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Concierge annunciator from 65 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA

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Beachbum58's loves353 of 1781Butlers or servants call box annunciator , BostonHome on the Range Depot
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    Posted 11 months ago

    raleav
    (5 items)

    This came from 65 Comm Ave, Boston. The building was owned by Stop and Shop founder Sidney Rabb.(He also lived in one of the apartments in the building. )Enclosed is a picture of the building it came out of in the 80' after Rabb's death, and was converted to Condos
    Lots of interesting info here, on the building which was built in 1924. https://backbayhouses.org/65-commonwealth/

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    Comments

    1. keramikos, 11 months ago
      raleav, Cool. :-)

      Apparently, it was an apartment building even back in Rabb's day:

      https://backbayhouses.org/65-commonwealth/
    2. raleav, 11 months ago
      Apartment .. yeah, did you see the floor plan? It's massive ..
      So maybe they had their own concierge and this was to communicate with him?
    3. keramikos, 11 months ago
      raleav, Yes, I did see the floor plan. There's quite a wealth of information at that link about 65 Commonwealth:

      It looks like maybe there were two apartments on each of the upper seven floors, one in front on Commonwealth Avenue, and one in the rear on the alley:

      https://backbayhouses.files.wordpress.com/2019/06/comm-065-floor-plan-ca-1928-boardman-cropped.jpg

      Two central elevators, and two stair cases, one set being for the staff and trade people that let into a service passage that led to the maid's rooms, maid's bathrooms, kitchens, and pantries.

      That open court still exists:

      https://goo.gl/maps/3GwzvuRCugKijJWv8

      https://goo.gl/maps/tUzqYr2A4scCy9De9

      It does seem likely that the building had a concierge.

      I couldn't quite make out the labels on the two arrows in the upper left corner (for the ground floor?), but it looks like there are pairs of arrows for each floor, one for the front apartment, and one for the rear unit, plus arrows for the laundry room and boiler room.
    4. keramikos, 11 months ago
      raleav. It looks like you added some different pictures. :-)

      Thanks, because I can now read the labels on those two arrows in the top left hand side: "FRONT VEST.," and "REAR VEST." It makes perfect sense; one arrow for the front entrance, and one for the rear entrance.

      What's interesting to me is to look at the backside of the building.

      I originally expected to see a door in the middle of the back side as there is in the front side, but there isn't, and indeed it doesn't look like there ever was.

      If there had been, and it was inline with the front entrance, it would have been underneath "BEDROOM #1":

      https://backbayhouses.files.wordpress.com/2019/06/comm-065-floor-plan-ca-1928-boardman-cropped.jpg

      When you look at the June 2018 Street View, you can see a bit of brick repair, but nothing to suggest that there ever was a centrally located rear entrance:

      https://goo.gl/maps/oWL41TCkpXCJ1xvb8

      There is a window in the center of the ground floor level, and it looks like it's always been there.

      Perhaps I was thinking of the style of architecture in the southern United States where in the era before air-conditioning, homes had a central breezeway. That wouldn't have been necessary, or even desirable in a relatively cool climate like Boston.

      The modern rear entrance is on the far left-hand side, and has what looks like some kind of push button mechanism for access (it even has the label "65" on the door):

      https://goo.gl/maps/WHjYq82ZYLEQXMjL6

      You can't get a really good look at the two doors on the far right-hand side in the June 2018 Street View, but you can in the May 2016 one:

      https://goo.gl/maps/bRQeKGZgKz8u8aZB7

      They look sealed and alarmed.

      Good catch on that catalog, BTW:

      (From page 26)

      *snip*

      ANNUNCIPHONE SWITCHBOARD SYSTEMS Non-Interfering SERVICE FOR WHICH DESIGNED. The central station can selectively ring and talk with any outlying station and at the request of an outlying station can connect through to, and ring any other outlying station so that they can converse, supervising such conversation. Any outlying station can ring and talk with central. Several simultaneous conversations can be held at the same time. The central station must do all the ringing for service between outlying stations. must reset the annunciator, and must disconnect the lines when the conversation is ended.

