381 Commonwealth was designed by architect Obed F. Smith and built in 1885-1886 by Charles H. Dodge, mason, for building contractor George Wheatland, Jr., for speculative sale, one of six contiguous houses (381-383-385-387-389-391 Commonwealth). George Wheatland, Jr., is shown as the owner on the original building permit application for 381 Commonwealth, dated December 15, 1885. At the same time, George Wheatland, Jr., was having six more houses built at 430-440 Marlborough, on the lots to the north, behind 381-391 Commonwealth, also designed by Obed Smith and built by Charles Dodge.
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 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.
George Wheatland, Jr., purchased the land for 381-391 Commonwealth and 430-440 Marlborough on June 20, 1885, from Henry M. Whitney. It was part of a parcel Henry Whitney had acquired in two transactions, on November 24, 1882, and on March 20, 1885, all part of a tract of land 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 381 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.
On March 1, 1887, 381 Commonwealth was purchased from George Wheatland, Jr., by Charles S. Andrews. He married in April of 1887 to Katherine (Kate) Henshaw Jackson and they made 381 Commonwealth their home. Prior to their marriage, he had lived at 401 Beacon with his parents, Charles H. Andrews and Josephine (Maralious) Andrews.
On April 20, 1887, Charles Andrews transferred 381 Commonwealth into Katherine Andrews’s name.
Charles Andrews was a journalist and later an editor with the Boston Herald, of which his father was a former owner.
Katherine Andrews’s parents, Dr. Samuel Jackson and Katherine (Kate) Henshaw (Baury) Jackson, lived with them. They (and probably their daughter) previously had lived at 405 Beacon. He was medical director for the US Navy.
Charles and Katherine Andrews continued to live at 381 Commonwealth during the 1891-1892 winter season. He subsequently obtained a divorce and remarried in January of 1893 to Annie G. Paul; after their marriage, they lived in an apartment at 31 Massachusetts Avenue. He died in October of 1897 and, after his death, a controversy arose over whether the divorce he had obtained in South Dakota was valid in Massachusetts and, therefore, whether Kate Andrews or Annie Andrews was his legal widow for purposes of inheritance.
In 1892, 381 Commonwealth was the home of Samuel Hoar and his wife, Helen Putnam (Wadleigh) Hoar. He was an attorney and general counsel of the Boston & Albany Railroad. Their primary residence was in Concord. By 1893, they had moved to 265 Beacon.
By the 1892-1893 winter season, 381 Commonwealth was the home of retired shoe and leather dealer Daniel Harwood and his wife Sophia (Wardwell) Harwood. They also maintained a residence in Hingham. They previously had lived at 64 Commonwealth.
The Harwoods were joined at 381 Commonwealth by Abby S. (Bangs) Dennis, the widow of Samuel James Dennis, and Samuel W. Greene, a teller at the Atlantic National Bank. They also previously had lived at 64 Commonwealth.
They all continued to live at 381 Commonwealth during the 1894-1895 winter season, also joined by Sarah Henshaw (Carruth) Washburn, the widow of Miles Washburn. Her usual home was 342 Beacon, where she had resumed living by the next season.
By the 1895-1896 season, the Harwoods had moved, probably to Hingham (where he died in July of 1896), Mrs. Dennis had moved to Brookline, and Samuel Greene had also moved to Brookline.
By the 1895-1896 winter season, 381 Commonwealth was the home of retired wholesale boot and shoe dealer David White Hitchcock and his wife, Anna Maria (Conant) Hitchcock. They also owned a farm in Marlborough, which previously had been their year-round residence. Their son, Lemuel Hitchcock, lived with them.
Anna Hitchcock died in November of 1895. Lemuel Hitchcock married in August of 1898 to Geraldine A. Cann. After their marriage, they lived at 381 Commonwealth with his father.
On March 21, 1898, Katherine Andrews transferred 381 Commonwealth to her father, Samuel Jackson.
David Hitchcock continued to lease 381 Commonwealth and, on September 26, 1900, he purchased the house from Samuel Jackson.
David Hitchcock died in March of 1901. Lemuel and Geraldine Hitchcock continued to live at 381 Commonwealth during the 1901-1902 winter season, after which they moved to their home in Marlborough.
On February 5, 1903, 381 Commonwealth was purchased from David Hitchcock’s estate by Henry Howard Fay. He and his wife, Elizabeth Elliot (Spooner) Fay, lived at 418 Beacon.
On February 10, 1903, Henry Fay transferred 381 Commonwealth to his mother-in-law, Elizabeth Elliot (Torrey) Spooner, the widow of shipping merchant and textile manufacturer Daniel Nicolson Spooner. She previously had lived in Baltimore, and before that at 341 Beacon. Her two unmarried daughters, Ellen O. Spooner and Mary Torrey Spooner, lived with her.
Elizabeth Spooner died in February of 1907. In her will, she left 381 Commonwealth to her two unmarried daughters, Ellen and Mary Spooner, during their lifetimes, with the property to thereafter become part of the residue of her estate, which she left in trust for the benefit of all three of her daughters and their issue.
