362-366 Commonwealth

362-366 Commonwealth (2013)

362-366 Commonwealth (2013)

Combined Lot 85' x 124.5' (10,583 sf)

Combined Lot 85′ x 124.5′ (10,583 sf)

362-366 Commonwealth are located on the SE of Commonwealth and Massachusetts Avenues, with 360 Commonwealth to the east, 370 Commonwealth to the west, across Mass. Ave., 355 Commonwealth to the north, across Commonwealth, and 359 Newbury to the south, across Alley 430.

362 Commonwealth and 364-366 Commonwealth were designed by Richards and Richards, architects, and built in 1889-1890, by Thomas R. White, mason, 362 Commonwealth as a six unit apartment house and 364-366 Commonwealth as a ten unit apartment house with four stores at street level. Although built as two buildings, 362 Commonwealth and 364-366 Commonwealth were operated as one building and have been owned in common since they were built. When they were first built, they briefly were called The White House. By 1898, 366 Commonwealth was known as The Commonwealth and by 1905 both buildings were known by that name.

The two apartment houses originally were owned by the builder, Thomas White, and his wife, Henriette (Kurrus) White. Thomas White is shown as the owner of 364-366 Commonwealth on the original building permit application, dated August 12, 1889, and on the final building inspection report, dated December 17, 1890, Henriette K. White is shown as the owner of 362 Commonwealth on the original building permit application, dated March 20, 1890, and on the final building inspection report, dated December 17, 1890 (floor plans of a typical floor in each building are bound with the building inspection reports, located in the Boston City Archives; the drawing for 364-366 Commonwealth could not be copied because of water damage).

Floor plan of typical floor of 362 Commonwealth (enhanced to offset water damage), bound with the final building inspection report , 17Dec1890 (v. 38 p. 118); Boston City Archives

Floor plan of typical floor of 362 Commonwealth (enhanced to offset water damage), bound with the final building inspection report , 17Dec1890 (v. 38 p. 118); Boston City Archives

In his Houses of Boston’s Back Bay, Bainbridge Bunting indicates that 362 Commonwealth was built in 1889 and was a 10-unit building, and that a second 6-unit building was built at 366 Commonwealth. However, the original building permits, final inspection reports, and deeds indicate that a 6-unit building was built at 362 Commonwealth, and a 10-unit building at 364-366 Commonwealth.

Thomas White purchased the land for 362 and 364-366 Commonwealth in two transactions. He purchased the corner lot, with a 30 foot frontage on Commonwealth, on August 7, 1899, from Luther D. Shepard, and the lot to the east, with a 55 foot frontage, on September 20, 1899, from Silas W. Merrill.

Both lots previously had been owned M. Woolsey Borland. He had purchased the land on April 20, 1881, from Frederic Amory (a 32 foot lot) and his brother, Harcourt Amory (a 54 foot lot). M. Woolsey Borland sold the western one foot on December 4,1883, to George Wheatland, Jr., who combined it with a 20 foot lot he acquired from Jacob Rogers and built 360 Commonwealth on it. M. Woolsey Borland subdivided the remaining 85 feet into the 30 foot lot on the corner and the 55 foot lot to the east. He sold the corner lot to Luther D. Shepard on December 1, 1885, and the 55 foot lot on February 8, 1886, to James S. Gill. The 55 foot lot subsequently changed hands and was purchased by Silas W. Merrill on February 28, 1889.

Frederic Amory and Harcourt Amory had acquired the land in March of 1879 from David N. Skillings. It was part of a parcel David Skillings purchased from the Boston Water Power Company on April 19, 1870, as trustee for a trust composed of himself, Lawrence Barnes of Burlington, Vermont, Charles Whitney of Lowell, and David Whitney, Jr., of Detroit. The land had subsequently changed hands and he had re-acquired it, in his own name, on January 12, 1878.

Click here for an index to the deeds for 362-366 Commonwealth, and click here for further information on the land on the south side of Commonwealth between Hereford and Massachusetts Avenue.

In August of 1889, Thomas White filed a petition with the Board of Alderman for permission to project three bays over the sidewalk on Massachusetts Avenue, each 56 feet high, running from the second to the fifth floors of 366 Commonwealth. The permission was granted and construction probably started soon thereafter.

While the buildings were under construction, Thomas White transferred them into his wife’s name: on September 25, 1889, he transferred 364-366 Commonwealth on a 57 foot 6 inch lot, and on February 12, 1890, he transferred 362 Commonwealth on a 27 foot 6 inch lot.

Boston Evening Transcript, 16Sep1890

Portions of 362 Commonwealth and 364-366 Commonwealth were completed in 1890 and in September a “limited number of suites” were announced as ready for occupancy. The first residents had moved there by the 1890-1891 winter season.

