375 Commonwealth

375 Commonwealth (2014)

375 Commonwealth (2014)

Irregular Lot: 26' on Commonwealth (2,757 sf)

Irregular Lot: 26′ on Commonwealth (2,757 sf)

375 Commonwealth is located on the north side of Commonwealth, between Massachusetts Avenue and Charlesgate East, with 373 Commonwealth to the east and 377 Commonwealth to the west.

375 Commonwealth was designed by architect George A. Avery and built in 1892-1893 for Dr. Holmes Mayhew Jernegan and his wife, Mary E. (Morrill) Moore Jernegan. He is shown as the owner on the original building permit application, dated June 18, 1892, and on the final building inspection report, dated May 1, 1893.

As originally laid out, the portion of Commonwealth between Massachusetts Avenue and Charlesgate East had a curved roadway intended to provide a transition from the formal design of the preceding blocks to the parklands in the Back Bay fens. It was divided into uneven islands and included a strip of green space in front of 371-387 Commonwealth and a small triangular island at the eastern end on which the statue of Leif Ericson (Erikson) was located (dedicated in 1887). In 1917-1918, the roadway was straightened and widened, the central mall design of the previous blocks was extended to Charlesgate East, the green space in front of 371-387 Commonwealth eliminated, and the Ericson statue was relocated to the Charlesgate East end of the block.

1898 Bromley map

Holmes Jernegan purchased the land for 375 Commonwealth on December 18, 1891, from Mary S. (Goldsmith) Knowles, the wife of building contractor and real estate dealer Albion Knowlton. They lived at 377 Commonwealth. Mary Knowles had acquired the land on the same day that she sold it. She had purchased it from Augustus F. Arnold, a bookkeeper with the real estate conveyancing firm of Kern & McLoud. When she sold the land to Holmes Jernegan, she added a stipulation in the deed (for the benefit of her home next door) specifying that, until December 19, 1921, any building built at 375 Commonwealth was to be a single dwelling house not more than four stories in height with the depth limited to not more than 62 feet north from the front line of 377 Commonwealth.

The land for 375 Commonwealth was the western 26 feet of an 80.5 foot lot purchased on December 23, 1890, by Carrie (Lodge) Sawyer, the wife of Arthur Wilkinson Sawyer. She had transferred the lot on April 29, 1891, to Sarah C. Bell, who conveyed the western 26 feet to Augustus F. Arnold on December 1, 1891, and the eastern 55.5 feet to the Ericson Hotel Trust on December 15, 1892. The land had been part of a larger parcel that Henry Lee, H. Hollis Hunnewell, and Augustus Lowell purchased on February 20, 1883, from a real estate investment trust formed by Grenville T. W. Braman, Henry D. Hyde, and Frank W. Andrews. The parcel was one several tracts of land the trust had purchased from the Boston Water Power Company on March 1, 1872.

Click here for an index to the deeds for 375 Commonwealth, and click here for further information on the land west of Massachusetts Avenue between the south side of Beacon and the north side of Commonwealth.

375-377 Commonwealth, from the 1917 Bromley map

On June 15, 1892, as 375 Commonwealth was nearing completion. Mary Knowles and Holmes Jernegan entered into an agreement modifying the restrictions contained in the earlier deed for the land. The modifications specified that a triangularly shaped parcel at the rear of 375 Commonwealth on the boundary with 377 Commonwealth would be kept open to the sky to preserve light and air for 377 Commonwealth. The parcel began at a point on the boundary between the two houses 58 feet 8 inches from the front of 377 Commonwealth, ran north 3 feet 4 inches on the boundary, east 3 feet 4 inches, and then southwest 4 feet 8 inches to the beginning point. The agreement also specified that a bay window extending 2 feet 6 inches north of the 62 foot line could be added on the second and third stores in the rear of 375 Commonwealth, provided that the western edge was no closer than 11 feet to the boundary with 377 Commonwealth.

By the 1892-1893 winter season, Holmes and Mary (Morrill) Jernegan had made 375 Commonwealth their home. They previously had lived in an apartment at 366 Commonwealth.

Holmes Jernegan was a physician and surgeon specializing in abdominal surgery. He maintained his medical office at 375 Commonwealth.

The Jernegans separated in 1899 and were divorced in June of 1901. He continued to live and maintain his office at 375 Commonwealth, and married again in August of 1903 to Mabel Louise Tobey. After their marriage, they lived at 375 Commonwealth.

On June 9, 1908, Holmes Jernegan transferred 375 Commonwealth into his wife’s name.

Third floor plan of 375 Commonwealth, bound with the final building inspection report, 1May1893 (v. 52, p. 78); courtesy of the Boston Public Library Arts Department

Third floor plan of 375 Commonwealth, bound with the final building inspection report, 1May1893 (v. 52, p. 78); courtesy of the Boston Public Library Arts Department

Holmes Jernegan died in May of 1917. Mabel Jernegan moved soon thereafter to the Hotel Puritan at 390 Commonwealth.

On January 25, 1919, Chester L. Dane and Edward C. Bradlee, trustees under the will of Grace Atkinson (Little) Ellis OIiver, who held a mortgage on 375 Commonwealth, foreclosed and took possession of the property.

