38-40 Commonwealth were built ca. 1862, designed as a single symmetrical composition composed of two houses of different widths. 38 Commonwealth is built on a 40 foot lot. The house is approximately 30 feet wide, with an open area to the east, and includes the eastern bay and flat middle section of the combined structure. 40 Commonwealth is built on a 20 foot lot and includes the western bay. Originally, the first floor façade of 40 Commonwealth included only the western two thirds of the bay, leaving a flat plane at the east where the entrance to the house was located.
The land on which 38-40 Commonwealth were built was part of a larger tract of land purchased from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on May 2, 1860, by shipping merchant and US Congressman Samuel Hooper. He and his wife, Anne (Sturgis) Hooper, lived at 27 Commonwealth.
38 Commonwealth was built as the home of Nathan Bourne Gibbs, Jr., and his wife, Elizabeth Swift (Burgess) Gibbs. In 1862, they are shown in the City Directory as living at an unidentified address on the Mill Dam (Beacon Street), and in 1861 at 40 Hancock.
Nathan Gibbs was a partner in his father-in-law’s firm, Benjamin Burgess & Sons, commission merchants in the West India trade. He acquired the land on which 38 Commonwealth was built on October 24, 1861, from Samuel Hooper. Nathan Gibbs previously had owned a lot on Commonwealth further east, which he had sold to Samuel Hooper on June 22, 1860, allowing Hooper to combine it with two other lots he had purchased from the Commonwealth, one to the east of Gibbs’s land and the other to the west, so that he owned all of the land from 20 Commonwealth to Berkeley Street. He subsequently subdivided the property and sold the lots to different owners – including Gibbs — for whom houses were then built.
Click here for in index to the deeds for 38 Commonwealth, and click here for further information about the land between the south side of Commonwealth and Alley 437, from Arlington to Berkeley.
On October 12, 1881, the administrators of Nathan Gibbs’s estate sold 38 Commonwealth at auction. The notice published in the Boston Daily Advertiser by auctioneer Samuel Hatch & Co. described it as an “elegant and elaborately finished house” with “dadoed halls, heavy black walnut banisters and stairs,” and a “parlor, library with folding doors, a spacious dining room and china closet on the main entrance floor.” On the upper floors, there were “two elegant drawing rooms, a large retiring or sitting room and … large chambers with dressing rooms, bath rooms and water closets.” A large kitchen, laundry rooms, and other rooms were located In the basement.
On October 13, 1881, the Boston Herald reported that George P. Bates, a merchandise broker, was the successful bidder at the auction. He subsequently sold or transferred his right to purchase the property to Thomas James Montgomery, who acquired it on November 3, 1881, from the estate of Nathan Gibbs.
Thomas Montgomery and his wife, Harriet L. (Johnson) Montgomery, made 38 Commonwealth their Boston home. They also maintained a home, The Rocks, in Newport, which they had acquired in the early 1880s.
Thomas Montgomery was an early promoter of electric lighting, a distributor (from about 1878) of arc lighting systems manufactured by the Brush Electrical Company in Cleveland, and also (from about 1882) of incandescent lighting systems manufactured by the English Swan Lamp Company at its Boston plant. In about 1884, the Brush company purchased and closed the Swan manufacturing facility in Boston, moving the manufacturing to Cleveland. Thomas Montgomery’s distribution business ceased not long thereafter.
The Montgomerys continued to live at 38 Commonwealth until about 1885.
Thomas Montgomery also owned 309 Marlborough and 77 Chestnut, and on October 30,1884, he had mortgaged on all three to Charles F. Brush of the Brush Electrical Company. On April 4, 1885, Charles Brush obtained a court judgment against Thomas Montgomery, and on June 20, 1885, all three properties were sold by the sheriff at public auction to satisfy the judgment. Charles Brush was the successful bidder.
On July 3, 1885, 38 Commonwealth was acquired from Charles Brush by dry goods merchant William B. Wood. He and his wife, Ellen M. (Nichols) Wood lived in Brookline and also maintained a home in Lexington.
The house was not listed in the 1886 Blue Book.
On May 4, 1886, Thomas Montgomery transferred his residual interest in 38 Commonwealth, 309 Marlborough, and 77 Chestnut to attorney Lyman B. French. On the same day, he also transferred his interest in 38 Commonwealth to William B. Wood, and on June 15, 1886, Lyman French released his interest in the property to William Wood.
By the 1886-1887 winter season, the Woods had made 38 Commonwealth their Boston home. They also continued to maintain homes in Brookline and Lexington.
On January 3, 1887, William Wood transferred 38 Commonwealth to his wife. She died in April of 1887, and he died in September of 1888. Their daughters, Nellie and Edith Wood, continued to live at 38 Commonwealth in 1889.
On September 27, 1889, 38 Commonwealth was acquired from the estate of Ellen Wood by Stillman Boyd Allen. He and his wife, Harriet (Seaward) Allen, made it their home. They previously had lived at 575 Columbus. Their adult children, Willis Boyd Allen and Marian Boyd Allen, lived with them.
Stillman Allen was an attorney and also a tea and coffee merchant in the firm of Allen, Shapleigh & Co. Willis Allen also was an attorney, but had given up active practice in about 1888 to become an author and magazine editor.
Stillman Allen died in June of 1891. After his death, Harriet, Willis, and Marian Allen moved to the Hotel Vendôme and then to 477 Commonwealth.
The Allen family continued to own 38 Commonwealth and lease it to others.
During the 1891-1892 winter season, it was the home of Percival Wood Clement and his wife, Maria H. (Goodwin) Clement. Their primary residence was in Rutland, Vermont.
