122 Commonwealth Avenue
122 Commonwealth was built on two lots owned by wholesale dry goods merchant and banker James Brown Case and his wife, Laura Lucretia (Williams) Case, a 26 foot wide lot and one-third (8 feet 8 inches) of the lot to the west of it. They combined these and had 122 Commonwealth 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.
The Cases also owned the two lots to the east. 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 and 124 Commonwealth appear to have been built first, ca. 1871, and then 118 Commonwealth and 120 Commonwealth built ca. 1873.
On April 25, 1872, James Lee, Jr. and his wife, Frances (Van Dusen) Lee, purchased 122 Commonwealth from James and Laura Case for $53,330. The Lees previously had lived in Charlestown. He owned the Middlesex Bleachery.
Frances Lee is shown as the owner of 122 Commonwealth on the 1874 Hopkins map.
The dining room of the Lee home at 122 Commonwealth is illustrated and described in The Book of American Interiors, by Charles Wyllys Elliott, published in 1876.
On October 31, 1877, the Lees sold the house to David W. Williams, Richards Bradley, and Lemuel Shaw, trustees under the will of John Davis Williams of Boston. The Lees moved to the Hotel Agassiz at 191 Commonwealth.
122 Commonwealth became the Boston home of John Davis Williams's grand-daughter, Sarah Ann Williams (Merry) Bradley, and her husband, Richards Bradley. They also maintained a home in Brattleboro.
Sometime between 1883 and 1888, a brick stable was added at the back of the house (it is not shown on the 1883 Bromley map, but is shown on the 1888 and subsequent maps; an 1894 Boston Globe article on the sale of the property notes that it includes a brick stable).
For the winter season of 1891-1892, they leased the house to Horatio Appleton Lamb, treasurer of Simmons College, and his wife, Annie Lawrence (Rotch) Lamb. The Lambs were listed there in the 1892 Blue Book and were living there when their eldest son, Thomas, was born in January of 1892. By May of 1893, they had moved to 107 Commonwealth (demolished) and the Bradleys probably had moved back to 122 Commonwealth.
On May 2, 1894, Richards Bradley, as sole surviving trustee of his wife under John Davis Williams's will, sold 122 Commonwealth to William Lawrence, Episcopal Bishop of Massachusetts, and his wife, Julia (Cunningham) Lawrence. The Bradleys subsequently retired to their home in Brattleboro.
In his memoirs, Memories of a Happy Life, Bishop Lawrence described his decision to purchase 122 Commonwealth: "We had hoped to make our home in Cambridge our real centre, but the demands of the Diocese compelled us to have a house in Boston. With, therefore, the Bishop's House Fund and the gift of ten thousand dollars from my brother and sisters, our winter house at 122 Commonwealth Avenue, was acquired."
Bishop Lawrence's daughter, Marion, described the house in her memoirs, To be Young was Very Heaven:
"My father had bought a house in town. It was a big house -- not on the swell side of Commonwealth Avenue where all our friends lived, but on the 'shady side.' The interior was all finished in black walnut which my mother intended to paint white, but Uncle Peter Brooks told her that 'would be a sin.' He said it was such handsome wood that, even though it was so dark, she would 'live to regret it.' Halfway up the long heavy staircase hung a stuffed peacock fastened to a perch on one of the steps. His long superb tail was the first thing you saw when the front door was opened to you. The large parlor was on the right and a small room for my father's secretary on the left. In the back where there was glorious sun was the dining room and my father's study, and gentlemen in long coats with top hats were continually passing the parlor doors to go there when papa was at home."
In 1894 and 1895, at the time the Lawrences moved to 122 Commonwealth, the Bishop's mother-in-law, Sarah (Parker) Cunningham, lived with them, probably taking care of their children (their daughter, Elinor, was born in January of 1894). She subsequently moved to 357 Marlborough Street, and then in 1901 purchased 124 Commonwealth, next door to the Lawrences, where she lived until her death in 1913.
The Lawrences lived at 122 Commonwealth for the rest of their lives. The Boston house was their winter home. They spent the spring and fall in Cambridge (until 1911) or Readville/Milton (from 1913), and the summer at Mount Desert in Bar Harbor, Maine.
In February of 1907, Bishop Lawrence received permission to install a 8 foot by 4 foot, one story brick "heater house" at the rear of the property. In April of 1913, he received permission to make modifications to the interior of the garage at the rear of the house (the former stable, which, by that time, had been converted into a three car garage). The garage was said to be 36 feet wide (wider than the house), 25 feet deep, and 12 feet high. In a subsequent permit application, in 1915, it was said to be 30 feet wide, 24 deep, and 16 feet high.
Julia Lawrence died in September of 1927. After her death, Bishop Lawrence retained his homes in Boston, Bar Harbor, and Readville. Bishop Henry Knox Sherrill, in William Lawrence: Later Years of a Happy Life, notes: "At one time he had considered making 122 Commonwealth Avenue, his Boston home, into apartments, but finally decided to keep the house as a family center. Miss Mary Cunningham, Mrs. Lawrence's niece, 'Polly,' came to live with him in the winter, an arrangement which brought great happiness to both of them."
In 1929, he agreed to have an elevator installed at 122 Commonwealth. He disdained using it until the mid-1930s, however. According to Cleveland Amory's The Proper Bostonians, the "Bishop liked to move right along, even up stairs, and it took an attack of whooping cough, at the age of eighty-five -- of which a friend recalled that it 'delighted' him to be the oldest person on record to have the disease -- to make him use the elevator his family had installed in his four-story home" (Amory's anecdote implies the elevator ran between all floors; however, the Boston permit records indicate that it was installed only between the first and second stories).
The 1938 Bromley Atlas shows William Lawrence as the owner of this house.
William Lawrence died in November 1941.
In April 1942, Bishop Lawrence's sons, William and Frederic, who were his executors, sold 122 Commonwealth to Henry J. O'Meara of Manchester, Massachusetts. One month later, on May 1, 1942, Henry O'Meara sold the house to Peter A. Consales and John F. Keane, both physicians.
Drs. Consales and Keane converted the house into doctors' offices and one residential apartment. In August 1946, they extended the existing elevator to the fourth floor.
In September of 1952, they received permission to renovate the garage, which was described as being a brick structure 20 feet wide by 20 feet deep by one story high (but presumably the same structure as the larger garage described in earlier permits granted to Bishop Lawrence).
On December 15, 1953, Drs. Consales and Keane sold the house to National Realty Co., Inc., which sold the house one month later to Richard E. and Mary L. Schroeder. The house continued to be used for medical offices, but the Schroeders converted part of the space to provide a second residential apartment.
It appears that, at some point during the Schroeder’s ownership, they removed the garage from behind the house. It was there in September of 1952 but was gone by the early 1960s.
On April 28, 1961, the Richard and Mary Schroeder sold 122 Commonwealth to The Commonwealth Realty Trust, which converted the building into the headquarters for Bay State College.