On October 1, 1919, 373 Commonwealth was acquired from the trustees under Grace Oliver’s will by Dorothy L. Hallett, a secretary employed by the W. J. Sinnott Construction Company. In October of 1919, she filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property into medical offices.

On July 1, 1920, Dorothy Hallett transferred 375 Commonwealth to her employer, the W. J. Sinnott Construction Company (William J. Sinnott, president).

On May 16, 1922, 375 Commonwealth was acquired by real estate and insurance dealer Gerald G. E. Street.

On May 1, 1923, 375 Commonwealth was acquired from Gerald Street by Sophie Vera (Charak) Reinherz, the wife of Charles Reinherz. They lived in Brookline.

On February 4, 1924, 375 Commonwealth was acquired from Sophie Reinherz by real estate dealer William Hughson Golding, Jr. He and his wife, Ethel Schuyler (Brown) Golding, lived in Franklin, Massachusetts.

On December 6, 1932, the Leominster Savings Bank foreclosed on a mortgage it held on 375 Commonwealth and took possession of the property. On September 8, 1933, it was acquired from the bank by Henry J. Ferland, who conveyed it on September 15, 1933, to the Somerset Realty Corporation.

On January 14, 1935, the Leominster Savings Bank again foreclosed on a mortgage it held on 375 Commonwealth and took possession of the property. On January 18, 1935, it was acquired from the bank by Ruth V. Northrup.

In January of 1937, Ruth Northrup applied for (and subsequently received) permission to add a building rental office at 373 Commonwealth. The remainder of the building continued to be medical offices.

On October 26, 1938, 375 Commonwealth was acquired from Ruth Northrup by Edward J. O’Neil. On October 25, 1939, the Leominster Savings Bank once again foreclosed on a mortgage it held on the property and took possession of the property, which it held for the next four years.

On October 13, 1943, 375 Commonwealth was acquired from the bank by real estate dealer David C. Levin.

On November 19, 1943, 375 Commonwealth was acquired from David Levin by Charlotte Klane, who conveyed the property to Bernard (Barnet) H. Weiner (Winer) (later called Barnard H. Warner) and his wife, Anna Beatrice (Klane) Weiner. Anna Beatrice Weiner was the aunt of Charlotte Klane (the daughter of Max Klane and Bessie (Rabinovitz) Klane).

375 Commonwealth; American Architect and Building News, Imperial Edition, 5Mar1894

On June 30, 1944, 375 Commonwealth was acquired from the Weiners by Murray B. Brecher.

On March 28, 1951, 375 Commonwealth was acquired from Murray Brecher by Leonard Alfred Weiner, a salesman, and his father-in-law, Isaac Liberman (Lieberman). Leonard Weiner and his wife, Sarah (Sally) (Lieberman) Weiner lived at 14 Savin in Roxbury; Isaac Lieberman, a widower, lived with them. Leonard Weiner does not appear to have been closely related to Bernard Weiner, who previously owned 375 Commonwealth.

On November 14, 1952, 375 Commonwealth was acquired from Leonard Weiner and Isaac Liberman by North-West Realty, Inc.

The property changed hands on March 29, 1962, was acquired by real estate dealer Lionel DeJersey Greene. Lionel Greene died in October of 1962 and 375 Commonwealth was inherited by his wife, Elizabeth (Goodman) Greene, and their three children, Adeline (Greene) Keller, the wife of Harry Keller; Edith (Greene) Kagan, the wife of Bert S. Kagan; and Theodore A. Greene. On August 7, 1964, they transferred the property to Theodore A. Greene and Bert S. Kagan, as trustees of the 375 Commonwealth Avenue Trust.

By 1965, 375 Commonwealth was no longer limited to medical offices, but also included Bert Kagan’s insurance agency, Theodore Greene’s real estate brokerage and several other realtors, a food brokerage, an accountant, a lawyer, and a detective agency.

On September 11, 1973, 375 Commonwealth was purchased from Bert Kagan and Theodore Greene by Delabarre F. Sullivan. On December 27, 1973, he transferred the property to the Back Bay Knights of Columbus Building Corporation.

375 Commonwealth continued to be an office building.

On November 7, 1977, the Somerset Savings Bank foreclosed on a mortgage given by Delabarre Sullivan and took possession of the property.

On April 2, 1979, 375 Commonwealth was purchased from the bank by James R. Holland and his wife, Helen D. Holland.

From the mid-1980s, the property was assessed as an apartment building. As of 1990, however, the legal use on file with the Building Department continued to be doctors’ offices.

In September of 1998, the Howard Johnson hotel company filed for permission to convert 375 Commonwealth into a hotel. It subsequently abandoned the application and the Hollands continued to own the building.

375 Commonwealth continued to be assessed as an apartment building in 2018.

Colorized photographic postcard of 371-381 Commonwealth (ca. 1900), showing Commonwealth Avenue before it was widened and straightened ca. 1918; courtesy of Historic New England

Colorized photographic postcard of 371-381 Commonwealth (ca. 1900), showing Commonwealth Avenue before it was widened and straightened ca. 1918; courtesy of Historic New England