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A Trip Down Automobile Row

Commonwealth Avenue was Boston’s original Auto Mile

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From the bookstore where you buy your required reading to the supermarket where you get your spinach, Commonwealth Avenue was once the place to shop for Oldsmobiles, Studebakers, Chryslers, and many other cars.

The Kenmore Square building that now houses Barnes & Noble at BU was home to a dealer of Peerless automobiles. The Star Market by Packard’s Corner was once a Chevrolet dealership. And in between lay more than a mile of storefronts selling cars, parts, and accessories or repairing cars. In the 1920s there were more than 100 such businesses on and near that strip of Comm Ave. Downtown Boston had its “Piano Row” and its “Newspaper Row.” This was Boston’s “Automobile Row.”

During the latter half of the 20th century, BU bought and repurposed many of these buildings. The College of Communication took over 640 Commonwealth Avenue, where long-forgotten Nash vehicles were sold for three decades. At 590 Comm Ave, General Tire and Exide Batteries gave way to the Metcalf Science Center.

640 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston University College of Communication, Nash New England Company

Click to enlarge. The College of Communication (top, pictured in 2008) is at 640 Commonwealth Avenue. In 1931 (bottom), the building was home to Nash New England Company. Photos by BU Photography and courtesy of Brent Havekost

Look carefully, and you can still see signs of the area’s former life. Buick Street. The Packard Building. The scallop shell sculpted into the façade of the BU Academy—a shell that looks not-so-suspiciously like the Shell Oil logo. The miniature mechanics and motorists who gaze down at student artwork from pillars in the College of Fine Arts. On every block now dominated by Boston University’s Charles River Campus, an astute observer can find traces of its automotive past.

785 Commonwealth Avenue, BU Academy, Shell Oil

Click to enlarge. Today, the Boston University Academy (left) building has an aquatic-themed façade (right), a remnant from Shell Oil. Photos by Robin Berghaus

The prince of Packard’s Corner

Born in 1878, Alvan T. Fuller was a champion bicycle racer, who at age 17 started a bike shop in his hometown of Malden, Mass. After the turn of the century, he decided to bank on a more expensive form of transportation: automobiles. Fuller convinced the Detroit-based Packard Motor Company to name him its exclusive dealer in the Boston area.

Alvan T. Fuller, Packard Motor Company, Packard's Corner, Allston, MA

Alvan T. Fuller. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

By 1908, Fuller believed the motorcar business was about to outgrow the cramped confines of central city locations such as his stall in the Motor Mart in Boston’s Park Square. The young entrepreneur looked westward. After decades that saw luxury homes rise in the Back Bay and the Cottage Farm district of Brookline, development had stalled on Comm Ave west of Kenmore Square. Fuller cast his eye on large unbuilt tracts that were close to downtown and accessible by trolley.

The site he chose for his big new Packard dealership was a section of Brighton coincidentally named Packard’s Corner—after the nearby horse stable and riding school run by one John D. Packard. Perhaps, not unlike Eddie Murphy’s character in Coming to America, who travels to Queens, N.Y., to seek his queen, “Fuller may have been tempted to the neighborhood because of the name,” says William P. Marchione, a member of the Brighton-Allston Historical Society and author of four books about Boston.

Designed by nationally known architect Albert Kahn, the building Fuller erected at 1079-1089 Commonwealth Avenue—now home to condominiums as well as Supercuts and other businesses at street level—was New England’s first combined auto salesroom and service station. It included assembly, storage, and repair facilities, as well as offices.

Packard's Corner, Allston, MA

Click to enlarge. Packard’s Corner today (left). In 1962, the Clark & White Lincoln Mercury dealership (right) resided where Alvan T. Fuller once sold Packard automobiles. Photos by Robin Berghaus and BU Photography

The building’s showpiece, however, was its showroom, designed to appeal to the high-end customers then in the market for autos. “Fuller’s handsomely furnished showroom had high ceilings and fluted columns, and was lit by a combination of elaborate hanging fixtures and a barrel-vaulted skylight,” writes Marchione in Allston-Brighton in Transition: From Cattle Town to Streetcar Suburb.

At that time, an automobile was a luxury few could afford. Often called a touring car, it was something to be taken out for Sunday spins on “pleasure roads” in the country, not driven to Buffalo to see one’s aunt (that’s what the train was for) or to work (trolley lines connected most suburbs to the city). Fuller’s typical buyer was either wealthy, a committed gearhead hobbyist (considerable assembly was required after purchase), or some combination thereof.

