377 Commonwealth

377 Commonwealth (2014)

377 Commonwealth (2014)

Irregular Lot: 23.4' on Commonwealth (2,557 sf)

Irregular Lot: 23.4′ on Commonwealth (2,557 sf)

377 Commonwealth is located on the north side of Commonwealth, between Massachusetts Avenue and Charlesgate East, with 375 Commonwealth to the east and 379 Commonwealth to the west.

377 Commonwealth was designed and built by O. H. Drisko and Son, architects and builders, one of two contiguous houses (377-379 Commonwealth), built for building contractor and real estate dealer Albion Knowlton. He is shown as the owner on both of the original building permit applications, dated April 2, 1889, and on the final building inspection reports, dated October 25, 1889.

Albion Knowlton and his wife, Mary S. (Goldsmith) Knowlton, made 377 Commonwealth their home, and he sold 379 Commonwealth. The Knowltons previously had lived at 215 West Chester Park. Mary Knowlton is shown as the owner on the 1895, 1898, 1908, and 1917 Bromley maps.

Albion Knowlton died in May of 1907. After his death, Mary Knowlton continued to live at 377 Commonwealth with their only son, Walter Munroe Knowlton. He died in March of 1919.

373-393 Commonwealth (ca. 1905), © The Mary Baker Eddy Collection; used with permission.

373-393 Commonwealth (ca. 1905), © The Mary Baker Eddy Collection; used with permission.

During the 1919-1920 winter season, Mary Knowlton was joined at 377 Commonwealth by her first cousin, Abbie H. (Henderson) Goodrich, the widow of Wallace Goodrich (Abbie Goodrich’s mother, Elizabeth (Roundy) Henderson, was the sister of Mary Knowlton’s mother, Mary Jane (Roundy) Goldsmith). Mary Knowlton died in October of 1920; Abbie Goodrich continued to live at 377 Commonwealth during the 1920-1921 winter season, but moved thereafter to Brookline.

By the 1921-1922 winter season, 377 Commonwealth was the home of Dr. William Elisha Chenery and his wife, Marion (Luse) Chenery. They previously had lived at 222 Huntington. She is shown as the owner of 377 Commonwealth on the 1928 and 1938 Bromley maps.

William Chenery was a physician and professor of laryngology at Tufts Medical School. He maintained his medical office at 377 Commonwealth.

They continued to live at 377 Commonwealth until about 1946, but moved thereafter.

377-381 Commonwealth (ca. 1905). detail from photograph of 373-391 Commonwealth, © The Mary Baker Eddy Collection; used with permission.

377-381 Commonwealth (ca. 1905). detail from photograph of 373-391 Commonwealth, © The Mary Baker Eddy Collection; used with permission.

The house was shown as vacant in the 1947 City Directory.

By 1948, 377 Commonwealth was owned by Emerson College, the assessed owner from 1949 through 1952.

In 1948, it was the home of Emerson’s president, Cordes Boylston Green and his wife, Wynne (Byard) Taylor Green. They previously had lived in Sudbury. They continued to live at 377 Commonwealth until mid-1949, when he accepted a position as president of the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee.

By the fall of 1949, 377 Commonwealth was the home of Godfrey Dewey, the new acting president of Emerson College, and his wife, Helen Marjorie (Kinne) Dewey. The son of Melvil Dewey, inventor of the Dewey Decimal System for cataloging libraries, Godfrey Dewey was an expert on phonetics, inventor of a shorthand system, and advocate for simplifying the spelling of English words. An expert skier, He also was the prime mover for bringing the 1932 Winter Olympics to Lake Placid, New York.

Godfrey Dewey served as president of Emerson College until 1951.

In 1951, 377 Commonwealth became the home of David Sigurd Abrahamson and his wife, Virginia Mae (Marshall) Abrahamson. He is shown as the assessed owner from 1952. He was a salesman with a silverware company and later a real estate broker.

In July of 1952, he applied for approval to convert the property from a single-family residence into four apartments. He subsequently abandoned the permit, but based on the Boston Lists of Residents, it appears that he nevertheless converted 377 Commonwealth into a multiple dwelling, either apartments or a lodging house.

The Abrahamsons continued to live at 377 Commonwealth until about 1964.

In February of 1964, Garland Junior College acquired 377 Commonwealth from David and Virginia Abrahamson. That same month, Garland Junior College filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert 377 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, 413415 Commonwealth, 24 Charlesgate East (419 Commonwealth), and 447, 449, and 451 Marlborough (composed of 451-457 Marlborough).

377-379 Commonwealth (2014)

377-379 Commonwealth (2014)

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.

Glen G. Grant, trustee of the Commonwealth College Trust, purchased eleven of the twelve properties that Garland Junior College sold. In October of 1976 he purchased 315 and 341 Commonwealth, and 447 and 449 Marlborough; in January of 1977, he purchased 319, 321, 329, 337, 339, 343, and 377 Commonwealth. The remaining property, 349 Commonwealth, had been purchased in September of 1976, by Andrew Saggese, Jr., trustee of the Drew Realty Trust.

In May of 1980, Glen Grant transferred 315, 319, 321, 337, 339, 341, 343, and 377 Commonwealth to Judith S. Schwartz, trustee of Seofon Trust (the deed was dated in May of 1980 but recorded in June of 1981).

In May of 1981, Glen Grant filed for permission to legalize the occupancy of 377 Commonwealth as eight apartments, noting that “dormitory use was in name only as physical characteristic of building was and is eight apartments.” The permit was subsequently abandoned.

In June of 1981, Judith Schwartz converted 377 Commonwealth into eight condominium units, the 377 Commonwealth Condominium.

In February of 1985, the 377 Commonwealth Avenue Trust filed for (and subsequently received) permission to legalize the occupancy as eight apartments, finalizing the permit that had been sought and then abandoned in 1981.

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