72 Commonwealth was designed by architect Nathaniel J. Bradlee and built in 1869, one of two contiguous homes (70-72 Commonwealth).
A January 1, 1870, article in the Boston Daily Transcript Supplement states that “the free-stone front house No. 72, a building 30 x 70 feet, owned by John R. Brewer, has been finished during the year, at a cost of $10,000 above the land. Standish and Woodbury were the masons, N. O. Hart carpenter, and N. J. Bradlee architect.”
72 Commonwealth was built as the home of retired woolen merchant John Reed Brewer and his wife, Caroline Francoeur (Sayles) Brewer. They previously had lived at 144 Tremont. 70 Commonwealth was built as the home of his unmarried sisters, Catherine Dorcas Brewer and Elizabeth Haskins Brewer. Caroline Brewer’s mother, Maria (Francoeur) Sayles, the widow of Willard Sayles, and her brother, Henry Sayles, lived at 56 Commonwealth, and her brother-in-law and sister, Dr. John Cauldwell Sharp and Helen (Sayles) Sharp, lived at 54 Commonwealth. In 1870, her sister-in-law, Jane (Hallett) Sayles, the widow of Francis Willard Sayles, built her home at 74 Commonwealth.
John Brewer purchased the land for both 70 and 72 Commonwealth from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on July 28, 1868. He sold his sisters the lot to the east, with a 22 foot frontage, and retained the lot to the west, with a 30 foot frontage, for his home.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 72 Commonwealth, and click here for further information about the land between the south side of Commonwealth and Alley 436, from Berkeley to Clarendon.
The Brewers also maintained a home, World’s End Farm, on a peninsula in Hingham (today preserved as a 251 acre park and conservation area).
Catherine Brewer died in January of 1879 and Elizabeth Brewer died in October of 1880. In June of 1881, Caroline Brewer acquired 70 Commonwealth from Elizabeth Brewer’s estate, and it became the home of home of John and Caroline Brewer’s son-in-law and daughter, General Wilmon Whilldin Blackmar and Helen Renouf (Brewer) Blackmar.
Wilmon Blackmar had been a Captain in the Union 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 continued to live at 72 Commonwealth until his death in September of 1893. His unmarried daughter, Fannie Reed Blackmar, lived with him. In a codicil to his will, he left 72 Commonwealth to Helen Blackmar and Fannie Reed Brewer, to be jointly owned with the right of survivorship. Blackmars moved from 70 Commonwealth to 72 Commonwealth, and Fannie Reed Brewer continued to live there with them.
Wilmon Blackmar died in July of 1905. Helen Blackmar and Fannie Brewer continued to live at 72 Commonwealth.
Helen Blackmar died in January of 1918. Fannie Brewer continued to live at 72 Commonwealth until her death in September of 1936. She also maintained a home in Hingham.
72 Commonwealth was not listed in the 1937 Blue Book and was shown as vacant in the 1937-1939 City Directories.
On June 12, 1939, 72 Commonwealth was purchased from the estate of Fannie Reed Brewer by real estate dealer Ray C. Johnson. In February of 1940, he filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert it into a lodging house, entering into an agreement with Louis Binda, owner of 70 Commonwealth, to construct fire balconies between the two houses (70 Commonwealth had been a lodging house for several years).
By 1940, 72 Commonwealth was the home of Ella G. (Adams) Eells Haig, the widow of John H. Eells and of Dr. Andrew A. Haig, who operated it as a lodging house, She previously had lived at 116 Beacon, where she had operated a lodging house. By 1941, she was joined by her sister, Evelyn G. (Adams) Wardwell, who had been living temporarily at the the House of the Good Shepherd, a convent and home for women and girls at 841 Huntington, and before that had lived with Ella Haig at 116 Beacon.
On August 12, 1941, Ella Haig and Evelyn Wardwell purchased 72 Commonwealth from Ray C. Johnson. On April 25, 1944, they transferred the property into Ella Haig’s name, and she then transferred the property to herself and Merrick L. Hipson as trustees for her benefit and the benefit of her sister. Ella Haig died in December of 1945. Evelyn Wardwell continued to live at 72 Commonwealth in 1946, but moved thereafter.
On September 29, 1948, 72 Commonwealth was purchased from George Farnum, successor trustee of the trust established by Ella Haig, by Peter (Pierino) Bergagna and his wife, Virginia (Medici) Bergagna. They continued to operate 72 Commonwealth as a lodging house. They previously had lived at 68 West Concord.
Peter Bergagna was employed by the Marlboro Market at 424 Marlborough, where he had worked since 1939. In 1952, he acquired the business and continued to operate it until his retirement in 1973.
Peter and Virginia Bergagna continued to live at 72 Commonwealth until about 1971. They subsequently moved to Belmont.
On July 30. 1971, 72 Commonwealth was purchased from the Bergagnas by William Diller, Michael Lioz, and Randolph K. Becker. On October 15, 1971, Albert Becker succeeded Randolph K. Becker as a co-owner.
On May 15, 1974, 72 Commonwealth was acquired by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (I. S. K. Con.) of New England. In July of 1974, they applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the house into a monastery, convent, and house of worship.
In August of 1976. I. S. K. Con. of New England acquired 70 Commonwealth, which they subsequently sold in January of 1980.
I. S. K. Con. of New England continued to own and occupy 72 Commonwealth in 2015.