1922 Packard Automobile

Packard automobile, 1922. Photo courtesy of University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, TRA0130

The number of buyers grew in the second decade of the century, and other dealers followed Fuller to Packard’s Corner and vicinity, taking advantage of the big open spaces to build or rent spacious showrooms that were ornate by today’s standards. “These buildings required large expanses of well-lighted garage space and display areas, and floors capable of supporting heavy loads,” writes Nancy Salzman in Buildings & Builders: An Architectural History of BU. “Their façades were often embellished with vigorous and distinctive designs.”

1065 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston - Commonwealth Chevrolet, Star Market

Click to enlarge. The Star Market at 1065 Commonwealth Avenue was once home to Commonwealth Chevrolet. Notice the 1929 Art Deco design by Harold Field Kellogg on the center of the façade. The showroom that once displayed Chevrolets (bottom right) is now stocked with groceries. The building also contained Oste Chevrolet and Pierce-Arrow dealerships. Photos by Robin Berghaus and BU Photography, and courtesy of the Brighton-Allston Historical Society

From 1910 to 1920, at least a dozen dealerships opened on Commonwealth and Brighton Avenues, selling models of Auburn, Rolls-Royce, Hupmobile, Pierce-Arrow, Clark-Crowley, and other brands.

It turns out that Fuller started more than a strip of car dealerships; he started an enduring and nationwide promotional trend. By 1917, the car salesman had begun hosting an annual “open house” on George Washington’s birthday, February 22. In those days, people didn’t drive in the winter; the city didn’t even plow the streets. Even in the late fall, ladies going for a ride in the mostly open-air autos were advised to wear velour and fur “motor robes” and woolen caps and scarves, and to bring a foot muff and a hot water bottle for good measure. Once the real cold weather came, “People just put their car on blocks until the spring.” says Edward Ellis, whose family owned an auto accessories store on Comm Ave for decades. Ellis says the winter break begat the savvy used-car shopper’s practice of kicking tires: “Years ago, tires had straw in them, not air,” he says. “If you let them sit in winter, you’d have a flat spot. People used to kick the tires to see if they were resilient and the straw hadn’t resettled.” (Or at least, Ellis adds, that’s what he was told when he started in the business.)

Packard Motor Car Co. Advertisement

Click to enlarge. Car sale ads from the Boston Globe from 1945 to 1965. The Packard Motor Car Co. advertises in the Boston University News a “welcome back offer to all Boston University faculty, students and their families for a $25 credit toward blue ribbon specials.”

Fuller figured by late February motorists were ready to check out the year’s new Packards. Other dealers followed his lead, offering their own sales and hiring bands and serving cherry pies. “It was a carnival atmosphere on Comm Ave,” says Ellis.

Fuller had become one of the richest men in America, and in 1924, after serving eight years in the state legislature, he won the race for governor, defeating James Michael Curley.

Hallmarks of the halcyon days

On the eve of the Roaring Twenties, the Noyes Buick building was built at 855 Commonwealth Avenue, today home of the College of Fine Arts. The building featured enormous arched windows (now filled in) looking into a showroom with a vaulted, Romanesque ceiling and Corinthian columns. This showroom is now CFA’s Stone Gallery. The next time you visit the gallery, look up at the top of the columns. Instead of traditional gargoyles, you’ll see gargoyle-like mechanics with wrenches and motorists in caps and goggles.

855 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston University College of Fine Arts, Noyes Buick dealership

Click to enlarge. The College of Fine Arts (left) today. In 1946, the building at 855 Commonwealth Avenue (right) was home to the Noyes Buick dealership. Photos by Robin Berghaus and courtesy of the Bostonian Society

Automobile Row boomed over the next decade. By 1929, there were 117 car dealerships, garages, and other auto-related businesses lining Commonwealth Avenue and spilling onto Brighton Avenue.

More than 20 years after Fuller opened his Packard complex, automobile ownership was within the reach of a growing number of Americans, and Fuller built an imposing Cadillac-Oldsmobile dealership at 808 Commonwealth Avenue—today CFA’s 808 Gallery—across from the BU Bridge (then the Cottage Farm Bridge).

