349 Commonwealth was designed by architect G. Wilton Lewis and built in 1894-1895, one of three contiguous houses (349-351-353 Commonwealth) built and owned by carpenter and building contractor Luther Moore Merrill for speculative sale. He is shown as the owner on the original building permit application dated April 23, 1894, and on the final building inspection report dated March 8, 1895. The three houses are designed as a single, symmetrical unit, centered on a two-story palladian window.
Luther Merrill purchased the land for 349-351-353 Commonwealth on March 15, 1894, from Mortimer Blake Mason. He and his wife, Mary Emma (Phillips) Mason, lived at 347 Commonwealth, and in the deed to Luther Merrill 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 60 foot wide lot at 349-351-353 Commonwealth had been part of a 131 foot lot extending to Massachusetts Avenue previously owned by Benjamin Williams Crowninshield. He had sold the western 70 feet in February of 1880 to Oliver Ames, who built his home on it at 355 Commonwealth, and the eastern 1 foot (along with an additional 30 foot lot he acquired the same day) in July of 1888 to Mortimer Mason.
Benjamin Crowninshield had purchased the 131 foot lot on January 9, 1880, from Grenville T. W. Braman, Henry D. Hyde, and Henry M. Whitney, trustees of a real estate investment trust. It was part of a parcel the 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.
The land owned by the trust 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 349 Commonwealth, and click here for further information on the land on the north side of Commonwealth between Hereford and Massachusetts Avenue.
Luther Merrill was the son of Silas Whiton Merrill and Eliza Belcher (Crabtree) Merrill. His father, also a carpenter and house contractor, had died in April of 1890, intestate. Eliza Merrill had died in October of 1882, and Silas Merrill’s heirs at law were his three surviving children: Mary C. (Merrill) Munsell, the wife of Harvey M. Munsell, Luther Merrill, and Fanny W. Merrill. On May 15, 1890, they established a trust under which Luther Merrill would administer the assets they inherited from their father. He purchased the land for 349-351-353 Commonwealth in his capacity as trustee.
On September 23, 1895, 349 Commonwealth was purchased from Luther Merrill by Miss Alice Worthington Ball. She previously had lived at 26 Newbury.
She continued to live at 349 Commonwealth during the 1899-1900 winter season, after which she traveled to Europe to study and paint. After returning to the United States, she lived in Baltimore and summered in Gloucester. She continued to own 349 Commonwealth and lease it to others.
By the 1900-1901 winter season, 349 Commonwealth was the home of Lydia Bowman (Baker) Edwards Taft, the widow of John Hughes Edwards and of Orray Augustus Taft, Jr. She had lived at 341 Marlborough during the previous season. She also maintained a home in Milton. She had moved from 349 Commonwealth by the 1901-1902 winter season.
During the 1901-1902 season, 349 Commonwealth was the home of William A. Rust and his wife, Dora (Drummond) Rust. They previously had lived at 190 Commonwealth.
William Rust formerly had been Secretary of the Eau Claire Lumber Company in Wisconsin, where he had served as a State Senator in the late 1880s.
By the 1902-1903 season, they had moved to 154 Bay State Road, where they were living at the time of his death in March of 1903.
During the 1902-1903 winter season, 349 Commonwealth was the home of William Morgan Butler and his wife, Minnie Ford (Norton) Butler. They previously had lived at the Hotel Touraine (southeast corner of Boylston and Tremont).
William Morgan Butler was a lawyer. He retired from legal practice in 1912 and became a cotton manufacturer. In 1924, he served as Chairman of the Republican National Committee, and in November of that year, was appointed to the US Senate to fill the vacancy left by the death of Henry Cabot Lodge. He lost his bid for election to the office in 1926, and lost a second attempt for election to the US Senate in 1930.
During the 1903-1904 winter season, 349 Commonwealth was the home of Henrietta Clementine (Bright) Inches, the widow of cotton broker John Chester Inches. In 1902, she had lived at The Empire at 333 Commonwealth. By the 1904-1905 season, she had moved to 166 Marlborough.