      *snip*

      https://www.telephonecollectors.info/index.php/browse/document-repository/catalogs-manuals/other-manufacturers/12231-samson-bull-51-1917ca-telephones-for-private-use/file
    5. raleav, 11 months ago
      Keramikos, I was wondering the same thing about the rear entrance. Remember this was remodeled in the 80's when they were turned into condos. I wonder if the rear entrance was as much of a vestibule as the front? Doesn't seem very high end to have to enter from a small door on the rear corner of the building.
    6. keramikos, 11 months ago
      raleav, I doubt that the rear vestibule was ever like the front one. I don't think that it would have needed to be as 'high end' as the front one, because the rear egress points would have been for the staff and trade people. The paying residents and their guests would normally have used the front.

      Total speculation here, but those two doors on the far right-hand side of the back might have been for the laundry and boiler room. The one on the far left-hand side might have been to permit easy access to the central service elevator and staircase.
    7. keramikos, 11 months ago
      The modern floor plans in the various units at 65 Commonwealth don't all appear to be the same.

      The most opulent one seems to be 6A, which apparently was created for the original owner:

      *snip*

      Elegant and spacious 6th-floor condominium in an impressive 1925 Georgian Revival building facing south on Commonwealth Avenue, prestigiously located 2 blocks from the Public Garden. Viewing the grand tree-lined boulevard, Clarendon Park and Back Bay skyline, this exquisite light-filled residence was created for the building’s original owner and is one of the largest, offering 2,778± sq. ft. with 3 bedrooms, 3 full baths and ample storage. European-inspired details include herringbone oak floors, beamed and barrel ceilings. Old World ironwork gate enters marble foyer. Magnificent bay-windowed living room features elaborate carved stone fireplace. Handsome oak-paneled library with Jacobean-style plasterwork ceiling. Richly paneled formal dining room has gracious fireplace and Juliet balconies. Tastefully updated gourmet kitchen and butler’s pantry. Beautiful master suite with dressing/exercise room and marble bath. On-site superintendent.

      *snip*

      https://www.redfin.com/MA/Boston/65-Commonwealth-Ave-02116/home/9252674

      Then there is 8B on the top floor, and this listing provides a floor plan. You know it's a back unit, because you can see the cutout on the right for the open court.

      You can see that the pantry has been turned into a dressing room for the master suite, and that the maid's rooms have been converted into offices, but that passageway outside them is headache-inducing. It looks like it lets onto a non-unit space (where the elevator and stairwell used to be), but you don't seem to be able to get directly from the office area directly into the rest of the unit.

      Then there is that walk-in closet jutting out from the bedroom on the other side of the non-unit space.

      https://ap.rdcpix.com/1820482941/7f92137583b1b47d30d6e938dc98b37el-w12xd-w1020_h770_q80.jpg

      https://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-detail/65-Commonwealth-Ave-B8_Boston_MA_02116_M45979-00521

      Another feature that was initially a bit headache-inducing was the staircase that shows up in pictures of multiple units.

      It was the listing for "one floor" unit 3B that finally made me realize that it's probably part of the main vestibule in the center front of the building, because it provided a picture not only of the staircase, but the stained glass inner front door and what looks like the elevator door:

      https://photos.zillowstatic.com/fp/a0804c24476b0917d306618f886d0843-cc_ft_384.jpg

      https://photos.zillowstatic.com/fp/54e284fc4dbb6e7bec2f6df9648f47e8-cc_ft_384.jpg

      https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/65-Commonwealth-Ave-3B-Boston-MA-02116/59212736_zpid/?
    8. keramikos, 11 months ago
      Well, I was hoping to find some old Sanborn insurance floor plans of the building, but no joy. There are plenty of Sanborn insurance maps of Boston, but a lot of them haven't been digitized.

      Based on this one picture from realtor dot com, it looks like there are still two vestibules in an enfilade (thank you, Edith Wharton). They have slightly different floor tile patterns, and wall and ceiling treatments and are connected via double brass doors:

      https://ap.rdcpix.com/428638005/7f92137583b1b47d30d6e938dc98b37el-w7xd-w1020_h770_q80.jpg

      https://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-detail/65-Commonwealth-Ave-B8_Boston_MA_02116_M45979-00521

      How that rear vestibule connects with the far left-hand door on the backside of the building, I don't know. Perhaps there is a corridor behind that wall with the large mirror.