On August 18, 1891, the Boston Evening Transcript reported that the building had “just been completed.” The article noted that the building was “built of Milford red granite in the two lower stories and of buff brick, with heavy brownstone trimmings, on the upper. … The interior finish is something peculiarly tasteful; mahogany, oak, cherry, sycamore and white wood all used in elaborate combinations. The bathrooms are finished in Georgia marble … The whole building was rented before completion.”

By the 1891-1892 winter season, Thomas and Henrietta White had moved to one of the apartments.  They previously had lived at 420 Newbury.

362-366 Commonwealth was called The White House in the 1891-1892 Blue Books, but no longer was referred to as such by the 1893 edition.

To finance the buildings, Thomas and Henrietta White entered into a series of mortgages, including five with Nathan Matthews. On March 24, 1890, they refinanced the mortgages, consolidating them into two mortgages, one for $30,000 and the other for $65,000. Nathan Matthews assigned the $30,000 mortgage to George E. Howe. Although both mortgages were secured by the entirety of 362 and 364-366 Commonwealth, it appears that the amounts represented the relative value of the two buildings.

On September 24, 1891, George Howe foreclosed on the $30,000 mortgage. In December of 1892, the Whites began a series of legal challenges against Nathan Matthews, claiming that he had (as reported by the Boston Globe on December 29, 1892) “willfully, unlawfully and without justifiable cause” interfered with contracts between Thomas White and various contractors and suppliers, thereby increasing significantly the cost of completing 362-366 Commonwealth, and also had exacted improper “bonuses” in connection with mortgages on the property. In September of 1893 they entered into a settlement.  The Whites continued to be in default on their mortgage payments to Nathan Matthews and on March 19, 1894, he foreclosed. On April 5, 1894, the Whites filed suit challenging the foreclosure, and on April 7, 1894, they transferred their residual equity interest in the property to Charles G. Fall (their attorney) as trustee on their behalf.

The suit was decided in Nathan Matthew’s favor, and on November 2, 1894, the Whites transferred their interest in 362 Commonwealth and 364-366 Commonwealth to him.  On December 31, 1894, Nathan G. Green, successor trustee to Charles Fall, transferred the residual interest he held to Nathan Matthews.

The Whites had continued to live at 362 Commonwealth during the 1893-1894 winter season, but moved thereafter to 16 St. Germain.

By the 1898 Blue Book, 366 Commonwealth (but not 362 Commonwealth) was referred to as The Commonwealth.

George Howe continued to hold an interest in the property as mortgagee in possession as a result of his foreclosure in September of 1891. On May 12, 1902, he transferred his interest to Nathan Matthews. On the same day (by a deed recorded April 13, 1903) he transferred the property to his son, Nathan Matthews, Jr., and to George Howe.

In addition to ten apartments, 364-366 Commonwealth also included space for retail stores (unlike most of the deeds for land on Commonwealth Avenue, the deeds for the south side of Commonwealth between Hereford and Massachusetts Avenue did not include language prohibiting the use of the land for mechanical, manufacturing, or mercantile purposes). The number and configuration of the commercial spaces evolved, comprising what would become 84-86-88-90 Massachusetts Avenue and a basement space on Commonwealth.

In February of 1890, while the building was under construction, real estate dealer Alexander Sylvanus Porter advertised in the Boston Journal, offering the commercial space for lease: “Large light store, with cellar. Also basement offices on Commonwealth avenue suitable for dressmaking or similar light business.”

Advertisement for the Pope Manufacturing Co.; Boston Globe, 31Mar1896

In September of 1890, an advertisement in the Boston Evening Transcript by Albert S. Watson offered 419 West Chester Park (86 Massachusetts Avenue) as a “large, well-lighted store, splendid location and admirably fitted for first-class caterer’s business,” and 417 West Chester Park (88 Massachusetts Avenue) as a “large store, good light, suitable for jewelry business or fancy stationery” which could be leased “with permission to sublet part.”

In November of 1891, at least one commercial space remained vacant at 419 West Chester Park (86 Massachusetts Avenue), and Nathan Matthew’s son, Constant Southworth Matthews, a real estate dealer, advertised it for lease in the Boston Post: “Suitable for Dry Goods or Men’s Furnishing. A splendid opportunity.  The large increase in population in Brookline and the opening of the new Harvard bridge makes this the great central point from Arlington st. to Chestnut Hill, so that a constant increase of business is assured.”

By 1892, the space at 419 West Chester Park (86 Massachusetts Avenue) had been leased by Carro Morrell Clark, who operated a stationery and variety store, and later a dry goods store. She was a lodger at various locations until August of 1897, when she married Charles F. Atkinson, manager of the Bowdoin Square Theatre; after their marriage, they lived at 848 Beacon. In 1900 she founded the C. M. Clark Publishing Company, credited as being the first woman-owned publishing company in the United States. Soon after founding the business, she moved it to 185 Summer and then to 211 Tremont. The firm was disbanded in 1912, and she and Charles Atkinson divorced in 1913. In 1914, she married Leon Henry Lempert, Jr., an architect from Rochester, New York, noted for designing theatres. In later years, Carro (Clark) Lempert authored a series of children’s books under the name Carro Frances Warren.

