Boston Architecture
Home / Back Bay / Commonwealth Avenue / 124

124 Commonwealth Avenue

124 Commonwealth Avenue

124 Commonwealth Avenue

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

124 Commonwealth was built on a lot 17 feet 4 inches wide, the remaining two-thirds of a lot originally 26 feet wide.  The original lot, and the one immediate to the east (also 26 feet wide), had been owned by Charles Wood.  On December 30, 1870, he sold all of the eastern lot and one-third of the western lot to wholesale dry goods merchant and banker James Brown Case and his wife, Laura Lucretia (Williams) Case, who combined them and had 122 Commonwealth built, 34 feet 8 inches wide.

The Cases also owned the two lots to the east of 122 Commonwealth. Each of these lots 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

118-120-122-124 Commonwealth were designed by Emerson and Fehmer to be a symmetrical composition, with the two taller and narrower houses (118 Commonwealth and 124 Commonwealth) 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 Commonwealth and 120 Commonwealth built ca. 1873.

On March 11, 1871, Charles Wood sold the remaining two-thirds of the eastern lot to shoe manufacturer and auctioneer Walter Herbert Cowing and his wife, Martha W. (Seaver) Cowing, for $7,876.  On the same day, the Cowings entered into a two-year $19,000 mortgage with Joseph W. Balch of North Roxbury, Martha Cowing's Trustee. The mortgage was secured by the land and buildings "to be erected" on it. Presumably, construction of 124 Commonwealth started soon thereafter.

The Cowings had lived at 84 Chester Square in the South End in 1870 and 1871.  By mid-1872, they had moved to 314 Shawmut Avenue, also in the South End, and then moved to their new house at 124 Commonwealth by 1873.  Martha Cowing is shown as the owner on the 1874 Hopkins map.

The Cowings remained at 124 Commonwealth until about 1879, when they moved to Leicester, Massachusetts.  They continued to own 124 Commonwealth and leased it to others.  Martha Cowing is shown as the owner on the 1883 Bromley map, and Walter Cowing is shown as the owner on the 1888 map.

In 1879, the Cowings leased 124 Commonwealth to Dr. Edwin Perley Bradbury, a dentist, and his wife, Louisa Silsby (Jordan) Bradbury.  He maintained his dental office at the house and provided office space to other dentists. The Bradburys previously had lived at the Hotel Boylston and he had maintained offices at 196 Bolyston Street.

In early 1887, the Bradburys moved to a new home they had built at 16 Exeter Street, at the corner of Marlborough Street (also numbered 196 Marlborough).

On May 5, 1887, the Cowings sold 124 Commonwealth to Samuel Ayer Kimball, a physician, and his wife, Belle C. (Trowbridge) Kimball.  Dr. Kimball also maintained his medical office in the house.

The Kimballs continued to live at 124 Commonwealth in 1901.

On December 13, 1901, Samuel Kimball sold 124 Commonwealth to Sarah Maria (Parker) Cunningham, the widow of shipping merchant Frederic Cunningham and the mother-in-law of Episcopal  Bishop William Lawrence, who lived next door at 122 Commonwealth.

In his Memoirs, Bishop Lawrence described her purchase on Commonwealth as follows:  "One of the happy incidents of our married life was that, some years before she died, she was enabled to live in the house next to us, with doors cut through.  The children always found joy, wit, and a piano there."

Sarah Cunningham died in January of 1913, and the house became the property of her daughter, Julia, Bishop Lawrence's wife.  Julia Lawrence is shown as the owner on the 1917 Bromley map.

From 1914, Julia Lawrence leased the house to Isaac Sweetser Tolman, a notebroker, and his wife, Mabel Wells (Leach) Tolman.  They previously had lived at The Abbotsford at 186 Commonwealth.  They also maintained a home at South Gloucester.

Mabel Tolman died in November of 1918.  Isaac Tolman moved to Hotel Vendôme and later lived at the Algonquin Club.

By April 1921, Joseph F. Low and his wife Harriet were residents of 124 Commonwealth. He was president and treasurer of Hill, Smith, & Co., Inc., stationers.  The previous year, they had lived at 1277 Commonwealth.

Also listed as a resident at the same period was Mrs. Adelaide Page.

Between April 1921 and April 1922, the Lows and Mrs. Page moved and the house briefly became the home of real estate broker Jacob C. Rogers and his wife Ann (Sanders) Rogers.  They had lived at 180 Bay State Road in 1920, and also had a home in Milton.

By mid-1921, 124 Commonwealth became the offices of Dr. James R. Taylor, Jr., a physician, who lived in Quincy.  Dr. Taylor previously had leased 118 Commonwealth.

On March 28, 1922, Julia Lawrence sold the house to Dr. Taylor's brother-in-law, Frederick L. Blood, who was married to Dr. Taylor’s sister, Annie.

The Bloods did not live at 124 Commonwealth, but rather leased it to Dr. Taylor, remodeling it so that it could become his year-round home as well as his office.

In May 1922, Frederick Blood received permission to build a two car garage at the rear of the house.  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 Anna Johnson, owner of 118 Commonwealth, was overturned in the same decision.

Frederick Blood sold the house to Dr. Taylor on May 27, 1927.

Dr. Taylor and his wife, Mabel Frances (Sealy) Taylor, continued to live there in 1931.

In 1930, Dr. Claude L. Payzant moved his practice to 124 Commonwealth, with Dr. Taylor, and in 1931, he made the house his home as well as his office.

On September 30, 1933, Dr. Payzant's wife, Mary, purchased the house from Dr. Taylor, who continued to maintain an office there, along with a number of other physicians to whom Dr. Payzant provided office space.  Mary F. Payzant is shown as the owner on the 1938 Bromley map.

On February 14, 1947, Claude and Mary Payzant sold the house to Kenneth Hutchins of Medford.  It appears that this sale might have been in anticipation of Mary Payzant's death, for in August 1947, Claude Payzant married Eleanor Yeager, and on September 8, 1948, Claude and Eleanor Payzant repurchased the house from Hutchins.

On April 10, 1951, Claude Payzant changed the occupancy of the house from a single-family dwelling and doctor's office to a three-family residence and a doctor's office, with the doctor's office on the first floor, and one family each on the second, third, and fourth floors.

Claude Payzant died in December of 1953 and the house passed into the possession of his widow, Eleanor

Earlier in 1953, Dr. Melvin Maynard Johnson, a physician, had begun listing his offices and home at 124 Commonwealth, with the Payzants.  Eleanor Payzant subsequently married Dr. Johnson.

The Johnsons continued to live at 124 Commonwealth.  Eleanor Johnson was a floral decorator and provided flowers and floral arrangements for various Boston social events.  She died in August of 1987; Melvin Johnson had predeceased her.

In November of 1988, 124 Commonwealth was purchased from Eleanor (Yeager) Payzant Johnson’s Estate, remodeled, and converted back into single-family dwelling.



Privacy Policy | Creative Commons | Contact Us