36 Fairfield was built in 1878-1879 for banker and real estate investor Asa Perkins Potter, one of eight houses, four on each side of the block: 32-34-36-38 Fairfield on the east and 31-33-35-37 Fairfield on the west. He and his wife, Delle (Sheldon) Potter, lived at 29 Fairfield, built at about the same time.
Each block of four houses was designed as a symmetrical group, centered on the paired entrances to the middle houses (34-36 Fairfield and 33-35 Fairfield). It appears likely that the eight houses originally matched in design, all with bays topped with conical roofs. 31-33-35-37 Fairfield remained unchanged as of 2015, but 32-34-36-38 Fairfield were significantly altered. Additional floors were added very early to 36 and 38 Fairfield, inasmuch as they appear as three story houses on the 1887 Sanborn map, whereas 32 and 34 Fairfield (and 31-33-35-37 Fairfield) are described as 2 story houses with French roofs. They are similarly described on the 1897 Sanborn map. Based on similar information on the Bromley maps, the additional story at 32 Fairfield was added between about 1908 and 1912. The additional story at 34 Fairfield was added sometime after the early 1940s, with a remnant of the original roof retained.
The original permit applications for 32-34-36-38 Fairfield have not been located. The permit application for 31-33 Fairfield (one application for two houses) does not indicate the architect, but the application for 35-37 Fairfield (also one application for two houses) names the architects as Ober and Rand. Bainbridge Bunting’s Houses of Boston’s Back Bay attributes all eight houses to Ober and Rand, which appears likely given the similarity of design.
On May 31, 1876, Asa Potter purchased the land for 31-33-35-37 Fairfield from wholesale dry goods merchant George H. Braman. The purchase also included the land where 246 Commonwealth would be built. On the same day, Delle S. Potter purchased the land for 29 Fairfield from George Braman. On October 21, 1878, Asa Potter entered into an agreement with National Bank of Commerce of Boston to purchase the land for 32-34-36-38 Fairfield. He completed the purchase on June 21, 1879, after the houses had been built. All of the land was part of a parcel previously owned by Nathan Matthews, part of an even larger tract which was purchased by Nathan Matthews on January 2, 1871, from David Sears, Jr., Frederick R. Sears, and Knyvet Sears.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 36 Fairfield.
Having purchased the land (or secured the right to purchase it), Asa Potter worked with builder Silas Whiton Merrill and his son, Luther Moore Merrill, to construct the houses. Silas W. Merrill is shown as builder on the permit applications for 31-33-35-37 Fairfield, with mason John F. Richardson for 31-33 Fairfield and alone for 35-37 Fairfield. As noted above, the permit applications for 32-34-36-38 Fairfield have not been located. However, on October 27, 1878, the Boston Globe reported that Luther M. Merrill had been granted permits for two of the houses (32-34 Fairfield), and on June 5, 1879, it reported that Silas W. Merrill had been granted permits for the remaining two (36-38 Fairfield).
An April 12, 1879, Boston Journal on “Building Operations in the Back Bay” summarized the development of the eight houses as of the spring of 1879: “On Fairfield street, between Commonwealth avenue and Newbury street, Luther M. Merrill has erected a block of four small houses, 26 [sic] by 44 feet, two stories, Mansard roof. These houses contain eleven rooms, and have been sold for $10,000 and $11,000 each. On the opposite side of the street the same builder has erected for Asa P. Potter two houses of the same style and dimensions, and has a permit for two more.”
In all but two cases (31-33 Fairfield), after the houses were built, Asa Potter held the property until a buyer was found, and then sold the land with the house on it to Silas Merrill, who resold it on the same day or soon thereafter – presumably at a profit – to the buyer.