Also among the early businesses at 366 Commonwealth was the Back Bay branch of the Pope Manufacturing Company, makers of the Columbia and Hartford bicycles.  The shop was located at 84 Massachusetts from about 1896 and offered both bicycle rentals and riding instruction.  The company’s owner, Col. Albert Augustus Pope, and his wife, Abbie (Linder) Pope, lived at 378 Commonwealth; the bicycles were manufactured at 221 Columbus.

362-366 Commonwealth (1905); Boston Herald, 17Feb1905

On December 10, 1902, a fire at 366 Commonwealth caused substantial damage on the first three floors and smoke damage on the upper floors.

On February 15, 1905, 362-366 Commonwealth was acquired from Nathan Matthews, Jr., and George Howe by William H. Lincoln and Joseph Benjamin Moors. After they acquired the buildings, both buildings were known as The Commonwealth.

Joseph Moors died in April of 1909, and his interest was held in a trust established under his will. On January 15, 1919, the trust distributed it to his five surviving children: Arthur Wendell Moors; John Farwell Moors; Francis Joseph Moors; Maria Buckminster (Moors) Cabot, the wife of Godfrey Lowell Cabot; and Adelaide (Moors) Brown, the wife of William Henry Brown. On the same day, Arthur Moors and Francis Moors acquired their siblings’ interests.

On March 25, 1924, real estate dealer George J. Wilson acquired William Lincoln’s interest in 362-366 Commonwealth, and on April 1, 1924, he acquired Arthur and Francis Moors’s interest in the property.

On September 4, 1924, 362-366 Commonwealth was acquired from George Wilson by George F. Welch. On March 30, 1926, he transferred the property to himself, Thomas B. Alexander, and William B. James, as trustees of the George F. Welch Trust.

The property changed hands and on March 3, 1959 was acquired by Reith-Spiegel, Inc. In June of 1959, it applied for (and subsequently received) permission to remove the existing front entries and make a new, single entrance at 362 Commonwealth.

The change in the entrance apparently was not made and,, in 1962, Leah Realty, Inc., successor to Reith-Spiegel, filed for approval to consolidate the buildings as one property and create a single entrance at 362 Commonwealth. The application was denied by the Building Department and Leah Realty appealed to the Board of Appeal.

362-366 Commonwealth (ca. 1960), photograph by Bainbridge Bunting, courtesy of the Boston Athenaeum

362-366 Commonwealth (ca. 1960), photograph by Bainbridge Bunting, courtesy of the Boston Athenaeum

On April 30, 1962, 362-366 Commonwealth was acquired from Leah Realty by the Arlford Realty Corporation.

On May 25, 1962, the Board of Appeal issued a decision on Leah Realty’s appeal allowing consolidation of 362-364-366 Commonwealth as a single property but required that there be at least two entrances, one at 362 Commonwealth and the other at either 364 or 366 Commonwealth. In the decision, it indicated that 362 Commonwealth consisted of 9 apartments, 364 Commonwealth consisted of 20 apartments, and 366 Commonwealth consisted of 11 apartments and 5 retail stores, which the appellant was converting into 15 apartments and retail stores. The resulting occupancy of 362-366 Commonwealth was 44 apartments, 5 retail stores, and 1 real estate office.

In October of 1974, Arlford Realty filed for (and subsequently received) permission to legalize the occupancy as 81 apartments, 5 stores, and 4 offices. In November of 1974, it filed to modify the occupancy by converting one of the stores into a launderette.

On February 4, 1977, the First American Bank for Savings foreclosed on a mortgage given by the Arlford Realty Corporation and took possession of 362-366 Commonwealth.

On June 15, 1977, 362-366 Commonwealth was purchased from the First American Bank for Savings by Frederick W. Rust, III, trustee of the 362 Commonwealth Trust. In July of 1977, he filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert one of the stores into a restaurant, so that the occupancy became 81 apartments, 3 stores, 4 offices, 1 launderette, and 1 restaurant.

On July 27, 1981, 362-366 Commonwealth was purchased from Frederick Rust, III, by 362 Commonwealth, Inc. Frederick Rust, III, was the treasurer of 362 Commonwealth, Inc., and his wife, Louise D. Rust, was the president.

In February of 1980, prior to acquiring the property, 362 Commonwealth Inc. had filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property into 59 apartments, 3 stores, 2 offices, 1 launderette, and 1 restaurant.

On September 4, 1981, 362 Commonwealth, Inc., converted the property into 61 residential condominium units and six commercial condominium units, the Commonwealth Condominium.