Percival Clement was a marble producer in his family’s firm until 1876. He then became a bank president (Rutland State Trust Company, later the Clement National Bank), president of the Rutland Railroad, and published of the Rutland Herald. Her was twice Mayor of Rutland and served as Governor of Vermont in 1919-1921.
By 1893, the Clements had moved to The Charlesgate at 535 Beacon.
On October 1, 1910, 38 Commonwealth was acquired from the Allen family by the College Club. The Club combined it with 40 Commonwealth, which it had owned since 1905.
40 Commonwealth was built as the home of Dr. John Cauldwell Sharp, a physician, and his wife, Helen (Sayles) Sharp. They previously had lived at 92 Mt. Vernon.
John Cauldwell Sharp acquired the land on which 40 Commonwealth was built on October 24, 1861, from Samuel Hooper.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 40 Commonwealth, and click here for further information about the land between the south side of Commonwealth and Alley 437, from Arlington to Berkeley.
The Sharps continued to live at 40 Commonwealth in 1865, but moved soon thereafter to a new home they had built at 54 Commonwealth.
On July 31, 1867, 40 Commonwealth was acquired from John Cauldwell Sharp by Mrs. Anna Lothrop (Motley) Rodman, widow of Alfred Rodman. Their two children, Alfred Rodman, a student at Harvard, and Eloise Rodman, lived with her. They also maintained a home in Dedham.
Eloise Rodman married in June of 1869 to Stephen Minot Weld, Jr., a cotton and wool broker and treasurer of the Elliott Felting Mills. He had served in the Civil War from 1861 to 1865, rising to the rank of Colonel and, upon discharge, was brevetted a brigadier general. After their marriage, the Welds lived at 294 Beacon.
Anna Rodman and Alfred Rodman continued to live at 40 Commonwealth in 1869, but had moved to Dedham by 1870.
On October 1, 1869, 40 Commonwealth was purchased from Anna Rodman by Susan Tilden (Torrey) Revere, the wife of John Revere. They previously had lived at 156 Beacon.
John Revere died in July of 1886. Susan Revere continued to live at 40 Commonwealth during the 1886-1887 winter season, but moved thereafter.
During the 1887-1888 winter season, it was the home of Frederic Warren and his wife, Margaret (Langton) Warren. He was a partner in Warren & Co., shipping merchants and operators of steamships between Liverpool and Boston. By the 1888-1889 season, they had moved to 294 Beacon.
During the 1888-1889 winter season, 40 Commonwealth was the home of Frederic Jesup Stimson and his wife, Elizabeth Bradlee (Abbot) Stimson. In 1888, they had lived in Dedham (and continued to maintain a home there).
Frederic Stimson was an attorney. He served as Assistant Attorney General of Massachusetts in 1884-1885 and was active in Boston politics. He served as Ambassador to Argentina during the Wilson Administration. An author of several books on the law, he also wrote novels under the pen-name of “J. S. of Dale.”
By 1890, the Stimsons had once again made Dedham their sole residence. By the 1894-1895 winter season, however, they had resumed also maintaining a Boston home, at 459 Marlborough.
On May 7, 1890, 40 Commonwealth was purchased from Susan Revere by attorney and historian Edward Jackson Lowell. He and his wife, Elizabeth Gilbert (Jones) Lowell, made it their home. They previously had lived at 80 Marlborough.
Edward Lowell died in May of 1894, and on December 7, 1895, his estate transferred 40 Commonwealth to Elizabeth Lowell. She continued to live there until her death in September of 1904. After her death, 40 Commonwealth was inherited by her step-children, whom she had raised: Alice (Lowell) Ropes, the wife of James Hardy Ropes, Guy Lowell, and Frederick Eldridge Lowell. They were the children of Edward Lowell and his first wife, Mary Wolcott (Goodrich) Lowell (who died giving birth to Frederick Eldridge Lowell).
On June 5, 1905, 40 Commonwealth was acquired from the Lowell family by the College Club. It opened its clubhouse there on October 2, 1905. It previously had been located in rooms at the Grundmann Studios building (Clarendon near St. James), and before that at the Bellevue at 23 Beacon; its first clubrooms were at 76 Marlborough, where it met from 1890 through 1893.
After acquiring 38 Commonwealth in 1910, the College Club combined 38 and 40 Commonwealth as their clubrooms.
An October 4, 1910, Boston Globe article on the Club’s purchased of 38 Commonwealth indicated that the club “will erect a modern structure for occupancy” on the site of 38-40 Commonwealth.
Plans to raze and replace the original townhouses never materialized, but the club did combine the two houses and remodel portions during the next ten years. It probably at this time that the front entrance to 40 Commonwealth was eliminated and the angle of the brick bay continued to the first floor with a window inserted into it to match the others on the same floor.
In 1919, the Club acquired 42 Commonwealth, cut through openings in the party walls between 40 and 42 Commonwealth, and lowered the front entrance of 42 Commonwealth to sidewalk level. In the mid-1920s, the Club acquired 44 Commonwealth and subsequently cut through openings in the party wall with 42 Commonwealth.
On July 15, 1974, 38-40 Commonwealth and 42 Commonwealth were acquired from the College Club by Thomas J. Dokton and has wife, Monique L. (Eisenberg) Dokton. The Club retained 44 Commonwealth.
In September of 1974, Thomas Dokton applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert 38-40 Commonwealth into sixteen apartments. In January of 1977, he amended the plans to reduce the number of units to twelve.
On July 11, 1977, the Doktons converted 38-40 Commonwealth into twelve condominium units, the Forty Commonwealth Avenue Condominium.