The opulent dealership, also designed by Albert Kahn, was derided initially as “Fuller’s Folly,” but combining sales of the luxury Cadillac brand and the workingman’s Oldsmobile turned out to be a smart move. Mark Lande, a salesman at Herb Chambers BMW, one of Comm Ave’s few remaining dealerships, remembers Fuller’s business in its later and still thriving decades: “The shiny red Cadillac Eldorado, rotating on a turntable, caught everyone’s attention,” he recalls. “But most people purchased the affordable Oldsmobile.”

808 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston University 808 Gallery, Cadillac-Oldsmobile dealership

Click to enlarge. 808 Commonwealth Avenue (left) pictured today and in 1956 (right) as a Cadillac-Oldsmobile dealership. Photos by Robin Berghaus and BU Photography

Daniel LeClair’s office is in 808 Comm Ave, and the Metropolitan College professor’s file room was once the vault (now minus the safe) that held Fuller’s Caddy and Olds revenues. The street-level showroom is essentially intact, and it still attracts a lot of attention, now with student artwork. A remnant of 808’s original purpose remains: a concrete ramp inside the building that makes it possible to drive all the way up to the fifth floor.

A car dealership also occupied the building at 830-844 Commonwealth Avenue, which now houses BU’s Photographic Resource Center and Sicilia’s Pizzeria. Up the street at 860 Comm Ave was a Pontiac dealership, now the Ski Market block.

860 Commonwealth Avenue, Pontiac Village

Click to enlarge. 860-870 Commonwealth Avenue is now home to East Coast Alpine and Audio Concepts (left). In 1962, it contained Pontiac Village (right). Photos by Robin Berghaus and BU Photography

Diagonally across Comm Ave from 808 is the BU Academy, at 785 Commonwealth Avenue. This building was once the Shell Oil Company’s New England headquarters. Not only are there shells and other aquatic symbols carved into the building’s façade, but at one time a giant neon Shell logo loomed from its roof. Built in 1933, the steel sign was 68 feet high. It still exists—but now lives across the river, at a Shell station on Memorial Drive in Cambridge. (Also across the river from 785 Comm: a former Ford assembly plant. It’s on your right when you cross the BU Bridge into Cambridge.) The Shell building served for a time as a General Tire outlet, before housing BU’s College of General Education, Sargent College, and finally, the BU Academy.

785 Commonwealth Avenue, BU Academy, Shell Oil

Click to enlarge. A bird’s-eye view from 808 Commonwealth Avenue looking east. Today the site of the BU Academy (left), obscured by trees, it once was occupied by Shell Oil (right). Photos by Robin Berghaus and BU Photography

At 1001 Commonwealth Avenue, Ellis the Rim Man was a highly visible remnant of Automobile Row into this century, thanks to its giant billboard. Today the location of Boston’s MATCH Charter School, Ellis carried “accessories” like seat belts, rear-view mirrors, radios, and AC units before those became standard parts of a car right out of the factory.


Watch this video on YouTube

Edward Ellis discusses his former auto accessories shop, Ellis the Rim Man, and tours the MATCH Charter School, which took over his building at 1001 Commonwealth Avenue. Photo by BU Photography View closed captions on YouTube

End of the road

The Depression was hard on the auto industry all over America. On Boston’s Automobile Row, it closed a third of the 117 auto-related businesses, but the district survived, with at least 54 dealerships and many attendant businesses soldiering on.

In the postwar 1950s, the federally built interstate highway system boosted auto sales, and Auto Row enjoyed another peak. But something else was skyrocketing in this period, thanks to the G.I. Bill: college enrollment. Boston University, scattered across several buildings downtown, had bought the tract of land west of Granby Street and north of Comm Ave three decades earlier. After World War II, BU began to consolidate on the Charles River Campus.

996 Commonwealth Avenue, Coombs and McBeath Ford, Boston University Distance Learning, Slone Epidemiology

Click to enlarge. Today, Enterprise (left photo) car rental agency occupies the triangular 996 Commonwealth Avenue building where Coombs and McBeath (right photo) sold Fords in 1962. Neighboring 1010 Commonwealth Avenue (left photo, on right) now houses BU’s Distance Education and Slone Epidemiology Center, the old site of Coombs and McBeath’s 1962 extended car lot. Photos by Robin Berghaus and BU Photography

Meanwhile, families were moving to the suburbs, and car dealers followed—to places like Norwood’s Route 1 “Auto Mile.” By 1975, there were only 21 dealerships on Comm Ave, and by 1981, just 11. Today there are but three, all Herb Chambers stores, all beyond Packard’s Corner.