In 1905, 349 Commonwealth was the home of Charles Augustus Stone and his wife, Mary Adams (Leonard) Stone. They previously had lived at 386 Beacon.
Charles Stone and his MIT classmate, Edwin Webster, founded the firm of Stone & Webster in 1889. Under their leadership, it became a major international construction, engineering, and consulting firm.
In March of 1905, the Stones purchased and subsequently moved to 234 Beacon.
By the 1905-1906 winter season, 349 Commonwealth was the home of real estate dealer and banker Benjamin Lombard, Jr., and his wife, Rose R. (Massey) Lombard. They previously had lived in Brookline. They continued to live at 349 Commonwealth during the 1908-1909 season. By April of 1910, at the time of the US Census, they were living in Los Angeles.
349 Commonwealth was not listed in the 1910 and 1911 Blue Books.
349 Commonwealth was not listed in the 1922-1926 Blue Books.
By 1924, 349 Commonwealth had been leased from Alice Ball by the MIT chapter of the Phi Kappa fraternity. It previously had been located at 299 Newbury. It remained at 349 Commonwealth until about 1927, but had moved to 278 Commonwealth by 1928.
Alice Ball died in July of 1929 in Gloucester.
On June 30, 1930, 349 Commonwealth was acquired from Alice Ball’s estate by Mary A. Sullivan of Somerville.
349 Commonwealth was shown as vacant in the 1930-1934 City Directories.
On February 18, 1932, Mary Sullivan transferred 349 Commonwealth to the Massachusetts Hospital Life Insurance Company, which held the first mortgage on the property,
By 1935, 349 Commonwealth had become the fraternity house of the Boston University (Alpha Zeta) chapter of Lambda Chi Alpha.
Lambda Chi Alpha continued to be located at 349 Commonwealth until about 1939.
On June 12, 1941, 349 Commonwealth was purchased from Massachusetts Hospital Life Insurance by Gurdon Henry Reynolds and his wife, Lorena (Lena) Bradford (Allen) Oster Reynolds. They previously had lived in Arlington.
In October of 1942, Gurdon Reynolds filed for permission to convert the property from a single-family dwelling into a lodging house. He subsequently abandoned the application, but in September of 1943, he filed it again and subsequently received permission to convert the house.
In November of 1951, Gurdon and Lorena Reynolds filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a lodging house into six apartments. In the application, they stated that the “apartments were in building when purchased.”
Gurdon and Lorena Reynolds continued to live at 349 Commonwealth until about 1959.
On May 11, 1959, 349 Commonwealth was purchased from the Reynoldses by Darius W. Horton. He was a wholesale florist. He and his wife, Norma M. Horton, lived in one of the apartments. They previously had lived at 28 Marlborough.
On May 11, 1959, Darius Horton transferred the property to himself and Russell T. Hamlet as trustees of the Three Forty Nine Commonwealth Avenue Trust.
The property changed hands and on January 9, 1962, was acquired by Anthony William Saveri and his wife, Sally Gladys (Rogers) Saveri. They lived at 81 Westland Avenue, where they operated a lodging house.
On May 1, 1963, 349 Commonwealth was purchased from the Saveris by Garland Junior College.
In May of 1963, it applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert 349 Commonwealth into a dormitory.
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.
On September 30, 1976, Andrew Saggese, Jr., trustee of the Drew Realty Trust, purchased 349 Commonwealth from Garland Junior College. The remaining eleven properties sold by Garland Junior College were purchased by Glen G. Grant, trustee of the Commonwealth College Trust.
In October of 1976, Andrew Saggese applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a dormitory into seven apartments.
On September 4, 1979, he converted the property into five condominium units, the 349 Commonwealth Avenue Condominium.
In October of 1982, the 349 Commonwealth Condominium Trust filed for (and subsequently received) permission to establish the legal occupancy as five units.