65 Commonwealth

65 Commonwealth (2015)

Lot 58' x 124.5' (7,221 sf)

Lot 58′ x 124.5′ (7,221 sf)

65 Commonwealth is located on the NE corner of Commonwealth and Clarendon, with 63 Commonwealth to the east, the Clarendon Street Playground to the west, across Clarendon, 263 Clarendon to the north, across Alley 423, and 90 Commonwealth to the south, across Commonwealth.

65 Commonwealth was designed by McLaughlin and Burr, architects, and built in 1925 as a 14-unit cooperative apartment building. It was built for real estate dealers and brothers Richard deBlois Boardman and Gerald Dorr Boardman, as trustees of the 65 Commonwealth Avenue Trust. The trust is shown as the owner on the original building permit application, dated February 27, 1925.

65 Commonwealth replaced two townhouses, 65 Commonwealth and 261 Clarendon, which were purchased by the 65 Commonwealth Avenue Trust on December 31. 1924. The properties had been owned by the Fiske family since 1895.

Click here for an index to the deeds for 65 Commonwealth.

Among the first residents of 65 Commonwealth, from 1926, were wool merchant Jacob Frederick Brown and his wife, Mariette Starr (Seeley) Brown, who previously had lived at 11 Commonwealth, and Alice (Ranney) Allen, the widow of Thomas Allen, Jr., and her step-daughter, Eleanor W. Allen, who previously had lived at 12 Commonwealth.

Also among the first residents of 65 Commonwealth were banker Abraham C. (“Cap”) Ratshesky and his wife Edith (Shuman) Ratshesky, who previously had lived at 480 Beacon. In 1895, he and his brother, Israel, had founded the United States Trust Company, which specialized in serving the immigrant population, providing banking services not otherwise available to them in Boston. He had led Massachusetts’s efforts to aid victims of the massive December 6, 1917, explosion in Halifax and was a founder of Beth Israel Hospital. From 1930 to 1932, he served as US Minister to Czechoslovakia.

Abraham Ratshesky died in March of 1943. Edith Ratshesky continued to live at 65 Commonwealth until her death in November of 1950.

When it acquired the properties in 1924, the 65 Commonwealth Avenue Trust assumed a mortgage from the Suffolk Savings Bank for Seamen and Others which had been entered into on their behalf by Henry C. Brookings, the real estate dealer who acted as conveyancer for the transaction. On September 20, 1944, the bank foreclosed on the mortgage.

On October 2, 1944, 65 Commonwealth was acquired by real estate dealer Hyman Yaffe.

On September 10, 1947, 65 Commonwealth was acquired from Hyman Yaffe by Back Bay Realty, Inc., of which Harold A. Rudnick was president and treasurer. He and his wife, Sara A. (Borofsky) Rudnick, lived in one of the apartments. They previously had lived at 275 Tremont.

By 1949, another of the apartments at 65 Commonwealth became the home of Sidney R. Rabb (Rabinovitz) and his wife, Esther V. (Cohn) Rabb. They previously had lived in Newton. He was treasurer and general manager of Stop & Shop stores, and later would become chairman of the board.

On December 13, 1967, 65 Commonwealth was acquired from Back Bay Realty, Inc., by Harold Rudnick and Sidney Rabb as trustees of the Back Bay Realty Trust.

On October 12, 1972, Ralph H. Doering, Jr., and Roy F. Littlehale, Jr., who were the current trustees of the Back Bay Realty Trust, liquidated the trust and transferred 65 Commonwealth to themselves, with Ralph Doering holding sixty percent and Roy Littlehale holding forty percent. On the same day, they converted the building into fifteen condominium units, the 65 Commonwealth Avenue Condominium.

65 Commonwealth (2015)

65 Commonwealth (2015)

65 Commonwealth (Demolished)

65 Commonwealth was designed by Snell and Gregerson, architects, and built in 1877 by Standish & Woodbury, masons, one of two contiguous houses (63-65 Commonwealth) designed by Snell and Gregerson and built at the same time, but by different builders.

