55 Commonwealth was designed by Cummings and Sears, architects, and built in 1875-1876 by Weston & Shepard, builders, as the home of Joseph Tilden Bailey and his wife, Phebe Bartlett (Strickland) Bailey. Joseph Bailey is shown as the owner on the original building permit application, dated July 26, 1875, and on the final inspection report, dated May 3, 1876.
Phebe Bailey purchased the land for 55 Commonwealth on July 3, 1875, from attorney Edward Ingersoll Browne. The lot had originally been purchased from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on May 18, 1865, by Randolph Marshall Clark.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 55 Commonwealth, and click here for further information about the land between the north side of Commonwealth and Alley 423, from Berkeley to Clarendon.
Joseph Bailey was a door, sash, and blind manufacturer in partnership with Charles E. Jenkins. After the discovery of gold in California, they produced small portable houses, made in sections, which they shipped to California. They took California wool in return, and in the late 1860s, they became wool merchants, with William Lloyd Garrison, Jr., as an additional partner. By 1870, Joseph Bailey also was president of the Boylston National Bank.
By the 1875-1876 winter season, Joseph and Phebe (Bartlett) Bailey had made 55 Commonwealth their home. They previously had lived in Dedham. They also maintained a home, Elm Heights (later Seaview), in North Scituate.
On June 24, 1876, Phebe Bailey transferred 55 Commonwealth into her husband’s name.
By the late 1870s, the Baileys had been joined at 55 Commonwealth by their daughter, Mary W. (Bailey) Ellis, the former wife of Walter B. Ellis, and her son, Walter B. Ellis, who worked as a clerk at the Boylston National Bank.
Walter Ellis continued to live at 55 Commonwealth until his marriage in September of 1886 to Harriet P. Kimball of Bradford, after which they lived in North Scituate. Mary Ellis probably continued to live at 55 Commonwealth until her re-marriage in June of 1889 to James H. Greene, a paperhanger, after which they lived at 232 Huntington.
Phebe Bailey died in September of 1887. Joseph Bailey continued to live at 55 Commonwealth until his death in August of 1894.
55 Commonwealth was not listed in the 1895 Blue Book.
On December 22, 1894, 55 Commonwealth was purchased from the estate of Joseph T. Bailey by Emma (Walker) Batcheller, widow of boot and shoe manufacturer Alfred Hubbard Batcheller. She previously had lived in an apartment at The Abbotsford at 188 Commonwealth.
Emma Batcheller continued to live at 55 Commonwealth until about 1908, when she moved to Washington DC, where she died in March of 1910.
On January 18, 1911, 55 Commonwealth was acquired from Albert Geiger by attorney and real estate trustee Robert Treat Paine, Jr. He and his wife, Marie Louise (Mattingly) Paine, made it their home. They previously had lived on Queensbury Street. They also maintained a home, Stonehurst, in Waltham, designed by architect Henry Hobson Richardson.
During at least part of the 1915-1916 winter season, 55 Commonwealth was the home of Philip Stockton, president of the Old Colony Trust Company, and his wife, Margaret (Head) Stockton. They also maintained a home in Manchester. By the next season, they had moved to 173 Commonwealth.
Marie Paine died died in July of 1916. During the 1916-1917 winter season, Robert Paine lived at 114 Marlborough while the owner, Mrs. Charles F. Folsom, was in the South. By 1917, he was living at 55 Commonwealth once again. His daughter, Dorothy Paine, and son, Robert Treat Paine, III, lived with him.
Dorothy Paine married in June of 1919 to her first cousin, Robert Treat Paine Storer, the son of John Humphries Storer and Edith (Paine) Storer. After their marriage, they lived in New York. Robert Treat Paine, III, went to Oxford in January of 1920.
Robert Treat Paine continued to live at 55 Commonwealth in 1919, but spent that winter in Waltham. In January of 1920, he remarried, to Elizabeth B. (MacNichol) Conant, the widow of Albert Forbes Conant. After their marriage, they lived at her home at 17 Arlington.
