76 Commonwealth

76 Commonwealth (2013)

76 Commonwealth (2013)

Lot 18.67' x 124.5' (2,324 sf)

Lot 18.67′ x 124.5′ (2,324 sf)

76 Commonwealth is located on the south side of Commonwealth, between Berkeley and Clarendon, with 74 Commonwealth to the east and 78 Commonwealth to the west.

76 Commonwealth was built ca. 1872 by Charles J. Fox, a mason and builder, one of three contiguous houses (76-78-80 Commonwealth) he built for speculative sale. All three houses were Brownstone Gothic in style, designed as a symmetrical grouping: 76 Commonwealth and 80 Commonwealth as mirror opposites with bays flanking 78 Commonwealth with a flat façade. 78 Commonwealth was replaced in 1922-1923, the fenestration on the second and third stories of 80 Commonwealth was altered sometime prior to the early 1940s, and the original mansard and Gothic dormers of 76 Commonwealth were replaced in the early 1970s.

Charles Fox purchased the land for 76-78-80 Commonwealth in three transactions: two 26 foot wide lots he acquired from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on July 5, 1871, and January 31, 1872, and a four foot wide strip to the west he bought from Edward Ingersoll Browne on July 5, 1871, part of a 26 foot lot Edward I. Browne had acquired from the Commonwealth on April 28, 1871. Charles Fox subdivided the combined 56 foot lot into three lots, each 18 feet 8 inches in width.

76-78-80 Commonwealth; 1888 Bromley map

Click here for an index to the deeds for 76 Commonwealth, and click here for further information about the land between the south side of Commonwealth and Alley 436, from Berkeley to Clarendon.

On April 1, 1873, 76 Commonwealth was purchased from Charles Fox by attorney Samuel Worcester Bates. He and his wife, Anna (How) Bates, made it their home. They previously had lived at the Hotel Pelham (southwest corner of Tremont and Boylston). They continued to live at 76 Commonwealth during the 1879-1880 winter season, but moved thereafter to 320 Marlborough.

On November 29, 1879, 76 Commonwealth was acquired from Samuel Bates by Miss Mary Miranda Wood. That same month, she also acquired 78 Commonwealth.

Mary Wood was daughter of real estate and insurance dealer Charles Austin Wood and his wife, Caroline Elizabeth (Wilson) Wood, with whom she lived.  Charles Wood had been the owner and operator of the Hotel Vendôme, which he had sold the month before, and 76-78 Commonwealth probably were purchased by Mary Wood on her father’s behalf.

Soon after acquiring 76-78 Commonwealth, Mary Wood offered both houses for sale.  A December 15, 1879, advertisement in the Boston Journal by real estate dealer Alexander S. Porter described them as “in perfect order and ready for immediate occupancy.”

Neither house sold immediately and the Wood family made 78 Commonwealth their home during the 1880-1881 winter season.  They sold it in February of 1881 and by the next season they were living at 87 Chester Square.

On February 19, 1880, 76 Commonwealth was offered for “peremptory sale” at auction.  The Boston Daily Advertiser notice by auctioneer Samuel Hatch & Co. described the house as “three stories with French roof, has plate glass windows and a rich octagonal stone front.  On the main entrance floor is a large reception and dining room; on second floor two elaborate drawing rooms. Ample chambers, dressing rooms and closets.”  On February 20, 1880, the Boston Journal reported that real estate dealer Samuel Parker Allen was the successful bidder.

On March 9, 1880, 76 Commonwealth was acquired from Mary Wood by Dr. Allen Melancthon Sumner, who presumably acquired Samuel Allen’s right to purchase the property. He and his wife, Ellen Frances (Prescott) Sumner, made it their home. He was a physician and also maintained his office there. They previously had lived (and he had maintained his practice) at 4 East Brookline.

They continued to live at 76 Commonwealth in 1886, but had moved to 150 Commonwealth by 1887, where they lived and he maintained his medical practice.

76 Commonwealth (ca. 1942), photograph by Bainbridge Bunting, courtesy of The Gleason Partnership

76 Commonwealth was not listed in the 1887 and 1888 Blue Books.

On July 9, 1887, 76 Commonwealth was purchased from Allen Sumner by Elizabeth (Farrell) O’Brien, the wife of Hugh O’Brien. They previously had lived at 2886 Washington.

Hugh O’Brien served as Mayor of Boston from 1885 through 1888.  He was the founder and editor of the Shipping and Commercial List and, in the mid-1880s, was treasurer of the Brush Electric Light Company. By 1888, he was Vice President of the Boston Electric Light Company and President of the Union Institution of Savings.

Hugh O’Brien died in August of 1895,  Elizabeth O’Brien and their two children, Henry Clinton O’Brien, a dentist, and Madeline O’Brien, continued to live at 76 Commonwealth during the 1895-1896 winter season, but moved soon thereafter. By the 1897-1898 winter season, Elizabeth O’Brien and her daughter were living at the Hotel Oxford (southeast corner of Exeter and Huntington), and by the next season, they and Henry C. O’Brien were living at Trinity Court (southeast corner of Dartmouth and Stuart).

