339 Commonwealth was designed by Kirby and Lewis, architects, one of three contiguous houses (337-339-341 Commonwealth) built ca. 1880 for wall paper merchant Charles Henry Hayden.
Charles Hayden purchased the land on which the three houses were built in February of 1879 from Grenville Temple Winthrop Braman, Henry D. Hyde, and Frank William Andrews, trustees, part of a tract of land they acquired in March of 1872 from the Boston Water Power Company.
In his Houses of Boston’s Back Bay, Bainbridge Bunting indicates that 337-339-341 Commonwealth were originally owned by building contractor Asa Harding Caton. It is possible that he built the houses, but he did not own them.
In December of 1880, textile manufacturer Henry Southworth Shaw and his wife, Louisa Stuart (Towne) Shaw, purchased 339 Commonwealth from Charles Hayden. They had been married in June of 1880, and 339 Commonwealth probably was their first home together. Prior to their marriage, he had lived with his parents, Southworth and Abby (Shurtleff) Shaw, at 165 Beacon. He is shown of 339 Commonwealth as the owner on the 1883, 1888, 1898, 1908, and 1917 Bromley maps, and was the assessed owner through 1921.
The house was not listed in the 1908-1910 Blue Books.
By the 1910-1911 winter season, 339 Commonwealth was the home of Paul Drummond Rust and his wife, Florence R. (Stuart) Rust. They previously had lived at 207 Bay State Road. He was a lumber dealer and later would become an investment banker and broker. They continued to live at 339 Commonwealth in 1913. By 1915, they were living in Marblehead, and by 1917 at 338 Beacon.
The house was not listed in the 1915 and 1916 Blue Books.
By the 1916-1917 winter season, 339 Commonwealth was the home of Mrs. Ann Gilston (King) Brigham, the widow of Frank E. Brigham, and their daughter, Edith Atkins (Brigham) Baldwin, the former wife of William Earle Baldwin (one of the publishers of Automobile Topics weekly magazine). They previously had lived in New York City. continued to live at 339 Commonwealth in 1920, but had moved to an apartment by 333 Commonwealth by 1921.
The house was not listed in the 1921 Blue Book.
In 1921, 339 Commonwealth became the location of the Speech Readers’ Guild of Boston. Formed in 1916 to provide educational and recreational services to the deaf and the near-deaf, the Guild previously had rented space at Trinity Court (southeast corner of Dartmouth and Stuart).
In a February 9, 1922, article in the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, Annie R. Knowlton, chairman of the Guild’s educational committee, in addition to providing classes and social opportunities, “[t]he Guild House is equipped not only for the accommodation of its transient members, but has furnished rooms to rent to any student of speech reading, or to any patient who may want to come to Boston for treatment.”
Mildred Kennedy, one of the founders of the Guild, was the assessed owner of 339 Commonwealth from 1922 through 1924, and the Guild was the assessed owner from 1925 through 1937 and is shown as the owners on the 1928 Bromley map.
The Speech Readers’ Guild and the Boston Guild for the Hard of Hearing continued to be located at 339 Commonwealth until 1937, when it moved to 283 Commonwealth.
In June of 1937, Garland School of Homemaking (later to become Garland Junior College) acquired 339 Commonwealth from the Boston Guild for the Hard of Hearing.
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. In October of 1976 he purchased 315 and 341 Commonwealth, and 447 and 449 Marlborough; in January of 1977, he purchased 319, 321, 329, 337, 339, 343, and 377 Commonwealth. The remaining property, 349 Commonwealth, had been purchased in September of 1976, by Andrew Saggese, Jr., trustee of the Drew Realty Trust.
In May of 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 in June of 1981).
In April of 1981, the Commonwealth College Trust filed for permission to convert 339 Commonwealth from a dormitory into four apartments, which it stated was the existing use. It subsequently abandoned the application.
In May of 1982, Judith Schwartz sold 319, 321, 337, 339, and 343 Commonwealth back to Glen Grant and Mac C. Grant. That same month, they transferred 337-339 Commonwealth to Dorothy F. Wirth, trustee of the 337-339 Commonwealth Avenue Trust.
In November of 1983, the 337-339 Commonwealth Avenue Trust, filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert 339 Commonwealth from a dormitory into seven apartments.
In January of 1984, Dorothy Wirth converted 339 Commonwealth into four condominium units, the 339 Commonwealth Avenue Condominium.
In February of 1993, Harry Stafford, on behalf of the 339 Commonwealth Condominium Association, filed for (and subsequently received) permission to legalize the occupancy as four units.