Hotel Agassiz (191 Commonwealth Avenue)
191 Commonwealth Avenue was designed by Weston and Rand, architects, and built in 1872 by Weston & Sheppard, builders.
Originally designed as six floor-through apartments (called “French flats”), it was built for Alexander Agassiz, his brother-in-law, Henry Lee Higginson, and probably Henry Lee Higginson’s father, George Higginson . “Alexander Agassiz and others” are shown as the owners on the original building permit application, dated August 7, 1872, and on the final building inspection, dated December 29, 1873.
191 Commonwealth was named "Hotel Agassiz" in honor of the Agassiz family.
Alexander Agassiz was the developer and president of the Calumet and Hecla Copper Mines. His father, Louis Agassiz, was the noted Harvard zoologist.
George Higginson was a founding partner in the investment banking firm of Lee, Higginson & Co., which specialized in railroad and mining stocks and was closely associated with the Calumet and Hecla company.
George Higginson’s son, Henry Lee Higginson (called "The Major" because of his military service during the Civil War) was a partner in Lee, Higginson & Co. and the husband of Alexander Agassiz’s sister, Ida. Henry Lee Higginson may be best known for founding the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1881. Henry and Ida (Agassiz) Higginson lived at the Hotel Agassiz from the time it was built until their deaths, he in 1919, and she in 1935.
Sometime after the Hotel Agassiz was completed in 1873, 185 Commonwealth was built immediately to the east. 185 Commonwealth is shown as a vacant lot on the 1874 Hopkins map, but as a completed house on the 1883 Bromley map. On that map, it is shown as a separate house from 191 Commonwealth, owned by George Higginson. By 1888 it had been incorporated into the Hotel Agassiz, with the separate front entrance removed. Alexander Agassiz and George and Henry Higginson shown as the owners of the combined property (with the address of 191 Commonwealth) on the Bromley map.
“Alexander Agassiz et al” continued to be shown as the owners of the Hotel Agassiz on the 1908 Bromley map. By 1917, it was owned by Charles Francis Adams, II, et al, Trustees. They continued to be shown as the owners on the 1928 and 1938 Bromley maps.191 Commonwealth was converted into 15 condominiums in May of 1973.