The pattern was different for 31-33 Fairfield, the first two houses sold (both in August of 1878). In the case of 31 Fairfield, Asa Potter sold the house to Jarvis Dwight Braman, president of the Boston Water Power Company, who resold it on the same day (Jarvis Braman was the brother of George H. Braman, from whom Asa Potter had acquired the land). In the case of 33 Fairfield, Asa Potter sold house to Silas Merrill, who then mortgaged it and transferred it back the next day to Asa Potter, who sold it soon thereafter. Silas Merrill had filed for bankruptcy in May of 1878, and the approach to these two sales may have reflected his financial position. The other six sales all were in 1879, presumably after his bankruptcy was resolved.
On October 17, 1879, Asa Potter sold 36 Fairfield to Silas Merrill. The deed included an easement reserving a three foot wide strip across the eastern boundary to provide access to the alley for 38 Fairfield. A similar easement was included in the deeds for 32 and 34 Fairfield.
On December 4, 1879, Silas Merrill sold the property to real estate dealer Samuel Horatio Whitwell, and on the same day, he conveyed the property to Charles S. Miller.
36 Fairfield became the home of Charles Miller and his parents, Edward Franklin Miller, Jr., and Frances Chapin (Starkweather) Miller. They previously had lived at 526 Columbus. Edward Miller and Charles Miller were wool merchants. On March 25, 1880, Charles Miller transferred the property to his mother.
They all continued to live at 36 Fairfield during the 1884-1885 winter season. By 1886, Charles and Jennie Miller had moved to Winchester (and by 1888 to Brookline) and Edward and Frances Miller had moved to 171 Falmouth. Frances Miller continued to own 36 Fairfield and lease it to others.
During the 1885-1886 winter season, 36 Fairfield was the home of Anstiss Derby (Rogers) Wetmore, the widow of William Shepard Wetmore of New York City and Newport, who had been a merchant in the China trade. She previously had lived at 277 Clarendon. By the 1886-1887 season, she was living at the Tremont House hotel at 37 Tremont.
During the 1886-1887 winter season, 36 Fairfield was the home of Arthur Donner. He had lived at 363 Beacon in 1885. He was a banker, consul for Austria-Hungary, and vice consul for Argentina. He later would become treasurer of the American Sugar Refining Company and a key figure in the sugar trust, which controlled over 90 percent of the manufacture and sale of sugar in the United States. By the 1887-1888 season, he was living at 74 Chestnut.
By the 1887-1888 winter season, 36 Fairfield was the home of Lucretia Watson (Lunt) Revere, the widow of Paul Joseph Revere, a Brigadier General in the Civil War, killed at Gettysburg. She continued to live there during the 1888-1889 season, but moved thereafter to 350 Marlborough.
By the 1889-1890 winter season, Edward and Frances Miller were living at 36 Fairfield again. They continued to live there during the 1892-1893 season, but then were living elsewhere for the next four seasons.
During the 1893-1894 winter season, 36 Fairfield was the home of Herbert Foster Otis and his wife, Ethel (Whiting) Otis. They had married in September of 1893 and 36 Fairfield probably was their first home together. They also maintained a home in Nahant. In the fall of 1894, they traveled abroad
During the 1894-1895, 36 Fairfield was the Boston home of retired cotton buyer and dry goods merchant George Wellman Wright and his wife, Georgianna (Buckham) Wright. Their primary residence was at Pine Hill in Duxbury.
During the 1895-1896 winter season, 36 Fairfield was the home of Frederic Guild and his wife, Sarah (Woodward) Guild. By the 1896-1897 season, they were living at 226 Newbury.
36 Fairfield was not listed in the 1897 Blue Book.
The Millers resumed living at 36 Fairfield during the 1897-1898 winter season and continued to live there during the 1898-1899 season.
During the 1899-1900 winter season, 36 Fairfield was the home of Allen Arnold, a stock and note broker. His usual residence was in Swampscott.
During the 1900-1901 winter season, 36 Fairfield was the home of former bank president Warren Sawyer and his daughter, Mary C. Sawyer. Their primary residence was in Wellesley Hills. Warren Sawyer’s wife, Ellen (White) Sawyer, had died in September of 1900. They had lived briefly at 34 Fairfield in the mid-1890s.
