43 Commonwealth was designed by architect Julius A. Schweinfurth and built in 1902 for Ashton Rollins Willard and his wife, Agnes (Fairbanks) Willard. It replaced a townhouse built ca. 1869 which the Willards purchased on March 1, 1902.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 43 Commonwealth, and click here for further information about the land between the north side of Commonwealth and Alley 423, from Berkeley to Clarendon.
Ashton Willard was a lawyer and art historian, author of several books on Italian art.
By the 1903-1904 winter season, Ashton and Agnes (Fairbanks) Willard had made 43 Commonwealth their home. Their daughter, Theodora, lived with them. They previously had lived at 340 Commonwealth. They also maintained a home, Pinehurst, in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, inherited by Agnes Willard from her parents Horace Fairbanks and Mary Elizabeth (Taylor) Fairbanks. Horace Fairbanks served as Governor of Vermont in 1876-1878.
In 1904, the Willards traveled to Europe, where they lived for four years, returning in April of 1908. They appear to have left 43 Commonwealth unoccupied during their absence.
On July 14, 1922, 43 Commonwealth was purchased from Theodora Willard by Mabel (Rothschild) Rosenthal, the wife of leather and wool merchant Louis Rosenthal. They had lived at 261 Clarendon in 1921 and in Beverly earlier in 1922.
Prior to moving to 43 Commonwealth, the Rosenthals had the interior remodeled by architects Bigelow and Wadsworth. Plans for the remodeling are included in the City of Boston Blueprints Collection in the Boston City Archives (reference BIN G-49).
On April 7, 1948, 43 Commonwealth was purchased from the Rosenthals, by Michael (Max) Lilly, a partner in the Lilly Construction Company with his father, Harry Lilly, and brother, David Lilly. Michael Lilly and his wife, Goldie Gertrude (Karess) Lilly, lived at 215 Newbury.
In 1948, he converted 43 Commonwealth into six apartments. Plans for the remodeling, prepared by architect Clark F. Merrick, are included in the City of Boston Blueprints Collection in the Boston City Archives (reference BIN R-88).
On January 17, 1949, Michael Lilly transferred 43 Commonwealth to the Lilly Realty Company. It continued to hold the property until September 26, 1958, when it transferred the property to Michael Lilly’s brother and business partner, David Lilly.
On November 3, 1958, 43 Commonwealth was acquired by the Copley Realty Corporation, the treasurer of which was real estate dealer and investor Edward Swartz,
The property changed hands, remaining an apartment house, and was acquired on September 15, 1971, by James H. Currens, trustee of the 61 Mt. Vernon Street Trust.
On January 4, 1974, James Currens converted 43 Commonwealth into six condominium units: the 43 Commonwealth Avenue Condominium. On May 1, 1974, before the units had been sold, James Currens reduced the number of units to five, reflecting consolidation of the units on the basement level.
43 Commonwealth (Demolished)
The original townhouse at 43 Commonwealth was built in 1868-1869. It was 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.
By the spring of 1868, the Lodge family had agreed to sell the land to Elijah Drew and on May 11, 1868
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.
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. They previously had lived at 2 West Cedar. Elijah Drew and his wife, Hannah (Haynes) Drew, made 41 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.
On August 20, 1869, Elijah Drew sold the land at 43 Commonwealth to Eliza (Andrew) Clark’s father, William T. Andrews, as her trustee.
John and Elia Clark continued to live at 43 Commonwealth in 1878, but had moved to Savin Hill in Dorchester by 1879.
By the 1878-1879 winter season, 43 Commonwealth was the home of shoe manufacturer Harold W. Windram and his wife, Adelaide (Snow) Windram. They had been married in March of 1878, and 43 Commonwealth may have been their first home together. They continued to live there in 1880, but moved soon thereafter to the Hotel Vendome.
On August 25, 1880, 43 Commonwealth was purchased from Edward Ingersoll Browne, successor trustee for the benefit of Elizabeth Clark, by molasses and syrup dealer Irving O. Whiting. He and his wife, Angeline Geraldine (Grafton) Whiting, made it their home. They previously lived at 198 Dartmouth.
Daniel G. Grafton, Angeline Grafton’s widowed father, lived with them. He was a former retail mens’ clothier and had served as a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1862-1863. He died in December of 1889.
Irving Whiting died in December of 1901, and on March 1, 1902, 43 Commonwealth was purchased from his estate by Ashton and Agnes (Fairbanks) Willard, who demolished it and built their new home in its place.