70 Commonwealth was designed by architect Nathaniel J. Bradlee and built ca. 1869, one of two contiguous homes (70-72 Commonwealth). It appears likely that 70 Commonwealth was built by Standish and Woodbury, masons, and N. O. Hart, carpenter, who were credited as building 72 Commonwealth in a January 1, 1870, article in the Boston Daily Transcript Supplement.
70 Commonwealth was built as the home of Catherine Dorcas Brewer and Elizabeth Haskins Brewer, who were sisters; 72 Commonwealth was built as the home of their brother and sister-in-law, John Reed Brewer and Caroline Francoeur (Sayles) Brewer.
The land for both houses was purchased from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on July 28, 1868, by John Brewer. He then sold his sisters the lot for 70 Commonwealth, with a 22 foot frontage, on August 4, 1868, and retained the lot for 72 Commonwealth, with a 30 foot frontage.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 70 Commonwealth, and click here for further information about the land between the south side of Commonwealth and Alley 436, from Berkeley to Clarendon.
Catherine Brewer died in January of 1879 and Elizabeth Brewer died in October of 1880.
By the 1881-1882 winter season, 70 Commonwealth had become the home of John and Caroline Brewer’s son-in-law and daughter, General Wilmon Whilldin Blackmar and Helen Renouf (Brewer) Blackmar. They previously had lived at the Hotel Brunswick (southeast corner of Clarendon and Boylston). They also maintained a residence in Hingham on the property of World’s End Farm, owned by Helen Blackmar’s parents.
Wilmon Blackmar had been a Captain in the US Army during the Civil War, receiving the Medal for Honor for distinguished service at the battle of Five Forks on April 1, 1865. After the war, he became a lawyer in Boston, and served as Judge Advocate General of Massachusetts, with the rank of Brigadier General, from 1873 to 1883. He was a leader of the Grand Army of the Republic and was elected its Commander-in-Chief in 1904.
Caroline Brewer died in July of 1887 and 70 Commonwealth was inherited by her four children: Francis Willard Brewer, Willard Sayles Brewer, Helen (Brewer) Blackmar, and Fannie Reed Brewer. It remained the home of Wilmon and Helen Blackmar.
John Brewer died in September of 1893. He left his home at 72 Commonwealth to Helen Blackmar and Fannie Reed Brewer, and Wilmon and Helen Blackmar moved there by the 1893-1894 winter season.
On December 7, 1893, the four children of John and Caroline Brewer transferred 70 Commonwealth to Wilmon Blackmar.
On January 25, 1894, Dr. Hayward Warren Cushing purchased 70 Commonwealth from Wilmon Blackmar. He and his wife, Martha Ellen (Tompson) Cushing, had married that month and 70 Commonwealth was their first home together. He was a physician and surgeon, and moved his office from 399 Boylston to 70 Commonwealth. They also maintained a home in Norwell.
On March 28, 1895, Hayward Cushing transferred 70 Commonwealth into Martha Cushing’s name.
On September 30, 1935, 70 Commonwealth was acquired from Martha Cushing by Louis J. Binda. He was an elevator starter at a downtown Boston building who frequently held property for various other owners. He was unmarried and lived in Roxbury and later in Cambridge.
By 1936, 70 Commonwealth was the home of Shirley Clifford Speed and his mother, Flora E. (Clifford) Speed, the widow of David George Speed, who operated it as a lodging house. They previously had lived at 38 Fenway. S. Clifford Speed was a real estate dealer who converted many Back Bay properties into lodging houses. They continued to live at 70 Commonwealth in 1937, but by 1938 had moved to 247 Beacon.
On March 15, 1937, a fire starting in the chimney damaged the building, and Louis Binda was cited for failing to provide adequate means of egress for a multiple dwelling. In February of 1940, he entered into an agreement with Ray C. Johnson, owner of 72 Commonwealth, to construct fire balconies between the two buildings (at the same time, Ray Johnson converted 72 Commonwealth from a single-family into a lodging house).
On June 24, 1946, 70 Commonwealth was acquired from Louis Binda by William Powers, and on July 15, 1946, it was acquired from him by Elizabeth Krauss, who operated it as a lodging house. She lived at 115 Beacon and operated a lodging house there and at 141 Beacon and 418 Beacon.
On December 20, 1950, 70 Commonwealth was acquired from Elizabeth Krauss by Bernice (Sedoff) Malkin, the wife of Isaac Edward Malkin. They lived in Chelsea and later in Winthrop.
In February of 1952, she applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert 70 Commonwealth into a lodging house and three-family dwelling, adding bathrooms and kitchens to provide three apartments in addition to the lodging rooms.
On July 1, 1955, 70 Commonwealth was acquired from Bernice Malkin by Lucy Letitia (Purdy) Gilnor, the former wife of Roy Gilnor. She previously had lived at 118 Marlborough. In September of 1955, she applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert it into nine apartments. In May of 1957, she added a tenth apartment in the basement. She continued to live at 70 Commonwealth until about 1958, when she moved briefly to 300 Berkeley as a lodger and then purchased and moved to 395 Beacon.
On June 10, 1957, 70 Commonwealth was acquired from Lucy Gilnor by Harold Realty, Inc.
On January 6, 1964, 70 Commonwealth was acquired from Harold Realty, Inc., by Mrs. Mildred Elizabeth (Nolan) Montambeau (Montambault), the former wife of Lawrence P. Montambault and of Moses Segal. She lived at 907 Beacon, where she operated the Massachusetts Telephone Service. In November of 1963, prior to finalizing her purchase of 70 Commonwealth, she had applied for (and subsequently received) permission to have a medical answering service operate from the premises in addition to the residential apartments. After buying the property, she moved to one of the apartments and operated her telephone service from there. She continued to live at 70 Commonwealth until about 1976.
On August 27, 1976, 70 Commonwealth was acquired from Mildred Montambeau by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (I. S. K. Con.) of New England. They already owned 72 Commonwealth next door.
On January 23, 1980, Paul Roiff and Harvey Wilk, trustees of the 70 Commonwealth Avenue Realty Trust purchased 70 Commonwealth, from I. S. K. Con. of New England. On March 7, 1980, they sold the house to Alan R. Goodman, trustee of the Snuffin Realty Trust. In March of 1980, it filed for (and subsequently received) permission to remodel 70 Commonwealth from ten apartments into five apartments.
On September 23, 1980, the Snuffin Realty Trust converted 70 Commonwealth into five condominium units, the 70 Commonwealth Avenue Condominium.