During the 1901-1902 winter season, 36 Fairfield was the home of Louis Joseph Sands and his wife, Ella Louise (Faye) Sands. They previously had lived at the Hotel Kempton at 237 Berkeley. Louis Joseph Sands was a retired Naval officer, who had served in the US Navy during the Civil War.
By the 1902-1903 winter season, the Sands had moved next door, to 34 Fairfield, and 36 Fairfield was again the home of Edward and Frances Miller. They continued to live there until his death in April of 1903.
On February 10, 1903, shortly before Edward Miller’s death, 36 Fairfield was acquired from Frances Miller by grain dealer Charles P. Washburn. By the 1903-1904 winter season, he and his wife, Abbie C. (Parker) Washburn, had made it their home. They previously had lived at 132 St. Botolph.
36 Fairfield was not listed in the 1919 and 1920 Blue Books.
By 1920, 36 Fairfield was the home of Henry Walter Smith and his wife, Bertha Mary (Pope) Smith. He was captain of a tow boat. They operated 36 Fairfield as a lodging house. They continued to live there in 1922, but moved thereafter to Brookline. By the late 1920s, they lived in Miami.
During the 1922-1923 winter season, 36 Fairfield was the home of Reuben Yates, a jeweler, and his wife, Emily Yates, who operated it as a lodging house. They previously had lived in Somerville. By 1924, they had moved to 225 Newbury, where he had become a cigar dealer.
On August 23, 1923, 36 Fairfield was purchased from Charles Washburn’s heirs by Edgar Nathan Carver. He and his wife, Florrie (Reynolds) Carver, made it their home. They previously had lived at 276 Newbury.
Edgar Carver had been a newspaper editor and publisher in Maine, where he also served as auditor of state printing. He later operated the New England Linotype School in Boston. By 1920, he was a foreman at a newspaper.
On September 2, 1924, he transferred 36 Fairfield into his and his wife’s names. They continued to live there in 1925, but moved thereafter to 206 Commonwealth.
On December 15, 1925, 36 Fairfield was acquired from Edgar Carver by Paul Mascarene Hamlen, trustee under the will of William Powell Perkins, his mother’s uncle (Paul M. Hamlen’s parents were Nathaniel Perez Hamlen and Gertrude (Loring) Hamlen; Gertrude Loring’s parents were Francis Caleb Loring and Miriam Mason (Perkins) Loring, William Powell Perkins’s sister). Paul Hamlen already owned 38 Fairfield, and in October of 1927, he purchased 32–34 Fairfield, also as trustee under William Powell Perkins’s will.
Paul M. Hamlen was a real estate dealer and purchased the property on Fairfield as an investment for the benefit of himself and his siblings. He and his wife, Agnes Dorothy (Devens) Hamlen, lived at 32 Gloucester and also maintained a home in Wayland.
Under the terms of William Powell Perkins’s will, the income from the trust was to be paid to the four living children of Miriam (Perkins) Loring – Francis Caleb Loring, Jr., Anna Loring, Miriam P. Loring, and Helen Loring – and to the four children of Gertrude (Loring) Hamlen, who predeceased William Powell Perkins. The trust was to remain in effect until the death of the last surviving child of Miriam (Perkins) Loring, and then to be terminated. The principal was then to be distributed to the children of Gertrude (Loring) Hamlen, her siblings having been childless.
On April 12, 1929, Paul Hamlen transferred 32-34-36-38 Fairfield to himself and his three sisters: Miriam Perkins (Hamlen) Warren, the wife of Edward R. Warren, Elizabeth Perkins Hamlen, and Gertrude Loring (Hamlen) Catlin, the wife of Daniel K. Catlin. On the same day, they transferred the property back to him as trustee under another trust that they had established in 1904 to manage income to them under the trust established by William Powell Perkins. On June 29, 1929, Paul Hamlen transferred the property to himself as trustee under the will of his grandfather, Nathaniel Hamlen, also established for the benefit of Paul Hamlen and his sisters, thereby consolidating their assets in one trust.
