Nathaniel Thayer House

239 Commonwealth Avenue, 22 Fairfield Street
Boston, Mass.

Year Built: 1882

Nathaniel Thayer was the original owner of this house. Thayer’s first wife (Cornelia Street Barroll of Baltimore) died and he remarried in 1886 to Pauline Revere Thayer, great-granddaughter of Paul Revere. Thayer had three children with his first wife. Thayer began residing here in 1882 and divided their time between this house a country home in Lancaster and a cottage in Newport. He was descended on his father’s side from the Thayer family which arrived in Massachusetts in 1630 and on his mother’s side, the Rev. John Cotton. During his life, Thayer was a financier and capitalist, heading the firm of Kidder, Peabody & Co. He also served as director of many firms and charitable organizations and was a member of many clubs including the Somerset and the St. Botolph. Nathaniel died in 1911 at age 59. Pauline Thayer was also active in Boston and Massachusetts. She was committed to helping “devastated France” after World War I, a member of the Republication national Committee, delegate to the 1924 Republican Convention, and founder and director of the Division of Immigration and Americanization in the Mass. Department of Education. She died in 1934 at age 73.

The Thayer family retained ownership of the house until 1938. However, as with many large single family properties in the Back Bay, this building was then divided into an apartment building and then to condominiums. The Thayer family sold the property to Louis Marden who converted it into a 21-unit apartment building. As part of that conversion, the half story was removed at the top of the building, including dormers and a roof cone and two full stories were added. In 1939, the property was foreclosed upon and it was purchased by “Falmouth Shores.” There was a succession of owners over the next few decades, including Howard Cosgrove (1943-1944), Realty Owners (1944-1963), Alben Realty (1963-1971) and Pierre deBourgknecht (1971-1985). The property was purchased by Capital Realty Trust in 1985 and converted to condominiums.

The northern side of Commonwealth was particular prized for housing lots as the street was so wide that it afforded the houses sunlight even on the first floor, which was not the case on other streets in the Back Bay. Additionally, the property occupies a rare corner lot which provides additional sunlight and the opportunity of to exhibit two facades to the passing populace.

The masonry was executed on this building by D. Connery & Co., and the carpentry work was done by B.D. Whitcomb. The total cost was $125,000.


• Local Historical District

• National Register District


• City of Boston, Building Permits, permit #85, May 9, 1882; permit #3504, December 13, 1936; permit #13, April 12, 1937; permit #4696, May 1, 1986; permit #846, October 30, 1981; permit #1712, July 23, 1938; and permit 3201, February 18, 2000;

• "A Half Century of Boston’s Building," Charles S. Damrell, 1895, p. 72. "The residence of Nathaniel Thayer, Jr., at the corner of Commonwealth Avenue and Fairfield Street . . . architects were Messrs. Sturgis & Brigham, the masonry was executed by D. Connery & Co., and the carpentry work was done by B.D. Whitcomb. It was built in 1882-85 and the cost was $125,000."

• “Architecture of H.H. Richardson and His Contemporaries in Boston and Vicinity: 1972 Annual Tour,” Society of Architectural Historians, Philadelphia, 1972, Margaret Henderson Floyd, (Sturgis & Brigham, 239 Commonwealth Avenue, Nathaniel Thayer House, 1882)

• Back Bay National Register Historic District, 8/14/1973, National Park Service #73001948.

• Back Bay Historic District, 9/3/1966.

• John Hubbard Sturgis papers, Boston Athenaeum Library, client list, 8/1/1886, N. Thayer noted as a client of Charles Brigham.

• American Architect and Building News, June 18, 1888 and June 30, 1888.

• “Nathaniel Thayer, Capitalist, Dead,” Boston Globe, March 22, 1911, p. 2

• “Pauline R. Thayer Dead at Lancaster,” Boston Globe, September 30, 1934, p. A9.


2010, window detail

2010, window detail

2010, window detail

2010, foundation detail

2010, alley facade

2010, alley facade cornice detail

2010, window detail

American Architect and Building News, June 30, 1888






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