41 Commonwealth was built in 1868-1869, one of four contiguous houses (41-43-45-47 Commonwealth) built at the same time as two symmetrical pairs, and one of ten contiguous houses (29-31-33-35-37-39-41-43-45-47 Commonwealth) built in the same design between 1863 and 1873.
41-47 Commonwealth were built for lumber merchant, real estate investor, and banker Elijah Chesley Drew.
The land for 41-47 Commonwealth was purchased from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts at its October 24, 1860, public auction by shipping merchant John Ellerton Lodge. He died in September of 1862, and on May 4, 1864, the Commonwealth conveyed the land to his children, Elizabeth James and Henry Cabot Lodge, as his heirs. Elizabeth Lodge had married George James the month before and her one-half interest in the property was held by the trust established under her marriage contract. Henry Cabot Lodge, who later would become a US Senator, was still a minor, and his widowed mother, Anna (Cabot) Lodge, was his guardian.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 41 Commonwealth, and click here for further information about the land between the north side of Commonwealth and Alley 423, from Berkeley to Clarendon.
By the spring of 1868, the Lodge family had agreed to sell the land to Elijah Drew and on May 11, 1868, he entered into a party wall agreement with Samuel Walley, owner of the lot immediately to the east (where 39 Commonwealth later would be built).
It appears that Elijah Drew had an agreement with John Taylor Clark, a wholesale crockery dealer, under which John Clark took responsibility for having the houses built on Elijah Drew’s land. On May 26, 1868, the Boston Journal reported that John T. Clark had filed a Notice of Intention with the Board of Aldermen to build on Commonwealth. The news report is not specific, but the filing probably was for all four houses.
On January 22, 1869, as the houses were nearing completion, Elijah Drew purchased and took title to the land from Elizabeth Cabot (Lodge) James and Henry Cabot Lodge.
John T. Clark and his wife, Elizabeth Weld (Andrews) Clark, made 43 Commonwealth their home, and Elijah Drew and John Clark jointly offered 45-47 Commonwealth for sale, with advertisements appearing in the Boston Daily Advertiser from May until August (and possibly later) of 1869.
Elijah Drew had 41 Commonwealth built as his home. However, after it was completed, he decided, instead, to offer it for sale at public auction on September 14, 1870. The September 10, 1870, advertisement of the auction in the Boston Daily Advertiser, noted that it had been “recently built” by Elijah Drew “expressly for his own residence,” but that he had “determined not to occupy the house himself.” The advertisement described the house as containing “some twenty apartments,” noting that the ”principal rooms, halls and stair cases are finished in black walnut and handsomely frescoed, and the hall, kitchen, laundry and servants’ room in the lower story are also finished in hard wood.”
The house either did not sell or Elijah Drew once again changed his plans, and by 1871 he and his wife, Hannah (Haines) Drew, had made 41 Commonwealth their home. They previously had lived at The Commonwealth Hotel in the South End, which he owned.
In 1872 and 1873, they were joined at 41 Commonwealth by his brother and sister-in-law, Ira Towle Drew and Lydia Ann (Straw) Drew. He was a lawyer. By 1875, they had moved to the Commonwealth Hotel.
Elijah Drew died in January of 1877. Hannah Drew moved soon thereafter.
On January 5, 1877, a few weeks before his death, Elijah Drew sold 41 Commonwealth to Charles B. Wilson, a real estate dealer.
On October 22, 1877, 41 Commonwealth was purchased from Charles Wilson by silk and millinery dealer William Henshaw Horton. He and his wife, Augusta (Kimball) Horton, made it their home. They previously had lived at 30 Hancock.
The Hortons continued to live at 41 Commonwealth in 1894, but had moved to the Hotel Vendôme by 1895.
On April 4, 1895, 41 Commonwealth, was purchased from Charles Wilson by Sylvanus F. Van Choate. He and his wife, Georgie (Morse) Van Choate, made it their home. They previously had lived at 1106 Boylston.
Sylvanus Van Choate was an inventor of various electrical and telegraphic equipment, including light bulbs, insulators, switches, and submarine repeaters for underwater cable transmission. In 1891, he founded the Van Choate Electric Company with a capitalization of $6 million, for the purpose of manufacturing electric light and electrical appliances. The firm went bankrupt in 1900, having never produced any products.
The Van Choates continued to live at 41 Commonwealth during the 1899-1900 winter season, but moved soon thereafter to 7 Newbury.
On October 15, 1900, 41 Commonwealth was purchased from Charles Bucknam by Charles A. King. He and his wife, Gertrude Frances (Wright) King, made it their home. The Kings previously had lived at 441 Beacon.
Charles and Gertrude King had come to Boston in about 1872 from England. He was a brewer and owned the Continental Brewing Company. In August of 1900, Continental and nine other companies merged to become the Massachusetts Breweries Company.
Gertrude King died in June of 1910. Charles King remarried in 1911 to his deceased wife’s niece, Marjorie F. Despard, the daughter of William Frederick Despard and Augusta Mary (Wright) Despard, Gertrude (Wright) King’s sister. They continued to live at 41 Commonwealth.
Charles King died in January of 1938. Marjorie King continued to live at 41 Commonwealth until about 1943. By the time of the 1940 US Census, she had begun accepting lodgers. The house was shown as vacant in the 1944 City Directory.
On May 2, 1944, 41 Commonwealth was purchased from Marjorie King by the Trustees of Donations to the Protestant Episcopal Church. It became the home of Rt. Rev. Henry Knox Sherrill, the Episcopal Bishop of Massachusetts, and his wife, Barbara (Harris) Sherrill. They previously had lived at 155 Beacon.
The Sherrills continued to live at 41 Commonwealth until 1947, when he stepped down as Episcopal Bishop of Massachusetts, after which he served as the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church until 1958.
By 1947, 41 Commonwealth was the home of Rt. Rev. Norman Burdett Nash and his wife, Marian (Noble) Nash.
The former Rector of St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, Norman B. Nash was Henry Knox Sherrill’s successor as Episcopal Bishop of Massachusetts. He served as leader of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts until his retirement in 1957.
The Nashes continued to live at 41 Commonwealth until shortly before his retirement, after which they probably moved to Cambridge where they were living at the time of his death in January of 1963.
On November 8, 1956, 41 Commonwealth was purchased from the Episcopal Diocese by real estate dealer Thomas J. Diab. On November 19, 1956, he transferred the property to himself and Nick Haddad, who then transferred his interest back to Thomas Diab on August 6, 1957.
On February 9, 1959, 41 Commonwealth was acquired from Thomas Diab by Nick Haddad as trustee of the Cook Realty Trust. In September of 1977, he filed for (and subsequently received) permission to legalize the occupancy as nine apartments, there being no previous record of the legal occupancy.
On December 1, 1977, 41 Commonwealth was acquired from Nick Haddad by attorneys Laurence Eric Hardoon and Paul S. Samson. In September of 1975 they had acquired 39 Commonwealth and in April of 1977 they had acquired 37 Commonwealth. All three buildings remained apartment houses.
On December 19, 1986, 41 Commonwealth was purchased from Laurence Hardoon and Paul Samson by Puritan Properties, Inc. (Vincent P. Giarrusso, president).
On January 30, 1987, Puritan Properties converted 41 Commonwealth into nine condominium units, the 41 Commonwealth Avenue Condominium.