62 Commonwealth was built in 1871-1872, one of three contiguous houses (62-64-66 Commonwealth). The three houses form a symmetrical composition, with 64 Commonwealth, in the center, a full story higher with a tall mansard roof ornamented with iron cresting. The flanking houses at 62 and 66 Commonwealth are mirror images of each other. Horizontal string courses of stone unify the façade.
All three houses were built for real estate dealer Henry Bigelow Williams for speculative sale. He and his wife, Sarah Louisa (Frothingham) Williams, lived at 317 Dartmouth with his wife’s parents, Samuel Frothingham, Jr., and Maria Louise (Whitredge) Frothingham.
Bainbridge Bunting, in the Appendix to his Houses of Boston’s Back Bay, does not indicate an architect for 62-64-66 Commonwealth. However, in the introduction to the Appendix, he notes that “subsequent to the second printing of this book in 1968 the attributions to important architects of several early Back Bay houses have been brought to my attention by friends.” Among these, Bunting indicates that, “from a sifting of mountainous drawings and office correspondence now in the possession of the Boston Public Library, Wheaton Holden has been able to identify” that 62-64 Commonwealth were designed by Peabody and Stearns. Inasmuch as the three houses were built as a unit, this would imply that 66 Commonwealth also was designed by them. This is consistent with an August 23, 1871, Boston Traveller article on work underway by Peabody and Stearns, which notes that they designed “3 expensive houses for sale on Commonwealth avenue, below Berkeley street,” being built by Henry Bigelow Williams.
The land for 62-64-66 Commonwealth was composed of three lots, with a combined frontage of 80 feet, acquired by Henry Bigelow Williams in November and December of 1871. The lot to the west was part of a lot originally purchased from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on January 17, 1866, by John Phelps Putnam, who built his home at 60 Commonwealth. The center lot was purchased from the Commonwealth, also on January 17, 1866, by Henry Bigelow Williams’s father-in-law, Samuel Frothingham Jr. The lot to the west was purchased on November 9, 1871, from the Commonwealth by Henry Bigelow Williams.
At the same time he acquired the lot to the east, he sold back a two inch strip to John Phelps Putnam so that the western party wall between his house at 60 Commonwealth and the house to be built at 62 Commonwealth would rest equally on both sides of the boundary between the two properties. As a result, the lots for 62-64-66 Commonwealth each were fractionally reduced.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 62 Commonwealth, and click here for further information about the land between the south side of Commonwealth and Alley 436, from Berkeley to Clarendon.
In late July of 1871, Henry Bigelow Williams filed with the office of the Street Commissioners a Notice of Intention to Build for the three houses (reported in the Boston Evening Transcript on July 31, 1871). Construction probably started soon thereafter.
On April 1, 1873, 62 Commonwealth was purchased from Henry Bigelow Williams by George Lee Ward, He and his wife, Caroline Pepoon (Jenkins) Ward, made it their home. They previously had lived at the Hotel Hamilton at 260 Clarendon, owned by Henry Bigelow Williams.
The Wards continued to live at 62 Commonwealth during the 1880-1881 winter season, but moved thereafter to the Hotel Vendôme.
On December 23, 1880, the Massachusetts Hospital Life Insurance Company foreclosed on its mortgage to Henry Bigelow Williams, which George Ward had assumed when he acquired 62 Commonwealth, and took possession of the property.
On January 22, 1881, 62 Commonwealth was acquired from the Massachusetts Hospital Life Insurance Company by William Storer Eaton. He and his wife, Frederica Warren (Goddard) Eaton, made it their home. They previously had lived at 17 Louisburg Square.
William Eaton had been a shipping merchant in the Calcutta trade. He later was a founder of the National Tube Works, subsequently serving as president and then treasurer of the firm.
The Eatons’ three children — William Storer Eaton, Jr., Georgiana Goddard Eaton, and Francis Storer Eaton — lived with them. Francis Eaton moved in about 1889.
Frederica Eaton died in February of 1894, and on March 5, 1894, William Eaton transferred 62 Commonwealth to their daughter, Georgiana Eaton.
William Eaton continued to live at 62 Commonwealth with his daughter. They also maintained a home in Manchester, Massachusetts. His son, William, also lived with them. He was president of the Boston Blower Company, manufacturers of fans and blowers.
William Eaton, Sr., died in June of 1902 and William, Jr., moved soon thereafter to the Hotel Carleton at 160 Longwood. 62 Commonwealth remained Georgiana Eaton’s home until her death in September of 1911.
On November 8, 1911, 62 Commonwealth was purchased from the estate of Geogiana Eaton by George Alexander Philips Duncan, an engineer. A widower, he and his wife, Laura (Dove) Blanchard Duncan, had lived at 8 Gloucester until her death in August of 1910.
In June of 1918, George Duncan became the 4th Earl of Camperdown of Lundie upon the death of his brother, Robert. Thereafter, his surname became Duncan-Haldane. He continued to live at 62 Commonwealth until his death in December of 1933.
The house was not listed in the 1935-1937 Blue Books and was shown as vacant in the 1935 Boston City Directory.
On November 21, 1934, 62 Commonwealth was acquired from the estate of George A. P. H. Duncan by Mary L. McGill of Somerville. She also owned 24 Commonwealth and 26 Commonwealth, where she operated lodging houses.
On November 1, 1935, 62 Commonwealth was acquired from Mary L. McGill by George B. Rittenberg and S. Clifford Speed, trustees of the Clifford Realty Trust. George Rittenberg was a lawyer and Shirley Clifford Speed was a real estate dealer who converted many Back Bay houses into lodging houses and apartments. On the same day, they also acquired 24 Commonwealth from Mary McGill, and in November of 1936 they acquired 26 Commonwealth from her.
On October 31, 1945, 62 Commonwealth was acquired from George Rittenberg and S. Clifford Speed by real estate dealer Howard Stephen Cosgrove. In November of 1945, he filed for (and subsequently received) permission to remodel the house from a single-family dwelling into nine apartments.
On December 29, 1954, 62 Commonwealth was acquired from Howard Cosgrove by Peter Philip Silversmith. He and his wife, Beatrice (Miller) Silversmith, lived in Brookline. He was a real estate dealer and lawyer, and also was manager of the Columbus Arms Hotel at 455 Columbus, where he was the victim of a robbery on April 26, 1955.
By 1956, the Silversmiths had moved to an apartment at 62 Commonwealth, where they continued to live in 1957. They then moved to Palm Beach, Florida, and also maintained an apartment at 326 Dartmouth.
On May 14, 1960, 62 Commonwealth was acquired from Peter Silversmith by Lenk Properties, Inc., and on March 15, 1961, it was acquired from Lenk Properties by Eric Oddleifson and Robert A. G. Monks, trustees of the Oddlo Realty Trust.
On June 4. 1981, Eric Oddleifson, as surviving trustee, transferred 62 Commonwealth to himself as trustee of the New Oddlo Realty Trust, and converted the property into nine condominium units, the 62 Commonwealth Condominium,