BAHS Home | Photo Collection

Commonwealth Avenue East
Warren St to the Back Bay

Information on the
early history and construction of Commonwealth Ave is found on the BAHS Comm Ave West page.

1875 Map (plate L) with Washington St on the left and Warren St in the center.  Comm Ave at Warren St would start out approximately where Breck St meet Warren.

1885 Map (plate L) that includes the plan for Comm Ave when it was called Massachusetts Ave

Lorraine Terrace at 153 Kelton St just off Comm Ave.

1387 Comm Ave at Allston St

1384 Comm Ave on the eastbound side at Allston St

1315 Comm Ave at Long Ave

1305-1315 Comm Ave between Long Ave
and Spofford Rd

Hotel Princeton at 1277 Comm Ave next to Spofford Rd

Capitol theater at 1266 Comm Ave at Gorham St in 1932.  <click here> for more information.

Comm Ave looking east towards Harvard Ave in 1916.

1909 Map of Comm Ave between Allston St (left) and Harvard Ave (right) that shows that much of Comm Ave was still undeveloped at this time.

Comm Ave looking west from Harvard Ave

Close up of the previous photo

1251 Comm Ave west of Harvard Ave

1251 Comm Ave

1226 Comm Ave at Harvard Ave

A later photo (c1930) of the above building at 1226 Comm Ave with the additions of storefronts and Cafe Boulevard. (courtesy of Sandra Swaile)

Postcard of the Boulevard Cafe

Comm Ave at Harvard Ave looking towards Brighton Ave.  (Courtesy of Joel Shield)

Comm Ave at Harvard Ave 1938

1222 Comm Ave at Harvard Ave

Comm Ave at Linden St

Comm Ave at Linden St (Courtesy of Joel Shield)

1114 Comm Ave near Fuller St and Packard's Corner

1127 Comm Ave near Packard's Corner

Corner of Comm and Brighton Ave (courtesy of Joel Shield)


The headquarters of the auto industry in Boston for over a half century was the so-called Auto Mile which was that portion of Commonwealth and Brighton Avenues lying between the B. U. Bridge and Allston’s Union Square. The founder of the Auto Mile was the fascinating Alvan Tufts Fuller (1878-1958), a native of Malden, Massachusetts, who was a major figure in both the business and political history of Massachusetts.  After traveling to Europe in 1900 to investigate the fast-growing auto industry there, the ambitious entrepreneur persuaded the Packard Motor Company of Detroit, Michigan to make him its exclusive dealer in the Boston area.  A year later he added a Cadillac agency to his dealership. In 1908 Fuller decided to move his growing dealership to an undeveloped tract at the intersection of Commonwealth and Brighton Avenues in Allston, a location known, by strange coincidence, as Packard’s Corner, having been named for a well-known stable and riding school run by John D. Packard located at 25 Brighton Avenue. At this Packard Corner location Fuller established the first combined auto salesroom and service station in New England. The massive facility comprised a sales salon and offices at the ground level, with the remainder of the building providing assembly, storage, and repair facilities.

Even at the depths of the economic downturn, in 1932, the Auto Mile was home to no less than fifty-four car dealerships specializing in a combination of new, used, and commercial vehicles, dealerships selling all of the following makes, many of which no longer exist: the Auburn, Cord, Oldsmobile, Ford, Hupmobile, Cadillac, Franklin, LaSalle, Pontiac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Plymouth, Reo, Nash, Buick, Packard, Pierce-Arrow, Rolls-Royce, Studebaker, and Stutz. The most memorable of the many innovations that Alvan Fuller initiated were the open houses that his Packard Motor Company hosted annually on Washington’s birthday, giving customers an opportunity to view the latest models and to plan future car purchases.  The Auto Mile went into rapid decline in the late 1970s as many dealers moved their establishments to more accessible suburban locations.  <click here> for more information on Alvan Fuller and the Auto Mile.

Packard dealership at 1709 Commonwealth Ave built by Alvan T. Fuller in several stages between 1909 and 1930.

The Packard building in 1940 has expanded to the right from the original building above (Courtesy of Historical new England)

1922 Packard

Packard Ad in the 1923 Boston Globe

Packard Ad

Intersection of Comm and Brighton Ave c1960.  Note DeMambro Electronics at 1095 Comm Ave which closed around 1970. This was the company's headquarters which opened in 1953 and was the largest electronic parts distributor east of Chicago at that time. The Packard building on the right in c1960 has become the home of the Clark and White Lincoln Mercury dealership.  Today it houses condominiums.