Elizabeth O’Brien continued to own 76 Commonwealth and lease it to others.

By 1897, 76 Commonwealth was the office of Dr. Reuben Albert (called Albert) Reeder, a physician.  He and his wife, Susie L. (Champlin) Reeder, lived in Melrose.  He continued to maintain his office there in 1899, but by 1900 had moved it to 224 Marlborough.

During the 1899-1900 winter season, 76 Commonwealth was the home of Harriet Newell (Small) Sanborn, the wife of James Solomon Sanborn.  Their home was in Somerville and it appears she may have been living in Boston because of medical issues (she died in February of 1901 in Somerville).  James S. Sanborn was co-founder of Chase & Sanborn, wholesale tea and coffee dealers.

The house was not listed in the 1901 and 1902 Blue Books.

On July 15, 1902, 76 Commonwealth was purchased from Elizabeth O’Brien by Miss Ellen Reardon.

Ellen Reardon was joined at 76 Commonwealth by her brother, Dr. Timothy Joseph Reardon, a physician specializing in the nose and throat, who also maintained his medical offices there. He previously had lived and maintained his office at 139 Beacon.

Dr. John Samuel Phelps, also a physician, lived with the Reardons and maintained his offices there (he also previously had lived and maintained his office at 139 Beacon).  In addition to his private practice, Dr. Phelps was medical director of the Columbian National Life Insurance Company.  He was unmarried.  He continued to live (and maintain his office) at 76 Commonwealth until about 1935, when he moved to Lynn.

In about 1907, Timothy and Ellen Reardon were joined at 76 Commonwealth by their mother, Catherine (Cronin) Reardon Tobin, the widow of Timothy Reardon and of Richard R. Tobin, and their half-sister, Mary A. Tobin.  Prior to Richard Tobin’s death in November of 1905, they had lived in Roxbury.

76-80 Commonwealth (ca. 1942), photograph by Bainbridge Bunting, courtesy of The Gleason Partnership

76-80 Commonwealth (ca. 1942), photograph by Bainbridge Bunting, courtesy of The Gleason Partnership

Catherine Tobin died in March of 1912.  Timothy and Ellen Reardon and Mary Tobin continued to live at 76 Commonwealth.

In October of 1915, Ellen Reardon and Mary Tobin mortgaged a number of properties, including 76 Commonwealth, to Edward E. Moore. He assigned the mortgage to Frederick E. Jackson, and on January 3, 1917, Frederick Jackson foreclosed on the mortgage and transferred the properties to the Fenway Building Trust.

The Fenway Building Trust was owned by Joseph P. Kennedy – real estate dealer, banker, and patriarch of the Massachusetts Kennedy family – and Edward E. Moore, the original holder of the mortgage, who had been secretary to Joseph Kennedy’s father-in-law, Boston Mayor John F. Fitzgerald, and also had worked for his successor, James Curley (according Jack Beatty’s biography of James Curley, The Rascal King, future US Senator Edward M. Kennedy was named after Edward E. Moore). In his The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy, David Nasaw cites this transaction with Ellen Reardon and Mary Tobin (whom he describes only as “two women who owned property in Boston”) as an early example of the real estate operations of Joseph Kennedy and Edward Moore.

On January 17, 1917, Timothy Reardon acquired 76 Commonwealth back from the Trust.

Timothy Reardon died in February of 1938. 76 Commonwealth was inherited by Ellen Reardon and Mary A. Tobin, who transferred it to themselves as joint tenants on March 26, 1948.

Ellen Reardon died in June of 1952. Mary Tobin continued to live at 76 Commonwealth until about 1953.

The house was shown as vacant in the 1954 City Directory.

On May 7, 1953, 76 Commonwealth was acquired from Mary A. Tobin by Dr. Chauncey Nye Lewis, a dentist and oral surgeon.  He was a widower.  In September of 1953, he applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the house from a single-family dwelling into a three-family dwelling.  After the remodeling, he made 76 Commonwealth his home.

In the 1960s, Dr. Lewis appears to have increased the occupancy to ten units.  He continued to live there until his death in February of 1969.

On October 29, 1970, 76 Commonwealth was purchased from Chauncey Lewis’s estate by Nick Haddad, trustee of the Haverty Realty Trust, who already owned 74 Commonwealth.  After acquiring 76 Commonwealth, he remodeled the top story, eliminating the original Gothic mansard and dormers.

Nick Haddad died in February of 2005.

On July 11, 2005, the 74 CommAv LLC (Boris Fabrikant, manager) purchased 74 Commonwealth and 76 Commonwealth from the Haddad family. On February 7, 2007, it converted the buildings into condominiums, with twelve units at 74 Commonwealth the and twelve units at 76 Commonwealth, the 74-76 Commonwealth Avenue Condominium.