347 Commonwealth

347 Commonwealth (2013)

347 Commonwealth (2013)

Lot 31' x 124.5' (3,863 sf)

Lot 31′ x 124.5′ (3,863 sf)

347 Commonwealth is located on the north side of Commonwealth, between Hereford and Massachusetts Avenue, with 345 Commonwealth to the east and 349 Commonwealth to the west.

347 Commonwealth was designed by Allen and Kenway, architects, and built in 1888-1889 by Augustus Lothrop, builder, as the home of Mortimer Blake Mason and his wife, Mary (Phillips) Mason.  They previously had lived at 190 Commonwealth.  He is shown as the owner of 347 Commonwealth on the original building permit application, dated December 3, 1888, and on the final building inspection report, dated May 28, 1890.

Mortimer Mason acquired the land on which 347 Commonwealth was built in July 31, 1888, from Benjamin Williams Crowninshield.  The lot was part of a tract of land originally purchased from the Boston Water Power Company on March 1, 1872, by a consortium of Grenville Temple Winthrop Braman (treasurer of the Boston Water Power Company), Henry D. Hyde, and Henry M. Whitney.  Click here for an index to the deeds for 347 Commonwealth.

Second floor plan of 347 Commonwealth, bound with the final building inspection report, 27Jun1890 (v. 35, p. 14); courtesy of the Boston Public Library Arts Department

Second floor plan of 347 Commonwealth, bound with the final building inspection report, 27Jun1890 (v. 35, p. 14); courtesy of the Boston Public Library Arts Department

Mortimer Mason was a paper manufacturer in the firm of S. D. Warren & Co., founded by his maternal uncle, Samuel Dennis Warren.

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.

347 Commonwealth was not listed in the 1910 US Census, nor in the 1910-1912 Blue Books.

Architectural rendering of front elevation of 347 Commonwealth (1912), by architect G. Henri Desmond, courtesy of the Boston Public Library Arts Department, City of Boston Blueprints Collection

Architectural rendering of front elevation of 347 Commonwealth (1912), by architect G. Henri Desmond, courtesy of the Boston Public Library Arts Department, City of Boston Blueprints Collection

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 Lbrary’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.

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

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.