341 Commonwealth was designed by Kirby and Lewis, architects, and built in 1880-1881, one of three contiguous houses built by building contractor Asa Harden Caton for speculative sale on land owned by wallpaper merchant Charles Henry Hayden.
Charles Hayden purchased the land for 337-339-341 Commonwealth on February 27, 1879, 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 341 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 and final building inspection reports for 337-339-341 Commonwealth have not been located. However, on April 13, 1880, the Boston Post reported that the Building Department had granted Asa H. Caton a permit to build a brick dwelling for N. W. Rice at 341 Commonwealth, and on April 15, 1880, the Boston Globe reported that the Building Department had granted him permits to build two brick dwellings at 337 and 339 Commonwealth. Neither article identifies the architect. However, Bainbridge Bunting’s Houses of Boston’s Back Bay indicates that all three houses were designed by Kirby and Lewis. They also had designed three houses at 319–321–323 Commonwealth built in 1878-1880 by Asa Caton on land owned by Charles Hayden.
As indicated by the Boston Post report, 341 Commonwealth was built for Nehemiah Webster Rice, who took title to the property from Charles Hayden on January 4, 1881, after the house had been substantially completed. Nehemiah Rice was a dealer in leather, hides, and wool.
In January of 1881, Nehemiah Webster Rice and his wife, Josephine (Emery) Rice, lived at 353 Beacon. 341 Commonwealth may have been the home of a Mr. Newell who was listed there in the 1882 and 1883 Blue Books, but not in the City Directories.
By the 1883-1884 winter seasons, the Rices had made 341 Commonwealth their home.
The Rices’ two children, Annie Tyler Rice and Charles G. Rice, a member of his father’s hide and wool firm, lived with them. Charles Rice married in October of 1890 to Anne S. Proctor and they moved to 469 Beacon.
Nehemiah Rice died in December of 1911. Josephine Rice continued to live at 341 Commonwealth with their daughter, Annie.
341 Commonwealth was not listed in the 1927-1931 Blue Books, and was shown as vacant in the 1930-1931 City Directories.
On June 30, 1931, 341 Commonwealth was purchased from Annie (Proctor) Rice, the wife of Charles Rice, as conservator for her sister-in-law, Annie Tyler Rice, by the Garland School of Home Making (later to become Garland Junior College). That same month, it also acquired 343 Commonwealth.
Both properties were shown as vacant (or were not listed) in the 1930-1933 City Directories, but had been converted into dormitories by 1934.
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 May of 1981, the Commonwealth College Trust filed for permission to convert 341 Commonwealth from a dormitory into six apartments, which it stated was the existing use. It subsequently abandoned the application.
On June 12, 1981, Judith Schwartz converted 341 Commonwealth into six condominium units, the 341 Commonwealth Condominium.
In February of 1985, the 341 Commonwealth Avenue Trust filed for (and subsequently received) permission to legalize the occupancy as six units.