Robert Treat Paine continued to own 55 Commonwealth and lease it to others.
By the 1919-1920 winter season, 55 Commonwealth was the home of John Gardner Coolidge and his wife, Helen Granger (Stevens) Coolidge. They previously had lived in Chestnut Hill and, before that, at 35 Commonwealth. They also maintained a home in North Andover.
John Coolidge had retired in 1908 from the US Diplomatic Corps, having served in France, China, Mexico, and Nicaragua. In 1914, he was appointed a special agent at the American Embassy in France, where he served until 1917. In 1918, he served as a special assistant at the State Department in Washington DC.
During the 1923-1924 winter season the Coolidges were living elsewhere and 55 Commonwealth was the home of Dr. Elisha Flagg, a physician, and his wife, Eleanor Amelia Marguerite Cecilia (Shattuck) Whitney Flagg. They had lived at 192 Marlborough the previous season. By the next season they had moved to 96 Beacon, and by the 1925-1926 season they were living at 23 Commonwealth.
John and Helen Coolidge resumed living at 55 Commonwealth during the 1924-1925 winter season but had moved to 171 Commonwealth by the next season.
By 1926, 55 Commonwealth was the home of real estate trustee Richard Wheatland and his wife, Mary Kembie (Robinson) Wheatland. In 1925, they had lived at 81 Beacon. They also maintained a home in Topsfield.
The Wheatlands continued to live at 55 Commonwealth until about 1932.
The house was not listed in the 1933 Blue Book and was shown as vacant in the 1933 City Directory.
During the 1933-1934 winter season, 55 Commonwealth was the home of James M. Magner and his wife, Georgie Mary (Fitch) Magner, and their son, James, Jr. They operated the Magner Bridge Club in the house.
By 1934, 55 Commonwealth had been converted into a lodging house.
On December 30, 1940, 55 Commonwealth was purchased from Robert Treat Paine by William Randolph Taylor. He was a real estate and furniture dealer and lived at 59 Commonwealth with his mother, Susan Jane (Northridge) Taylor Jones, the widow of Thomas Brierley Taylor and the former wife of David R. Jones.
In January of 1941, W. Randolph Taylor filed for (and subsequently received) permission to remodel 55 Commonwealth and convert it from a single-family dwelling into a lodging house, legalizing what was apparently already its use. Some time prior to this remodeling, the front entrance had been lowered to street level.
On December 21, 1949, 55 Commonwealth was acquired by Albert Leo Hollingdale and his wife, Margaret E. (Tabor) Hollingdale. They lived at 82 Bay State Road and also owned and operated lodging houses at 517 Beacon and 519 Beacon.
The property subsequently changed hands and on September 9, 1964, was purchased by Peter N. Petritis, trustee of the Paul-Pet Realty Trust.
Peter Petritis died in April of 1967, and on June 8, 1967, 55 Commonwealth was purchased from Phyllis Lee (Fawcett) Petritis (his widow) and William Coltin, trustees of the Paul-Pet Realty Trust, by Abbot M. Peterson, III, and his wife, Barbara E. (Pease) Peterson. They lived in an apartment at 464 Beacon. The Petersons also purchased 183 Commonwealth from the Paul-Pet Realty Trust on the same day.
On January 13, 1988, 55 Commonwealth was purchased from the Petersons by Edgard Puente and David Boersner, trustees of the Boston 55 Commonwealth Trust. In April of 1988, they applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from ten apartments into a three-family dwelling.
The property subsequently went through foreclosure and on September 24, 1990, was acquired by Ralph R. Willard. In February of 1991, he applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert 55 Commonwealth back into a single-family dwelling. As part of the remodeling, he received permission to build a new one story garage addition at the rear of the building (including converting about 220 sf of the existing ground floor living area into garage area) with a deck on top of the garage roof. Also as a part of the remodeling, he replaced the front stairs and restored original entrance at the first floor level.
The house subsequently changed hands. It remained a single-family dwelling in 2020.