65 Commonwealth was built as the home of retired contractor and builder Charles Rollins and his wife, Caroline (Pickering) Rollins. They previously had lived at 1316 Washington. They also maintained a home in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, in the former Pickering Tavern on Main Street. He is shown as the owner of 65 Commonwealth on the original building permit application, dated July 10, 1877, and on the final inspection report, dated August 19, 1878.

Charles Rollins purchased the land for 65 Commonwealth on September 8, 1877, from the estate of Charles Edwin Stratton, who had died in December of 1872. He had purchased the land from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on June 13, 1867.

Click here for an index to the deeds for 65 Commonwealth (Demolished).

The Rollinses lived at 65 Commonwealth during the 1894-1895 winter season, after which they moved to a new house they had built at 497 Commonwealth.

On June 4, 1895, 65 Commonwealth was purchased from Charles Rollins by George Stanley Fiske and his sister, Esther Lathrop (Fiske) Hammond, the wife of Gardiner Greene Hammond, Jr.

George Fiske and the Hammonds lived next door, at 261 Clarendon. After they purchased 65 Commonwealth, the two properties were consolidated with the address being 261 Clarendon.

261 Clarendon (Demolished)

261 Clarendon and 65 Commonwealth (ca. 1883), photograph by Albert Levy; Ryerson and Burnham Libraries Book Collection, The Art Institute of Chicago (Digital file #000000_100709-21).

261 Clarendon and 65 Commonwealth (ca. 1883), photograph by Albert Levy; Ryerson and Burnham Libraries Book Collection, The Art Institute of Chicago (Digital file #000000_100709-21).

261 Clarendon was designed by Cummings and Sears, architects, and built ca. 1876 as the home of Mrs. Frances Lathrop (Beebe) Fiske, the widow of dry goods merchant George Jenckes Fiske. Their two children — George Stanley Fiske and Esther Lathrop Fiske – lived with her. They previously had lived at 249 Berkeley.

Frances Fiske purchased the land for 261 Clarendon on July 1, 1876, from Mary (Mason) Stockton, the wife of Howard Stockton. It originally had been purchased from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on January 24, 1863, by Charles Amory, Jr.

Click here for an index to the deeds for 261 Clarendon (Demolished).

During the 1885-1886 and 1886-1887 winter seasons, Frances Fiske was living elsewhere and 261 Clarendon was leased by others.

During the 1885-1886 winter season, 261 Clarendon was the home of Mary (Vinton) Clark, the widow of Randolph Marshall Clark, who had been treasurer of the Boston Elastic Fabric Company. She had lived at 336 Beacon during the 1882-1883 season and also maintained a home in Pomfret, Connecticut. By the 1886-1887 season, she had moved to 148 Commonwealth.

During the 1886-1887 winter season, 261 Clarendon was the home of Charles Francis Adams, Jr., and his wife, Mary Hone (Ogden) Adams.  Charles Adams was an attorney and president of the Union Pacific Railroad.  They previously had lived at 21 Fairfield.  They also maintained a home in Quincy.  By the 1887-1888 season, they had moved to a new home they had built at 20 Gloucester.

261 Clarendon, Clarendon and rear façades (ca. 1924), courtesy of the Boston Athenaeum

261 Clarendon, Clarendon and rear façades (ca. 1924), courtesy of the Boston Athenaeum

By the 1887-1888 winter season, Frances Fiske had resumed living at 261 Clarendon.  She continued to live there until her death in February of 1890.

After her death, George S. Fiske and Esther Fiske continued to live at 261 Clarendon.

Esther Fiske married in June of 1893 to stockbroker Gardiner Greene Hammond, Jr. After their marriage, they lived at 261 Clarendon with George Fiske. In June of 1895, George Fiske and Esther Hammond acquired 65 Commonwealth next door and combined the two houses with the address being 261 Clarendon.

George Fiske was ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1902.  He served at St. John’s Episcopal Church in East Boston, and maintained residences both at 261 Clarendon and in East Boston.

