323 Commonwealth

323 Commonwealth (2015)

Lot 26' x 124.5' (3,237 sf)

Lot 26′ x 124.5′ (3,237 sf)

323 Commonwealth is located on the north side of Commonwealth, between Hereford and Massachusetts Avenue, with 321 Commonwealth to the east and 325 Commonwealth to the west.

323 Commonwealth was built in 1879 for building contractor Asa Harden Caton, probably for speculative sale, one of three contiguous houses (319-321-323 Commonwealth).  He is shown as the owner and builder on the original building permit application for 321-323 Commonwealth, dated March 26, 1879, and on the final building inspection report for 323 Commonwealth, dated October 4, 1880; no architect is identified on either document. The application for 319 Commonwealth — built ca. 1878 — has not been located.

By mid-1880, 323 Commonwealth was the home of Horace Billings, a leather merchant, and his wife, Sarah Arianna (Sears) Billings.  They previously had lived at 812 Tremont.  He is shown as the owner of 323 Commonwealth on the 1883 and 1888 Bromley maps.

Drawing of third floor plan for 323 Commonwealth, drawn on the final building inspection report, 4Oct1880 (v. 1, p. 54); courtesy of the Boston Public Library Arts Department

Drawing of third floor plan for 323 Commonwealth, drawn on the final building inspection report, 4Oct1880 (v. 1, p. 54); courtesy of the Boston Public Library Arts Department

Their son-in-law and daughter, Charles Sprague and Ellen A. (Billings) Sprague, lived with them.  They had been married in February of 1879.  Charles Sprague was an oil merchant and later president of Chase-Shawmut Company, manufacturers of “electrical specialties.”

Sarah Billings died in July of 1880 and Ellen Sprague died in December of 1880.  Charles Sprague moved soon thereafter to live with his widowed father, Charles James Sprague, at 380 Marlborough.

Horace Billings continued to live at 323 Commonwealth in 1889.  By 1890, he had moved to 53 Hereford.

By the 1889-1890 winter season, 323 Commonwealth was the home of retired distiller William E. French and his wife, Sarah Augusta (Kenison) French.  They previously had lived at 47 Chester Square.

William French died in January of 1890.  Sarah French continued to live at 323 Commonwealth with their unmarried sons, Charles Edward French and George Baldwin French, who had succeeded to their father’s distilling company.  Sarah French is shown as the owner of 323 Commonwealth on the 1890, 1895, and 1898 Bromley maps.

21-323 Commonwealth (ca. 1883), photograph by Albert Levy; Ryerson and Burnham Libraries Book Collection, The Art Institute of Chicago (Digital file #000000_100709-14).

321-323 Commonwealth (ca. 1883), photograph by Albert Levy; Ryerson and Burnham Libraries Book Collection, The Art Institute of Chicago (Digital file #000000_100709-14).

Sarah French died in August of 1895. She continued to be shown as the assessed owner through 1903. After her death, 323 Commonwealth remained the home of Charles and George French. Charles E. French et al were the assessed owners in 1904.

Charles Edward French died in August of 1904.  George French continued to live at 323 Commonwealth, joined by 1905 by his brother-in-law and sister, Frank R. Thomas, a salesman for a  wholesale grocery company, and Adelaide A. (French) Thomas.  in 1904, they had lived at 313 Beacon (owned by William French’s estate).

George B. French was the assessed owner of 323 Commonwealth from 1905 through 1935,and is shown as the owner on the 1908, 1917, and 1928 Bromley maps.

Frank Thomas died in September of 1927 and Adelaide Thomas died in May of 1928.  George French continued to live at 323 Commonwealth until his death in February of 1934.

321-323 Commonwealth )ca. 1883); Soule Photograph Company, courtesy of Historic New England

321-323 Commonwealth )ca. 1883); Soule Photograph Company, courtesy of Historic New England

George French’s Heirs were the assessed owners of 323 Commonwealth in 1936, and the New England Trust Company et al, trustees, were the assessed owners in 1937.

323 Commonwealth was not listed in the 1935-1937 Blue Books and was shown as vacant in the 1935-1937 City Directories.

By 1937, 323 Commonwealth was owned by Virginia Lee (Major) de Roode, the wife of Albert de Roode, Jr., an insurance underwriter. She was the assessed owner from 1938 through 1942, and is shown as the owner on the 1938 Bromley map.

Albert and Virginia de Roode lived at 114 Bay State Road with her step-father and her mother, Dr. Clarence Field Worthen and Julia Palestine (Yates) Major Worthen. Clarence Worthen was a physician and oculist; he maintained his office at 390 Commonwealth.

In July of 1937, Julia Worthen (shown as Julia De Roja on the permit application) filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert 323 Commonwealth from a single-family dwelling into ten apartments.

After the work was completed, the Worthens and the de Roodes moved to apartments at 323 Commonwealth.

323 Commonwealth (ca. 1942), photograph by Bainbridge Bunting, courtesy of The Gleason Partnership

323 Commonwealth (ca. 1942), photograph by Bainbridge Bunting, courtesy of The Gleason Partnership

Albert and Virginia de Roode moved soon thereafter and were living in Buckhead, Georgia, at the time of the 1940 US Census.

Clarence and Julia Worthen divorced in about 1940; he moved to 390 Commonwealth and she continued to live at 323 Commonwealth.

Harold L. Levin, mortgagee, was the assessed owner of 323 Commonwealth from 1943 through 1947.

In 1942, Julia (Yates) Major Worthen married again, to John J. O’Connell. After their marriage, they lived at 323 Commonwealth. By the mid-1940s, they were joined by Virginia de Roode, who had divorced from Albert de Roode. She married again in December of 1946 to Donald Hill Farrington. After their marriage, they lived in an apartment at 62 Commonwealth.

The O’Carrolls continued to live at 323 Commonwealth until about 1950. Julia O’Carroll, trustee, was the assessed owner from 1948 through 1955, and possibly later.

By 1964, 323 Commonwealth was owned by Donald Boyko, et al, trustees of the Boyko Real Estate Trust.

In January of 1984, Donald Boyko converted the property into ten condominium units, the 323 Commonwealth Avenue Condominium.