Change has been a constant for the transportation landscape on this stretch of Commonwealth Avenue. Horse-drawn buggies gave way to electrified trolleys, which had to share the road with automobiles. From an environmental perspective, some welcome changes have arrived in the past few years. A joint beautification initiative of BU and the city of Boston widened the sidewalks and planted trees, and the recent addition of a bike lane and the Hubway bike-share program may encourage cyclists to think of the road as theirs as well. Alvan T. Fuller might appreciate the paradox: after all, he started out selling bicycles.

Sources for this story include the works of William P. Marchione, Nancy Salzman, Art Krim, and Keith Morgan. Additional research by Robin Berghaus and Art Jahnke

Patrick L. Kennedy can be reached at plk@bu.edu.

This article was originally published on October 20, 2011.

54 Comments
Robin Berghaus

Robin Berghaus can be reached at berghaus@bu.edu.

54 Comments on A Trip Down Automobile Row

  • Bryan on 10.20.2011 at 8:25 am

    Great content Robin! I hadn’t realized the fun history of Comm Ave.

  • John X. Tsirimokos on 10.20.2011 at 8:42 am

    Memories! Many of the dealerships were still there when I attended BU during the early 50’s .
    John X
    ’55

  • lisa on 10.20.2011 at 9:17 am

    Loved this piece.

  • Joey Joe Joe the 2nd on 10.20.2011 at 9:26 am

    I always wondered what CFA was, with those Stairways and columns in one of the 1st floor classrooms (if you’ve ever had classes in that room, you KNOW what I’m talking about!)

  • m on 10.20.2011 at 9:57 am

    Excellent piece. Can’t believe it wasn’t done earlier & glad we have it done so thoroughly now!

  • Caleb D. on 10.20.2011 at 10:09 am

    Excellent work, Patrick and Robin! Loved the tour (especially the gargoyles and the inner ramp at 808). Very cool. A jewel for the BU archives.

  • T Von on 10.20.2011 at 10:55 am

    I’ve known alot about this interesting part of Comm ave, but this article showed me some facts I never knew about. Such as the Shell sign.. Plus the videos are great. Kudos.

  • w on 10.20.2011 at 11:43 am

    Excellent story – I had heard that Commonwealth Ave. was the original “Automobile Mile” – this piece does an outstanding job mixing history and the past with today. I enjoyed this very much – thank you!

  • Jen Sullivan on 10.20.2011 at 12:19 pm

    Loved learning about the buildings I work in and walk by every day! Keep these stories coming!

  • the passenger on 10.20.2011 at 1:56 pm

    When I attended BU in the first half of the 1980s there was an AMC dealership on the south side of Comm. Ave. roughly aligned with the BU Central T stop, certainly a less glamorous building than some of these others, but still I’m somewhat surprised it wasn’t mentioned in this article. Otherwise I enjoyed this a lot, thanks.

  • C on 10.20.2011 at 2:09 pm

    Fantastic piece. Just wish you included some info about the Citgo sign as well

    • Robin B. on 10.20.2011 at 2:45 pm

      Thanks for the positive feedback. I’m glad you liked the story.

      For more info about the Citgo sign, check out the feature on BU Today by Patrick Kennedy and Caleb Daniloff: http://www.bu.edu/today/2009/icons-among-us-the-citgo-sign/

      “When built in 1965, the Citgo sign contained more than five miles of neon tubes — 5,878 glass tubes to be exact — lit by 250 high-voltage transformers. The giant advertisement has survived five hurricanes.”

  • Steve Lawrence on 10.20.2011 at 2:42 pm

    What a great article about the history and changes over the years of the auto business in Boston. I’ve never been there but I’m putting it on my list.

  • Kelly on 10.20.2011 at 3:17 pm

    This is the kind of content BU Today should be publishing all the time.

  • Elizabeth Mazar Phillips on 10.20.2011 at 3:28 pm

    An excellent article, both entertaining (thanks, Patrick) and educational!

  • Cait on 10.20.2011 at 3:41 pm

    Awesome piece! Informative, but not dry, and lots of food for thought. Nice work, Patrick and Robin!

  • Toby Burrell on 10.20.2011 at 6:08 pm

    Really well done! This article is a real stroll down memory (Commonwealth Ave.) lane. I went to school at COM in the 70’s. Worked for a time at Clark and White Lincoln Mercury and spent a lot of take home pay at Ellis The Rim Man.
    Thanks for a meticulously researched and entertaining story!