Paul Hamlen converted 32-34-36-38 Fairfield into lodging houses, which he rented to others to operate.
By 1932, 36 Fairfield was the home of Charles Granville Ellis, a vacuum cleaner salesman, and his wife, Gladys Vera (McConnell) Houston Ellis. They operated it as a lodging house. They previously had lived at 8 Yarmouth.
The Ellises continued to live at 36 Fairfield until about 1935, but by 1936 had moved to 32 Fairfield, which they operated as a lodging house. They probably also continued to manage the lodging house at 36 Fairfield. They continued to live at 32 Fairfield until about 1945, probably also continuing to operate the lodging houses at both 32 and 36 Fairfield (they are listed at both addresses in the 1938-1944 City Directories).
Paul Hamlen died in July of 1939, and on August 19, 1944, his son, Nathaniel Hamlen, as the successor trustee under Nathaniel Hamlen’s will, transferred 32-34-36-38 Fairfield to the Warren Institution for Savings, which held the mortgage on the property. On August 30, 1944, the property was acquired by real estate dealer George T. Sullivan.
On May 10, 1946, 32-34-36-38 Fairfield were acquired from George Sullivan by Joseph Francis Dinneen. He was a reporter with the Boston Globe, noted for his crime coverage and for his column on Boston’s night club scene. He also was a prolific author, Among his works was The Purple Shamrock, a biography of Mayor James Michael Curley published in 1949. He and his wife, Helen Agnes (Wagner) Dinneen, lived in Needham.
The property continued to be operated as lodging houses.
On August 20, 1956, 32-34-36-38 Fairfield were acquired from Joseph Dinneen by the National Realty Company (Charles Talanian, president; Thomas J. Diab, treasurer).
On April 12, 1957, 32-34-36-38 Fairfield were acquired from National Realty by real estate dealers Stuart H. Hastings and Joseph A. Gautreau. They converted each building into eight apartments and then sold them separately: 32 Fairfield and 34 Fairfield to two different buyers, and 36 Fairfield and 38 Fairfield to a third buyer.
On December 16, 1957, 36 Fairfield was purchased from Stuart Hastings and Joseph Gautreau by Helen (Helene) (Hios) Coste, the widow of Nicholas Coste. In March of 1958, she purchased 38 Fairfield from them. She lived in Jamaica Plan with her son-in-law and daughter, Harry (Aristides) M. Angelus and Despina Tessie (Coste) Angelus. They later all lived in Westwood.
On June 22, 1962, Helen Coste transferred a half interest in 36-38 Fairfield to her daughter.
Under their ownership, the buildings were converted into a combination of residential and commercial uses. An entrance to 38 Fairfield was added by the mid 1960s, and possibly before, with the address of 235 Newbury. By 1973, the legal occupancy of 36-38 Fairfield (235 Newbury) was as five retail stores, four offices, and eight apartments.
In 1973, Harry Angelus applied for (and subsequently received) permission to build a two story addition, filling the area between the rear of 36-38 Fairfield and 231 Newbury. The addition subsequently became retail space with the address of 233 Newbury.
In July of 1974, Harry Angelus filed for (and subsequently received) permission to add a beauty salon and restaurant.
Helen Coste died in May of 1991.
On October 16, 2002, Despina T. Angelus, individually and as trustee of the Helen Coste Family Trust, transferred 36-38 Fairfield to New Field Realty, LLC, of which she and her husband were the managers of record.
On July 18, 2014, 36-38 Fairfield were purchased from New Field Realty, LLC, by the 207 NSR LLC (Serge Safar, manager of record).
36-38 Fairfield (235 Newbury) remained a combination of a restaurant, retail stores, offices, and apartments in 2016.