintain his medical office) at 321 Commonwealth with Edward Potter during the 1913-1914 winter season but moved thereafter to an apartment at 405 Marlborough.
On June 2, 1919, 321 Commonwealth was acquired from Edward Potter’s estate by real estate dealer Charles W. Rowell. The transaction was reported by the Boston Globe on June 4, 1919, with the purchasers indicated as being Fred Holdsworth and Robert D. Farrington, both real estate dealers in the same office as Charles Rowell.
On December 31, 1919, 321 Commonwealth was purchased from Charles Rowell by Gertrude N. (Wetzler) Eisemann, the wife of wool merchant Julius Eisemann. They previously had lived at 381 Commonwealth. They also maintained a home in Beverly Farms.
By the 1926-1927 winter season, it was the home of publisher Henry Cannon Clark and his wife, Mary Lovering (Head) Russell Clark. They previously had lived at 225 Marlborough. They also maintained a home in Prides Crossing.
The Clarks continued to live at 321 Commonwealth in 1930.
By the 1930-1931 winter season, the Clarks had moved to 194 Beacon and the Eisemanns once again were living at 321 Commonwealth. After about 1930, they usually spelled their name Eiseman rather than Eisemann. They continued to live there until about 1937; he died in January of 1939.
On May 5, 1937, 321 Commonwealth was acquired from Gertrude Eisemann by Thornton G. Wilson, an insurance broker with the firm of John C. Paige & Co. He lived in Mansfield, Massachusetts. The next day, he conveyed the property to Ernest Hyde Blake, an insurance broker in the same firm.
Ernest Blake and his wife, Viola Isabella (Olson) Blake, made 321 Commonwealth their home. They previously had lived in Brookline. They also maintained a home in Gloucester.
They continued to live at 321 Commonwealth until about 1949.
On November 14, 1949, 321 Commonwealth was acquired from Ernest Blake by Jennie (Giovannina) (Andreozzi) Bartholomew Murphy Saporito, the wife of Philip Saporito, who operated it as a lodging house. They had married earlier that year. She previously had lived in Somerville.
Jennie Saporito was also known as Jean Parker, the name she used in the later years of prohibition when she was what the press later characterized as a “show girl” or “night club hostess.” She was mentioned in a number of newspaper reports from 1929 through the 1940s, most prominently in 1930 when she was questioned by police seeking the whereabouts of Oliver B. Garrett, who had headed the Boston police unit responsible for enforcing prohibition. He was charged with accepting bribes and had fled. She subsequently appeared in various news reports usually in connection with the service of liquor without a license. In the late 1930s, she operated a beauty parlor on Washington Street.
In 1949, she operated Jean’s Belvidere restaurant at 28 Parmenter, which was licensed to serve food but not alcohol. On November 18, 1949, the Boston Globe reported that she had been found by police to be serving alcohol. She was fined by the Licensing Board and voluntarily relinquished her license to operate the restaurant. That same month she purchased 321 Commonwealth
On April 10, 1950, the Boston Globe reported that the police had arrested her for unlawfully selling alcoholic beverages at 321 Commonwealth. The April 21, 1950, Globe article on her trial reported that the police testified that they observed “scores of people” whom they “alleged to be patrons enter and leave the premises between midnight and five a.m. Many would enter apparently sober and leave apparently drunk.” Mrs. Saporito indicated that “she has entertained many friends, relatives, and show people who are liable to drop in at any hour. She said her husband, whom she married recently, is a singer and is continually bringing home friends. She never charged for any drink.” She was found guilty by Municipal Court Judge Joseph Riley, appealed, and on October 6, 1950, was found innocent by a jury in Superior Court.
On April 23, 1951, the Globe reported that Jennie Saporito had once again been arrested for selling liquor at 321 Commonwealth. She pled not guilty; the outcome of the trial is not known. She moved from 321 Commonwealth soon thereafter. By the mid-1950s, she lived at 240 Hanover and operated the Italian Villa Restaurant at 315 Hanover. She died in February of 1961.
On May 24, 1951, 321 Commonwealth was acquired from Jennie Saporito by Harold John Ellis, an investment broker, and his wife, Frances (Brown) Ellis. They previously had lived in Newton. 321 Commonwealth continued to be a multiple dwelling, either a lodging house or apartments.
On May 15, 1963, 321 Commonwealth was purchased from the Ellises by Garland Junior College. It converted the property into a dormitory.
By the late 1960s, Garland Junior College had assembled a portfolio of 22 properties in the western portion of the Back Bay: 315, 319, 321, 329, 337, 339, 341, 343, 349, 377, 407, 409, 411, 413–415 Commonwealth, 24 Charlesgate East (419 Commonwealth), and 447, 449, and 451 Marlborough (composed of 451-457 Marlborough).
In April of 1976, Garland Junior College announced that, because of financial difficulties, it was merging with Simmons College. It subsequently sold twelve of its properties and transferred the remainder — those located furthest west (407-415 Commonwealth, 24 Charlesgate East, and 451 Marlborough) — to Simmons College.
Glen G. Grant, trustee of the Commonwealth College Trust, purchased eleven of the twelve properties that Garland Junior College sold. On October 27, 1976, he purchased 315 and 341 Commonwealth, and 447 and 449 Marlborough; on January 4, 1977, he purchased 319, 321, 329, 337, 339, 343, and 377 Commonwealth. The twelfth property, 349 Commonwealth, had been purchased in September of 1976, by Andrew Saggese, Jr., trustee of the Drew Realty Trust.
On May 27, 1980, Glen Grant transferred 315, 319, 321, 337, 339, 341, 343, and 377 Commonwealth to Judith S. Schwartz, trustee of Seofon Trust (the deed was dated in May of 1980, but recorded on June 9, 1981).
In April of 1981, the Commonwealth College Trust filed for permission to convert 321 Commonwealth from a dormitory into six apartments, which it stated was the existing use. It subsequently abandoned the application.
On May 7, 1982, Judith Schwartz sold 319, 321, 337, 339, and 343 Commonwealth to Glen Grant and Mac C. Grant. On May 24, 1982, they transferred 337-339 Commonwealth to Dorothy F. Wirth, trustee of the 337-339 Commonwealth Avenue Trust, and on June 8, 1983, they transferred 319, 321, and 343 Commonwealth to her, also as trustee of the 337-339 Commonwealth Avenue Trust.
In November of 1983, the 337-339 Commonwealth Avenue Trust applied for (and subsequently received) permission to legalize the occupancy of 321 Commonwealth as seven apartments.
On January 5, 1984, the trust converted the Trust converted 321 Commonwealth into six condominium units, the 321 Commonwealth Avenue Condominium.