      There's another interesting picture of what might be the hallway outside of 8B, with the elevator on the right, and a window at the far end:

      https://media.mlspin.com/photo.aspx?mls=72413956&n=5&w=1024&h=768

      https://www.robertpaul.com/real-estate/65-commonwealth-ave-8b-boston-ma-02116/72413956/62147461
    9. keramikos, 11 months ago
      I'm still trying to make sense of the interior layout of 65 Commonwealth.

      Here are what I think are the significant drawings and pictures grouped together:

      The original floor plan for one of the seven upper floors of 65 Commonwealth:

      https://backbayhouses.files.wordpress.com/2019/06/comm-065-floor-plan-ca-1928-boardman-cropped.jpg

      An artist's rendering of the modern top floor unit 8B:

      https://ap.rdcpix.com/1820482941/7f92137583b1b47d30d6e938dc98b37el-w12xd-w1020_h770_q80.jpg

      A photograph of the inside of the ground floor front vestibule facing southeast towards the interior stained glass front door and Commonwealth Avenue:

      https://photos.zillowstatic.com/fp/54e284fc4dbb6e7bec2f6df9648f47e8-cc_ft_384.jpg

      A photograph of the interior of the ground floor rear vestibule, facing northwest towards what is presumably a corridor (behind the wall with the large mirror) that leads to the door on the northeast corner of the building on Public Alley 423:

      https://photos.zillowstatic.com/fp/a0804c24476b0917d306618f886d0843-cc_ft_384.jpg

      A photograph of the interior of the rear vestibule through the connecting doors from the front vestibule:

      https://ap.rdcpix.com/428638005/7f92137583b1b47d30d6e938dc98b37el-w7xd-w1020_h770_q80.jpg

      I originally thought that this might have been a photograph of the corridor outside the two offices plus bathroom in the southeast corner of top floor unit 8B, but now it seems more likely to be the gallery:

      https://media.mlspin.com/photo.aspx?mls=72413956&n=5&w=1024&h=768

      I think I need to give up now. };-)
    10. raleav, 11 months ago
      Keramikos.. thanks for all your detective work! Luckily, this came from a building with a lot of info online.. :)
    11. keramikos, 11 months ago
      raleav, Um, you're welcome? };-)

      You didn't ask me (or anybody else, for that matter) to go ferreting out more information about that building; I just did it because I occasionally fall down rabbit holes that way.

      Ironically, that backbayhouses dot org website only whetted my appetite for more information. That is to say, they provided a floor plan for the upper seven stories, but not the ground floor.

      I'd contact the owners, but they might think that I was an aspiring burglar.
    12. raleav, 11 months ago
      Actually, I was able to find a couple of the occupants online.. One of them is on Facebook, and I was thinking about contacting him. Not sure I need any more info however. I was going to sell this- but now I think I may hang onto it for a while.. it's very interesting. I know one thing- if I lived in that building, I'd HAVE to have this!
    13. keramikos, 11 months ago
      raleav, You wonder whether the current building owner wouldn't want to acquire that concierge annunciator to put it on display. :-)

      As to contacting that one occupant on Facebook, they might think you're an aspiring burglar. };-)

      Judging from the few pictures of the vestibules, the major remodeling left the building with one elevator and one staircase (as opposed to a set of two each).

      I decided to give it one more try, and look into the building permit records for that address. Boston has them, going all the way back into the 19th century:

      https://www.boston.gov/departments/inspectional-services/how-find-historical-permit-records

      You can see one record from February 1925 where they describe the new building to be built as containing 14 apartments.

      You can also see another one from June 1974 when they were gearing up to the major remodeling.

      Unfortunately, in order to look at floor plans, you have to do that in person. :-(

      After the major remodeling, apparently the building had 15 apartments, and I wonder whether that extra apartment was fashioned out of the laundry on the ground floor.

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