  • Meredith on 10.20.2011 at 10:27 pm

    Very nice combination of the past and present. Interesting piece!

  • Galen on 10.20.2011 at 10:43 pm

    Also to point out, a lot of these old car dealerships and show rooms are now bike shops! Landry’s, Ski Market, International Bikes… funny how times change, good to remember where we came from so we recognize where we’re going. Thanks for the article!

    And Fuller, the great bicycle-racer-turned-automobile-entrepreneur-turned-governor, rose to political fame on his wealth. He was the governor who refused to grant clemency to Sacco and Vanzetti in 1927.

  • Laura De Veau on 10.20.2011 at 11:39 pm

    Wonderful and well done piece. This is the type of work that sets the BU Today apart! This provides the BU community with a greater context of the campus history. Kudos to the individuals throughout the University’s history who decided to preserve these architectural gems. I only wish CFA still had those gorgeous windows! And, the photos of the Ellis the Rim Man signs made me smile!

  • Mustapha Qaisar on 10.21.2011 at 8:56 am

    So many great memories 91-96 at BU,took a calculus class at 808 comm ave.. Well done article!

  • Mike on 10.21.2011 at 9:15 am

    This was fascinating! Very well done.

  • dave waller on 10.21.2011 at 9:40 am

    Great piece – it’s chockfull of details and it makes me want to walk the whole route to see it for myself. Loved that chopper shot with the little flags, and the fade from the old photos to the exact locations today. Long live Ellis the Rim Man!

  • Sue on 10.21.2011 at 9:49 am

    Love this! Wonderful article that stirred memories. I bought my first car from a Chrysler dealership on Comm Ave — a baby blue, 1970 Dodge Dart Swinger. Loved that car. Some of the buildings I knew about, but I had no idea on others. Great story.

  • kostas on 10.21.2011 at 12:24 pm

    Great Content, very well done all around. I’ll share this with some people.

  • Chris on 10.21.2011 at 12:41 pm

    Yes great piece and fond memories! I’ve worked at BU for 25 years but grew up in Newton. I remember gazing in awe at beautiful new cars – especially the Cadillacs – inside of buildings (which seemed so strange then) as Dad drove all of us kids to Fenway for a game. I’ll be forwarding to everyone in my family. Thanks!

  • Steve Brown on 10.21.2011 at 2:26 pm

    What a great piece and video about automobile row. I remember as a kid back in the late 1960’s and early 70’s riding down Comm Ave with my folks, and taking note of all the dealerships. My father sold cars all his life (in Brockton, Plymouth & on the Cape) but it was almost as if Automobile Row was the “major league” of car sales.

    Great Job!

    • Michael Condon on 04.28.2013 at 9:24 pm

      i sold cars on comm ave in the 80s, any car salesman is a great
      patriot

  • Richard Laskey on 10.21.2011 at 10:42 pm

    Great piece! I really enjoyed it. Knew parts of the history, but never had the visuals nor the “tour.”

  • DJ Capobianco on 10.23.2011 at 10:49 am

    So interesting! Thanks for making this great video and article.

  • Carl Nelson on 10.23.2011 at 5:02 pm

    Great article! I have owned and operated a business on the old Auto-mile section of Commonwealth Avenue for nearly 20 years and never knew about this rich history. I was aware, of course, that Packard Corner had been the center of what used to be a lot of Auto Dealerships but thought that “Packard” had referred to the ill-fated late 50s auto. I had no idea how extensive the auto industry had been on this section of Commonwealth Avenue. It makes perfect sense to me now why the so many of the buildings from the BU Bridge all the way to Harvard Ave look the way they do.

    My mother grew up in the Back Bay in the 30s and 40s in Boston and always loved Boston. She instilled in me a love for Boston and it brings me great satisfaction to own and operate a business on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston – how can you get any more “Boston” than that? I am a historian by education and by heart so I doubly enjoyed this article – it is about history and about Boston. I passed this story along to my mom who was thrilled to call and tell me about her memories of the Boston Auto Mile.

    I thought that the story was well done, interesting and informative. Thanks so much for the obvious quality work of the story and the accompanying video.

  • LT on 10.24.2011 at 9:48 am

    Great article!! Even though it wasn’t mentioned, I now know why 808 Commonwealth Ave. is called the Fuller Building.