In about 1910, the Hammonds separated and Gardiner Greene Hammond, Jr., moved to 925 Boylston.  The Hammonds had summered in Santa Barbara, California, since about 1908, and in 1912 Esther Greene Hammond bought Bonnymeade in Montecito, and she and her children made it their primary home. She also maintained a home in Falmouth.

261 Clarendon (ca. 1900); courtesy of the Print Department, Boston Public Library

261 Clarendon (ca. 1900); courtesy of the Print Department, Boston Public Library

George Fiske continued to live at 261 Clarendon in 1913, but made East Boston his sole residence in about 1914, probably when he was named rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church there.

By the 1913-1914 winter season, 261 Clarendon was the home of Edwin Sibley Webster and his wife, Jane (Hovey) Webster.  They also maintained a home at 307 Hammond Street in Chestnut Hill, which they had purchased in 1896.

Edwin Webster and his MIT classmate, Charles Stone, founded the firm of Stone & Webster in 1889.  Under their leadership, it became a major international construction, engineering, and consulting firm.

The Websters continued to live at 261 Clarendon during the 1916-1917 winter season, but thereafter made their Chestnut Hill home their primary residence. During the 1922-1923 winter season, they lived at 301 Berkeley, and in mid-1923 they purchased 306 Dartmouth and made it their Boston home.

261 Clarendon was not listed in the 1918 Blue Book.

261 Clarendon, The American Architect and Building News, 13May1878

261 Clarendon, The American Architect and Building News, 13May1878

During the 1918-1919 winter season, it had become George Fiske’s home once again.  He also continued to maintain a home in East Boston, where he remained rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church.  By the 1919-1920 winter season, he had moved to 121 Commonwealth, which he had inherited from his uncle, Joseph Fiske (Joseph Fiske had died in January of 1892 and his wife, Charlotte (Morse) Fiske, had continued to live at 121 Commonwealth until her death in February of 1918; they had no children).

By the 1919-1920 winter season, 261 Clarendon was the home of leather and wool merchant Louis Rosenthal and his wife Mabel (Rothschild) Rosenthal.  They previously had lived a 9 Gloucester.  They continued to live at 261 Clarendon in 1921, but had moved to Beverly by 1922.  By 1923, they were living at 43 Commonwealth.

By the 1921-1922 winter season, 261 Clarendon had been leased by the Chamberlayne School.

Chamberlayne School was founded by Miss Catharine Jane Chamberlayne in 1892.  It had been located at 64 Commonwealth, 253 Commonwealth, and then 28 Fenway, where it had remained until about 1920.  Catharine Chamberlayne operated the school until about 1917, after which she became “principal emeritus” until her death in April of 1920.  By 1922 (and probably soon after Catharine Chamberlayne’s retirement in 1917), the school was under the direction of Miss Bertha K. Filkins, who previously had been a teacher in the school and had lived at 28 Fenway.  After the school moved to 261 Clarendon, Miss Filkins also made it her residence.

Chamberlayne School continued to be located at 261 Clarendon in 1924. By 1925, the school and Miss Filkins had moved to 178 Commonwealth.

Over the years, George S. Fiske and Esther (Fiske) Hammond had transferred their respective interests in 261 Clarendon (and a number of other properties) into various trusts. In 1903, after he became a minister, George Fiske had transferred his one-half interest to his sister and William H. Dunbar as trustees on his behalf. In 1913, when Esther Hammond had made Santa Barbara her primary residence, she transferred her interest to her brother as trustee on her behalf. In 1917, Esther Hammond’s trust transferred her interest to her brother, so that one-half interest was held by him directly and the other one-half was held by the trust established in 1903 for his benefit.

On December 29, 1924, real estate dealer Henry C. Brookings acquired 261 Clarendon from George Fiske and the trust established for his benefit. After entering into a mortgage with the Suffolk Savings Bank for Seamen and Others, he transferred the property to the 65 Commonwealth Avenue Trust, which also assumed the mortgage. The trust replaced the houses with a new apartment building.

261 Clarendon and 49-65 Commonwealth (ca. 1890); detail from photograph of the north side of Commonwealth looking east; courtesy of Barry and Judith Solar