After Elizabeth Spooner’s death, Ellen and Mary Spooner traveled to Europe. They returned in 1909 and lived at The Westminster (southeast corner St. James and Trinity Place) and then spent the 1909-1910 winter season at 108 Marlborough. They then traveled to Europe again, returning in the fall of 1912. They lived at the Hotel Somerset during the 1912-1913 winter season, and then moved back to 381 Commonwealth.
During the 1907-1908 winter season, 381 Commonwealth was the home of George Bridge Leighton and his wife, Charlotte (Kayser) Leighton. They previously had lived at 152 Commonwealth. They also maintained a home in Monadnock, New Hampshire.
George Leighton was president of the Allegheny By-Products Coal Company, and previously had been president of the Los Angeles Terminal Railway and then of the Leighton & Howard Steel Company. The Leightons moved to 301 Berkeley by the 1908-1909 season.
During the 1908-1909 winter season, 381 Commonwealth was the home of retired wholesale dry goods merchant Alanson Tucker and his wife, Katherine Sawin (Davis) Tucker. They also maintained a home in Bar Harbor, which previously had been their primary residence. Alanson Tucker died in May of 1909 and Katherine Tucker moved thereafter.
By the 1909-1910 winter season, 381 Commonwealth was the home of Dr. Marshal Fabyan and his wife, Eleanor Harryman (McCormick) Fabyan. They previously had lived in Brookline.
Marshal Fabyan was a physician and an instructor and later assistant professor at Harvard Medical School.
They continued to live at 381 Commonwealth during the 1911-1912 season, and then purchased and moved to 379 Commonwealth.
By the 1913-1914 winter season, Ellen O. Spooner and Mary Torrey Spooner had resumed living at 381 Commonwealth. They continued to live there during the 1918-1919 season, but for the next three years were traveling abroad during the winter seasons and living at the Hotel Somerset while in Boston.
During the 1919-1920 winter season, 381 Commonwealth was the home of wool merchant Julius Eisemann and his wife, Gertrude N. (Wetzler) Eisemann. They previously had lived at the Hotel Somerset. By the 1920-1921 season, they had moved to 321 Commonwealth.
During the 1920-1921 winter season, 381 Commonwealth was the home of Mrs. Caroline Vinton (Slater) Washburn, the wife of Charles Grenfill Washburn, and their daughter, Esther Vinton Washburn, a student. Their usual residence was in Worcester, where Charles G. Washburn, a former US Congressman, was a wire manufacturer. They appear to have been in Boston preparing to travel to Europe in the spring of 1921. Living with them at 381 Commonwealth was Annie Marie (Dickinson) Chapin, the widow of Dr. Amory Chapin; Amory Chapin was Caroline (Slater) Washburn’s first cousin (Amory Chapin’s mother, Frances J. (Vinton) Chapin, was the sister of Caroline Slater’s mother, Elizabeth (Vinton) Slater). Annie Marie Chapin also traveled to Europe in the spring of 1921.
381 Commonwealth was not listed in the 1922 Blue Book.
By the 1922-1923 winter season, Ellen and Mary Spooner were living there once again.
Ellen Spooner died in February of 1924.
During the 1924-1925 winter season, Mary Spooner was living elsewhere, and 381 Commonwealth was the home of Charles Sumner Bird, Jr., and his wife, Julia (Appleton) Bird. They previously had lived in England. By 1926, they were living in Hamilton. Charles S. Bird, Jr., was a paper manufacturer in his family firm, Bird & Co., in East Walpole.
Mary Spooner lived at 381 Commonwealth during the 1925-1926 winter season, but then lived elsewhere and traveled abroad again for the next two seasons.
During the 1926-1927 winter season, 381 Commonwealth was the home of Rev. George Grenville (Greenville) Merrill and his wife, Pauline Georgine Warren (Dresser) Merrill. They previously lived at 13 Gloucester. Rev. Merrill had served as rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, until his retirement in 1923. They retained a home in Stockbridge and also maintained a home, Merrillton, in Newport. During the 1927-1928 season, they continued to maintain their Boston home at 381 Commonwealth, but spent a portion of the season in Italy, after which they resumed living in Stockbridge.
By the 1928-1929 winter season, Mary Spooner had resumed living at 381 Commonwealth. She continued to live there until about 1948.
On October 17, 1951, 381 Commonwealth was purchased from the trust established under Elizabeth Spooner’s will, with Mary Torrey Spooner’s consent, by William Grant.
In September of 1952, he filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert 381 Commonwealth into five apartments, and in March of 1957, he filed for (and subsequently received) permission to increase the number of apartments from five to six.
On October 2, 1996, he transferred the property to himself and Paul E. Grant, as joint tenants, and on December 26, 1998, they transferred the property to Makor Properties LLC (Steven F. Grant, manager).
In December of 1999, Makor Properties filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from six to seven apartments. In July of 2001, it filed for permission to increase the number of apartments from seven to eight. The application was denied, and Makor Properties’ appeal of the denial was dismissed.
On May 15, 2002, 381 Commonwealth was purchased from Makor Properties by the 381 Comm. Ave. LLC (Donn O’Connell, manager).
381 Commonwealth remained an apartment building in 2018.