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118 Commonwealth Avenue

118 Commonwealth Avenue

118 Commonwealth Avenue

118 Commonwealth Avenue was designed by Emerson and Fehmer, architects, and built ca. 1873, one of four contiguous houses (118-120-122-124 Commonwealth) designed by them and built ca. 1871-1873.

118 and 120 Commonwealth Avenue were built on two lots owned by wholesale dry goods merchant and banker James Brown Case and his wife, Laura Lucretia (Williams) Case.  Each lot originally had been 28 feet wide, but the Cases combined them to permit the construction of a 36 foot wide home for themselves at 120 Commonwealth, leaving the 20 foot frontage for 118 Commonwealth. 

The Cases also had owned the 26 foot wide lot immediately to the west and one-third (8 feet 8 inches) of the lot next to it.  They combined these and had 122 Commonwealth Avenue built, 34 feet 8 inches wide.  The remaining 17 feet 4 inches of the fourth lot had been purchased separately and was used for 124 Commonwealth Avenue.

118-120-122-124 Commonwealth were designed by Emerson and Fehmer to be a symmetrical composition, with the two taller and narrower houses (118 and 124 Commonwealth Avenue ) flanking the two shorter and wider houses (120 Commonwealth and 122 Commonwealth).  Based on the land records and party wall agreements, 122 Commonwealth and 124 Commonwealth appear to have been built first, ca. 1871, and then 118 and 120 Commonwealth built ca. 1873.

The Cases retained 120 Commonwealth as their home and sold 118 and 122 Commonwealth (124 Commonwealth had never been owned by them).

On April 21, 1875, wool and cotton merchant William H Harding and his wife Elizabeth Waterman (Hicks) Harding purchased 118 Commonwealth from the Cases for $30,000.  In 1874, the Hardings had lived in Jamaica Plain, and before that (in 1872 and earlier) at 28 Chester Square in the South End.

Elizabeth Harding is shown as the owner on the 1883 and 1888 Bromley maps.

William Harding died in May of 1883.  Elizabeth Harding continued to live at 118 Commonwealth until her death in July of 1902.  The house was not listed in the 1903 Blue Book.

In her will, dated December 6, 1897, she left 118 Commonwealth to her son, William (who was living in the house with her), and left a house she owned at 137 Bay State Road to her son, Albert (who was living there at the time).  She named her two sons as her executors.  The next year, in September 1898, she made a codicil to the will naming Daniel Richard Randall, an attorney in Maryland and husband of her grand-daughter Eliza (daughter of William), as sole executor, replacing her sons.

The house remained in the Harding family, as rental property.  William F. Harding is shown as the owner on the 1908 and 1917 Bromley maps.

By 1904, 118 Commonwealth became the office and residence of Dr. George H. Payne, a dentist, and his wife, Bertha. The previous year, they had lived in Cambridge and he had maintained his practice at 283 Dartmouth Street.  The Paynes also provided office space to several other dentists and rented lodgings to Charles C. Newcomb, a produce merchant, and his brother, George Dillingham Newcomb, treasurer of an iron foundry, neither of whom was married.

In late 1913 or early 1914, the Paynes moved to 29 Commonwealth Avenue and the Newcombs moved to 28 Commonwealth Avenue.

By 1914, 118 Commonwealth had been leased by Dr. James R. Taylor, Jr., a physician, for his medical offices.  He previously had maintained his offices at 2 Commonwealth Avenue.  Dr. Taylor's primary home in Quincy, but he may also have maintained a residence at 118 Commonwealth.

He continued to maintain his offices at 118 Commonwealth through about 1920. The house also was rented to various lodgers during this period

By 1920, William Harding probably had died and on June 11, 1921, Daniel and Eliza (Harding) Randall sold 118 Commonwealth to Dr. David Joseph Johnson, a physician, and his wife, Anna.  Prior to purchasing the house, the Johnsons had lived at 1 Schuyler in Roxbury.

Dr. Taylor moved his practice to 124 Commonwealth Avenue, and Dr. Johnson made 118 Commonwealth both office and his home.  Anna L. Johnson is shown as the owner on the 1928 and 1938 Bromley maps.

The Johnsons were joined at 118 Commonwealth by Eugene J. Waldron, a civil engineer, and his wife Elizabeth (or Blanche), who had lived with them at 1 Schuyler in Roxbury the previous year.  They also were joined by Charles Felton Pousland and Miss. Elizabeth C. Pousland, probably brother and sister, who had lived in Cambridge in 1921.  The Pouslands moved from 118 Commonwealth by 1923; the Waldrons continued live with Johnsons until 1924.

In May 1922, the Johnsons received permission to build a two car garage at the back of 118 Commonwealth.  The decision was appealed by the neighbors and overturned in September 1922 by the State Fire Marshall, who found that allowing the garages would create a congested condition in the alleys and a potential fire hazard because of the accompanying storage of gasoline in the tanks of the cars.  A similar application by Frederick Blood, owner of 124 Commonwealth Avenue, was overturned in the same decision.

The Johnsons continued to live at 118 Commonwealth and to accept lodgers.  Longer-term residents listed in the City Directories or Blue Books included Bertha Ellen Tuttle (from 1930, and possibly before, through 1933) and Georgianna O'Neill (from 1934 until the mid-1940s).

David Johnson died in October of 1944.  Anna Johnson continued to live at 118 Commonwealth until mid-1953, joined during 1947-1951 by Minnie E. O'Neil.

On July 8, 1953,  Anna L. Hicks, wife of John E. Hicks of Boston, purchased 118  Commonwealth from Anna Johnson.  One month later, on August 20, 1953, Ida S. Rolin of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, purchased the house from Anna Hicks.  She subsequently filed to legalize the occupancy as a lodging house, implying that it had been used as such for some time in the past.

The house changed hands several times thereafter and, in August of 1979 was acquired by Gaetano Morello.  He converted it from a lodging house into five apartments and transferred the property to The Comm. Ave. Trust, which he had formed in October of 1979.

In 1980, The Comm. Ave. Trust subdivided 118 Commonwealth into five condominiums.



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