379 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.
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.
377-379 Commonwealth were built on land acquired by Josiah Bradlee Kendall through two purchases in March of 1889, a 30 foot lot to the east and a 16.79 foot lot in the west. He then sold the property that same month as two approximately equal lots, the lot to the east to Albion Knowlton on March 20, 1889, and the lot to the west to Edwin H. Woods on March 26, 1889. On April 25, 1889, Albion Knowlton transferred the land at 377 Commonwealth to his wife, Mary S. (Goldsmith) Knowlton. Albion Knowlton contracted for the construction of both houses, 377 Commonwealth for himself and his wife, and 379 Commonwealth for Edwin Hutton Woods and his wife, Mary Frances (Smith) Woods.
Josiah B. Kendall was a real estate dealer and formerly had been a hide and leather merchant and then a granite dealer. He and his wife, Elizabeth (McPherson) Kendall, lived at 389 Commonwealth.
He acquired the 30 foot lot to the east on March 12, 1889, from Henry Lee, H. Hollis Hunnewell, and Augustus Lowell. It was part of one of several tracts of land originally purchased from the Boston Water Power Company on March 1, 1872, by a real estate investment trust formed by Grenville T. W. Braman, Henry D. Hyde, and Frank W. Andrews. He acquired the 16.79 foot parcel to the west on March 20, 1889, from George Wheatland, Jr. It was part of a parcel originally purchased from the Boston Water Power Company on June 1, 1880, by a real estate investment trust formed by Francis W. Palfrey, Francis A. Osborn, and Grenville T. W. Braman.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 379 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.
By the 1889-1890 winter season, Edwin and Mary Frances (Smith) Woods, had made 379 Commonwealth their home. They previously had lived at 113 Appleton. They also maintained a home in Cohasset.
Edwin Woods was president and business manager, and later publisher and treasurer, of the Boston Herald.
The Woods’ two sons, Walter Hutton Woods and Frederic Lester Woods, lived with them.
Walter Woods was circulation manager for the Herald. He married in January of 1895 to Marion Cooper Meins; after their marriage, they lived in Brookline. Frederic Woods married in September of 1905 to Edna Polson; after their marriage, they also lived in Brookline.
Edwin Woods retired from the Boston Herald in about 1905 and became vice-president and a director of the Napier Motor Car Company of America, with offices located at 743 Boylston. His sons also were associated with the firm.
Edwin Woods died in October of 1910. Mary Woods continued to live at 379 Commonwealth during the 1911-1912 winter season, but moved thereafter to Brookline.
On May 1, 1912, 379 Commonwealth was purchased from Mary Woods by Dr. Marshal Fabyan. He and his wife, Eleanor Harryman (McCormick) Fabyan, made it their home. They previously had lived at 381 Commonwealth. They also maintained a home in Beverly Farms.
Marshal Fabyan was a physician and an instructor and later assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. He maintained his medical office at 379 Commonwealth.
Marshal Fabyan died in October of 1952. Eleanor Fabyan moved soon thereafter.
On April 30, 1953, 379 Commonwealth was purchased from Marshal Fabyan’s estate by the Briggs Realty Corporation. Prior to taking title to the property, Saul Bernhardt Levitan, treasurer of Brigg’s Realty, filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert 379 Commonwealth from a single family dwelling into ten apartments.
Saul Levitan was a jeweler and real estate investor who lived at 197 Marlborough with his wife, Eleanor Helen (Hirsch) Mitnick Levitan. He died in October of 1953.
On May 8, 1997, Briggs Realty Corporation (James A. Golden, president and treasurer) transferred 379 Commonwealth to the Briggs Realty LLC.
379 Commonwealth remained an apartment house in 2018.