View of Packard's Corner looking west in 1930.  The sign on the Packard building advertises a price of $2275 for a Packard.

Commonwealth Chevy at 949 Comm Ave c1920s

Commonwealth Chevy at 949 Comm Ave.  Note the phone number on the door.

Commonwealth Chevy at 1065 Comm Ave 1930.  This is now a Star Market.

Interior of Commonwealth Chevy at 1063 Comm Ave (Courtesy of Boston University)

Coombs Ford at 996 Comm Ave c1960 (courtesy of Boston University)

Herb Connolly Buick at the corner of Comm Ave and Babcock St

Ellis the Rim Man store at Comm Ave and Babcock St c1960

The Allston Golf Club House established in the 1890s where BU's Nickerson Field is today.  <click here> for more information.

Braves Field in 1933.  Comm Ave is at the top and the Armory on the left.  Braves Field was the home of baseball's National League's Boston Braves from 1915 to 1952.  The Braves moved to Milwaukee in 1952 and then onto Atlanta.  Today it is the site of Boston University's Nickerson Field.  <click here> for more information.

Trolley servicing Braves Field next to the Armory on Comm Ave

The Commonwealth Armory was a Massachusetts Army National Guard armory. It was built at the intersection of Harry Agganis Way and Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, Massachusetts in 1914-1915. It was demolished in 2002 and replaced by BU's Agganis Arena in 2004.

Pontiac Village in the 1960s at 860 Commonwealth Ave

Noyes Buick at 855 Comm Ave in 1930s

Interior of Noyes Buick

BU's College of Fine Arts is now housed in the building that was Noyes Buick

Howard Johnson's next to the BU Bridge on Comm Ave (courtesy of MIT)

Howard Johnson's at the BU Bridge at Comm Ave

BU bridge in 1930.  At this time it was called the Cottage Farm bridge. The name "Cottage Farm" derives from the then popular English Cottage style of building and associated lifestyle of genteel country living. The Brookline area opposite the bridge was called Cottage Farm.  The building at the bottom was a Ford Assembly Plant on Memorial Drive

A more recent photo than the one above showing Storrow Drive, which was built in 1951, that now goes under the BU Bridge.

This building was known as Peter Fuller's Cadillac Olds opposite the BU bridge.  Peter was the son of Alvin Fuller. It is now owned by BU.

Nash dealership at 640 Comm Ave (courtesy of Boston University)

Nash Rambler Ad from 1913

The Nash dealership building is now BU's College of Communication

Comm Ave looking west in 1925.  Kenmore Sq would be in the bottom right.  Cambridge is on the right

Close up of the above photo.  Note the bridge on the top which preceded the current BU bridge structure.  The bridge on the right no longer exists and seems to be an extension of St Mary's Street.  Note how undeveloped Comm Ave is in 1925 where the BU campus is today.

Comm Ave looking east from near the BU Bridge (Courtesy of Boston University)

Boston University History

Between 1920 and 1928, Boston University bought 15 acres of land that had been reclaimed from the river by the Riverfront Improvement Association. Plans for a riverside quadrangle with a Gothic Revival administrative tower modeled on the "Old Boston Stump" in Boston, England were scaled back in the late 1920s when the State Metropolitan District Commission used eminent domain to seize riverfront land for Storrow Drive. This campus plan was never realized, but BU's fourth president, Daniel L. Marsh, led a series of fundraising campaigns (interrupted by both the Great Depression and World War II)  to gradually fill in the University's new campus. The Charles River Campus was inaugurated in1938 with the laying of the cornerstone for the Charles Hayden Memorial Building, which housed the College of Business Administration.

BU's Charles Hayden Memorial Building on Comm Ave 1940s

Trolley subway entrance before Kenmore Sq 1940s

Kenmore Square looking east 1930

Kenmore Square 1960s

Comm Ave east of Kenmore Sq in 1912

Comm Ave looking west towards Kenmore Square 1910 (Courtesy of the Boston Public Library)

Charlesgate section of Comm Ave east of Kenmore Square 1930s.  Massachusetts Ave is in the top right before the underpass was built.  This is where the Bowker overpass is today (courtesy of Friends of the Charlesgate)

1870 drawing of Comm Ave in the Back Bay

Back Bay development in progress

Comm Ave in the Back Bay1900. The steeple on the right is the First Baptist Church at Clarendon St.  (Courtesy of the Boston Public Library)

Comm Ave at Dartmouth St 1874

Governor Ames home at 355 Comm Ave at Massachusetts Ave in the Back Bay

Reference Links