37 Fairfield (239 Newbury) is located on the NW corner of Fairfield and Newbury, with 35 Fairfield to the north, 39 Fairfield (240-A Newbury) to the south, across Newbury, 38 Fairfield (235 Newbury) to the east, across Fairfield, and 245 Newbury to the west.
37 Fairfield was built in 1877-1878 for banker and real estate investor Asa Perkins Potter, one of eight houses, four on each side of the block: 31-33-35-37 Fairfield on the west and 32-34-36-38 Fairfield on the east. 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 (33-35 Fairfield and 34-36 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.
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. The original permit applications for 32-34-36-38 Fairfield have not been located. 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 37 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 March 31, 1879, 37 Fairfield was purchased from Silas Merrill by Dr. Edward Wigglesworth, a dermatologist. He lived at 81 Beacon with his mother, Henrietta (Goddard) Wigglesworth, the widow of Edward Wigglesworth.
By 1880, 37 Fairfield was the home of Mrs. Sarah Willard (Johonnot) Frothingham. In 1878, she had lived at 36 Cortes.
In April of 1882, Edward Wigglesworth and Sarah Frothingham were married. They subsequently lived at 37 Fairfield through the 1884-1885 winter season, after which they moved to 188 Beacon.
On June 5, 1885, 37 Fairfield was purchased from Edward Wigglesworth by leather and hide dealer William A. Foster. He previously had lived at 108 Boylston. In December of 1885, he married Emma Augusta Goodwin and they made 37 Fairfield their home.
By the 1889-1890 winter season, they had been joined at 37 Fairfield by Emma Foster’s parents, George L. Goodwin and Julia Ann (Pierce) Goodwin. He was assistant treasurer of the Santa Fe Railroad. They previously had lived at the Hotel Brunswick (southeast corner of Boylston and Clarendon).
Julia Goodwin died in January of 1890. The Fosters and George Goodwin continued to live at 37 Fairfield during the 1891-1892 season, but moved thereafter to Newton Centre.
On November 14, 1891, 37 Fairfield was purchased from William Foster by Francis G. Pratt, Jr. He was a publisher with Perry Mason & Company, publishers of the Youth’s Companion magazine. On September 8, 1892, the Youth’s Companion published for the first time the Pledge of Allegiance, written by the magazine’s staff member, Francis Bellamy.
As a child, author Earl Stanley Gardner was an avid reader of the Youth’s Companion and used the name of its publisher for his fictional character Perry Mason, a defense attorney who was the main character in more than 80 detective novels and short stories, films, and radio and television series.
Francis Pratt died in March of 1894. He was unmarried.
On March 2, 1895, 37 Fairfield was purchased from Francis Pratt’s heirs (his mother, Charlotte G. (Eddy) Pratt, the widow of Francis G. Pratt, and his brother, George W. Pratt) by Eliza Maria (called Maria) (Upham) Drake, the wife of James McEwen Drake. They previously had lived at 14 Claremont Park.
James Drake (like Francis Pratt) was a publisher with Perry Mason & Company. The Company was owned by Daniel Sharp Ford, the husband of Maria Upham Drake’s aunt, Sarah E. (Upham) Ford.
Maria Drake died in September of 1920. James Drake continued to live at 37 Fairfield until his death in December of 1934. Their daughter, Stella Dorothy Drake, lived with him.
37 Fairfield was inherited from the Drakes by Vassar College. On November 6, 1936, it was acquired from Vassar by real estate dealer Ray C. Johnson, and on April 22, 1937, it was acquired from him by Philip D. Clark.
In 1936, 37 Fairfield was the home of Roger C. Smith, an accountant, and his wife, Sadie (Sydia) J. (Trudeau) Smith. They previously had lived at 97 Gainsborough.
The house was shown as vacant in the 1937 City Directory.
By 1938, 37 Fairfield was the home of George Arthur Thompson and his wife, Nellie (Burt) Thompson. They previously had lived in Norfolk, Massachusetts. It was also the location of his rug store. By 1939, they had moved to 245 Newbury.
On November 1, 1938, real estate dealer H. Leon Sharmat foreclosed on a mortgage given by Philip Clark and transferred 37 Fairfield to Rebecca Silberman.
37 Fairfield was shown as vacant in the 1939 City Directory.
On August 17, 1939, 37 Fairfield was acquired from Rebeccca Silberman by Charles E. Donovan and his wife, May C. (Fay) Donovan.
By 1940, 37 Fairfield was the home of John E. Merrick, a pharmacist, and the location of his drugstore (with an address of 239 Newbury). He previously had lived at 72 Linden. He continued to live and maintain his store at 37 Fairfield/239 Newbury in 1941.
By 1942, 37 Fairfield was a two-family dwelling. One of the apartments was the home of William F. Geary, an iron and sheet metal worker, and his wife, Catherine H. Geary. They previously had lived in Lowell. They continued to live at 37 Fairfield until about 1963.
The other apartment was the home of Martin F. Glynn, a policeman, and his wife, Frances C. (O’Toole) Glynn. They previously had lived at 18 Perkins Square. They continued to live at 37 Fairfield until about 1954.
John E. Merrick continued to operate his drugstore at 239 Newbury in 1942, but by 1943 it had become the Fairfield Pharmacy.
In February of 1946, Charles Donovan applied for (and subsequently received) permission to remodel the interior. The current and proposed use was indicated as being a two-family dwelling and store.
By 1946, the Fairfield Pharmacy was owned by Maxwell A. Grosser and his wife, Frances C. (Matfess) Grosser. They lived in Mattapan and later in Brookline.
Charles Donovan died in January of 1952, and on January 13, 1954, 37 Fairfield was purchased from May Donovan by Maxwell and Frances Grosser.
On January 15, 1959, 37 Fairfield was acquired from the Grossers by Saul Parker and Ruth (Gilman) Parker, trustees of the Hosmer Realty Trust. The Parkers lived at 31 Hosmer in Mattapan and later in Milton.
Saul Parker was the president and treasurer of the Fairfield Pharmacy, which continued to be located at 239 Newbury until about 1976.
On November 18, 1976, 37 Fairfield was acquired from the Parkers by Robert B. Aiello, trustee of the 239 Newbury Street Realty Trust. He replaced the Fairfield Pharmacy with DeLuca’s market, establishing a Newbury Street branch of the Aiello family’s store located at 11 Charles Street.
In August of 1977, Robert Aiello applied for (and subsequently received) permission to construct a “steel frame aluminum and glass enclosed lean-to structure in the side yard abutting Newbury Street to house produce for sale at retail as an extension of the existing store.”
In April of 1995, he applied for (and subsequently received) permission to add a restaurant with takeout to the existing retail grocer store.
On October 29, 2001, Robert Aiello terminated the 239 Newbury Street Realty Trust and distributed ownership of 37 Fairfield to the beneficiaries: Gerald A. Aiello; Robert B. Aiello, trustee of the Caroline Grace Aiello Trust; and Virgil J. Aiello, trustee of the Sandra, Gina, Nicholas, Alison Trust. On June 18, 2003, Gerald Aiello sold his one-third interest in the property to Robert B. Aiello and Virgil J. Aiello.
37 Fairfield (239 Newbury) remained a two-family dwelling and grocery store with take-out restaurant in 2016.