347 Commonwealth was designed by Allen and Kenway, architects, and built in 1888-1889 by Augustus Lothrop, mason and builder, as the home of Mortimer Blake Mason and his wife, Mary Emma (Phillips) Mason. He is shown as the owner on the original building permit application, dated December 3, 1888, and on the final building inspection report, dated May 27, 1890.
Mortimer Mason purchased the 31 foot wide lot for 347 Commonwealth on July 31, 1888, from Benjamin Williams Crowninshield. Benjamin Crowninshield had purchased the eastern 30 feet on the same day from builder Peter Graffam and combined it with the eastern one foot of a lot he owned to the west.
Benjamin Crowninshield’s lot originally had been 131 feet, extending to Massachusetts Avenue. He had sold the western 70 feet in February of 1880 to Oliver Ames, who built his home on it at 355 Commonwealth. After selling the one foot strip to Mortimer Mason along with the 30 foot lot from Peter Graffam, Benjamin Crowninshield retained the remaining 60 foot lot where 349-351-353 Commonwealth later would be built.
All of the land was part of a parcel that Grenville T. W. Braman, Henry D. Hyde, and Henry M. Whitney, trustees of a real estate investment trust, had purchased on March 1, 1872, from the Boston Water Power Company, one of several parcels the trust had purchased at the same time. On January 9, 1880, the trust sold the 131 foot parcel to Benjamin Crowninshield and the 30 foot parcel to Annie (Carlisle) Sweet, the wife of Walter H. Sweet. She sold her land to Peter Graffam on June 18, 1888.
The land owned by Grenville Braman and his partners originally had been divided by Parker Street, a 60 foot wide street located on top of the Cross Dam, which ran southwest from Beacon at approximately a 45 degree angle, intersecting the north side of Commonwealth at a point about 549 feet west of Hereford. When the street was abandoned as a public thoroughfare in 1879, Grenville Braman and his partners purchased the land underneath from the Boston Water Power Company and combined it with their other property. The houses at 345-347-349-351-353-355 Commonwealth were partially built on land that previously had been Parker Street, with the Cross Dam below.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 347 Commonwealth, and click here for further information on the land on the north side of Commonwealth between Hereford and Massachusetts Avenue.
By the 1889-1890 winter season, Mortimer and Mary Mason had made 347 Commonwealth their home. They previously had lived at 190 Commonwealth.
On November 29, 1890, Benjamin Crowninshield sold the eastern 30 feet of his remaining land to Mortimer Mason, and the western 30 feet to Mortimer Mason’s first cousin and business associate, Samuel Dennis Warren, Jr. On January 27, 1894, Mortimer Mason purchased Samuel D. Warren, Jr.’s land.
On March 15, 1894, Mortimer Mason sold the 60 foot lot between his house at 347 Commonwealth and Oliver Ames’s house at 355 Commonwealth to building contractor Luther Moore Merrill. In the deed, he included language specifying that any buildings built on the land before February of 1899 could only be used for “first class private residences” and the depth of any such buildings could be no greater than the depth of his house at 347 Commonwealth.
The Masons continued to live at 347 Commonwealth for the rest of their lives. Mary Mason died in June of 1908 and Mortimer Mason died in February of 1909.
In 1909, 347 Commonwealth was briefly the home of the Masons’ son and daughter-in-law, Herbert Warren Mason and Persis Emery (Furbish) Mason. He was associated with the family’s paper manufacturing business. In 1908, they had lived in an apartment at 295 Beacon, and by the 1909-1910 winter season, they had moved to 14 Gloucester.
On January 30, 1912, 347 Commonwealth was acquired from the Mason family by Israel A. Ratshesky. The transaction was facilitated through deeds from the Mason family to attorney Frederic Sprague Goodwin, from Frederic Goodwin to real estate dealer and conveyancer William Stober, and from William Stober to Israel Ratshesky.
Israel Ratshesky and his wife, Theresa (Shuman) Ratshesky, made 347 Commonwealth their Boston home. They previously had lived at 232 Commonwealth. They also maintained a home in Swampscott.
Before moving to 347 Commonwealth, the Ratsheskys remodeled the interior. Plans for the remodeling, designed by architect G. Henri Desmond, are included in the City of Boston Blueprints Collection in the Boston Public Library’s Arts Department (reference BIN A-29.).
Click here to view scans of the elevations and floor plans for the 1912 remodeling.
Israel Ratshesky and his brother, Abraham, had been wholesale clothiers in the firm founded by their father, Asher Ratshesky. In 1895, they became bankers, founding the United States Trust Company, which specialized on the needs of the immigrant population, providing banking services not otherwise available to them in Boston. Abraham served as President and Israel served as Treasurer of the bank. Israel Ratshesky’s wife, Theresa, was the first cousin of Abraham Ratshesky’s wife, Edith.
Israel Ratshesky died in May of 1927. Theresa Ratshesky continued to live at 347 Commonwealth until about 1929. By 1931, she was living in an apartment at 56 Commonwealth.
On February 11, 1930, the estate of Israel Ratshesky transferred 347 Commonwealth to the A. C. Ratshesky Charity Foundation, and Abraham Ratshesky announced that he would donate the property to the American National Red Cross. The donation was made in memory of his wife’s mother, Julia (Adams) Shuman, and was subject to the building’s continued use by the local chapters of the Red Cross.
That same month, the A. C. Ratshesky Charity Foundation filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a single-family dwelling into offices for the Red Cross. Abraham Ratshesky retained the firm of McLaughlin and Burr to design the remodeling of the interior for use by the Red Cross. Plans for the remodeling are included in the City of Boston Blueprints Collection in the Boston Public Library’s Arts Department (reference BIN P-75).
The Foundation transferred the property to the Red Cross on March 11, 1930.
The Red Cross continued to maintain its offices there until October of 1938, when it moved to 17 Gloucester, which also was donated to them by the A. C. Ratshesky Foundation.
After the Red Cross moved, ownership of 347 Commonwealth reverted to the A. C. Ratshesky Foundation.
On July 14, 1939, the A. C. Ratshesky Foundation donated 347 Commonwealth to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for use by the National Guard. The donation was subject to the continued use of the building by active National Guard and State Guard units as an armory.
The Massachusetts National Guard continued to maintain its armory there until 1952.
After the National Guard moved, ownership of 347 Commonwealth once again reverted to the A. C. Ratshesky Foundation.
On February 16, 1953, the Catholic Association of Foresters, a fraternal organization that offered various forms of insurance, purchased 347 Commonwealth from the A. C. Ratshesky Foundation. That same month, in anticipation of the sale, the Foundation filed for (and subsequently received) permission to change the legal use of the building from offices for the American Red Cross and then the Massachusetts National Guard, into offices and committee rooms for the Catholic Association of Foresters.
In March of 1964, the Catholic Association of Foresters applied for (and subsequently received) permission to construct a one-story rear addition, 25 feet deep and the width of the lot, in order to increase its office space.
On October 4, 2005, the 347 Comm LLC purchased 347 Commonwealth from the Catholic Association of Foresters. 347 Comm LLC was formed by Payne/Bouchier, Inc., a home building and renovation company specializing in fine cabinetry and woodwork.
In January of 2006, the 347 Comm LLC filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from offices and committee rooms into five apartments.
On April 2, 2008, it converted the property into five condominium units, the 347 Commonwealth Avenue Condominium.