  • IWL on 10.25.2011 at 9:11 am

    From 1967-1969, I was a student at the Division of General Education, the first two years of the then College of Liberal Arts. It was housed in the CFA building with it’s great interiors. Walking from there to West Campus, and later from there to Bay State Road, I passed all those dealerships and their buildings. One of them had Farquhar(?) Motors on top, but I don’t remember the exact address, although I think it was across the street from the BU Bridge.
    Thanks for this article!

  • Brandon on 10.25.2011 at 1:36 pm

    Wow great piece! Really interesting!

  • Val Hamblin on 10.25.2011 at 7:11 pm

    Judging by the comments above, many have found this as fascinating as I do–and I’m not even interested in cars! Meticulous research, clever presentation. Great video.

  • Louise Bonar on 11.05.2011 at 9:15 am

    A meaningful stroll down Memory Lane like your trip through automobile row takes a very knowledgeable guide and you are IT! Fascinating what your research turned up plus those great pix, matching up the old/new sites. A sparkling presentation! Whoever said history has to be dull?

    -Louise Bonar, Founder/Board Member of the Brighton-Allston Historical Society

  • Mary on 11.08.2011 at 2:27 pm

    Well done, terrific film, so clear, you are a great communicator,
    Edel is here visiting so we enjoyed your story, Good luck, Mary

  • Ron on 11.09.2011 at 2:34 pm

    nice job…

  • Matt Convente on 11.10.2011 at 11:59 am

    Excellent piece. As a CFA alum, I knew a little about Comm Ave’s automobile history, specifically the 808 building, but I definitely was not aware how extensive the history actually was. Really great to see the photograph comparisons, and the video was fantastic. If I’m not mistaken, there is the original Cadillac insignia on the lobby floor of 808 centered on the back wall.

  • Julie on 11.10.2011 at 12:34 pm

    What a fun presentation! There was still an AMC dealership right across from GSU/central campus when I was there in the Eighties. My father and aunt loved to tell the story about how, as children in the Forties, they decided to go see the new cars one day, and walked all the way from their home in Jamaica Plain down to Commonwealth Avenue, then walked back.

  • Cliff on 11.16.2011 at 12:01 pm

    Fantastic story, and a very well-produced, captivating video. I had no idea COM was a Nash dealer, or that Buick St. really was for Buicks! Makes me regard my time at BU as extra special.

    Cliff Atiyeh, COM ’07
    Boston Globe Auto Editor

  • Peters on 11.16.2011 at 7:45 pm

    Awesome video and article! Definitely fun to watch, so it must have been a blast to produce. I really appreciated the side-by-side photographs and challenges to imagine/relive the past.

  • Barbara on 11.19.2011 at 8:25 am

    Terrific piece! Such detailed reporting and great flow. Thanks.

  • Chris FitzGerald on 11.19.2011 at 6:05 pm

    Great piece! Van Ness Avenue was San Francisco’s auto row from 1910 to 1975 or so and 31 of the buildings survive in the Van Ness historical district. Most of them retained or were restored to the original forms and look like the “before” pictures of 640 and 855 Comm. Ave.

  • T DiPietro on 01.04.2012 at 7:59 am

    A very nice trip down memory lane, my dad worked for the Fuller family for 52 years, retiring when they closed the dealership at 808 Commonwealth Ave. I had the pleasure of driving the ramps from the basement to the fith floor on occasion;
    Hope the memories remain by retaining the facades and other decorations and of course the shell sign;

  • Elizabeth Shannon on 01.12.2012 at 9:55 am

    Fascinating story. I lived at 25 Lenox Street (a BU house) for 25 years, and the Fuller Building was my next door neighbor. When we first came to BU, there was a move afoot for Aer Lingus, the Irish airlines, to buy the Fuller building and turn it into a hotel. I thought this was a good idea, but the neighborhood was VERY up in arms against it and fought it. It was finally abandoned. I love the gourmet food evenings that Rebecca Alssid puts on there now. Have also been to many weddings, and other events. It is an icon in the neighborhood.

  • Alec DeSimone on 02.25.2012 at 11:01 am

    Memories of Washington’s Birthday

    That’s what is was called in my day.

    I was employed by Motor Car of New England also known as Pontiac Village, 860 Commonwealth Ave, Boston from 1934 to 1971. Commonwealth Ave was full of dealerships and on designated day, if you attempted to walk up the avenue, the crowd was so big, you could not walk down. Dealerships were full of people and it was impossible to get close to the showroom. You could purchase a new Pontiac for $519.00. I worked six days a week from 8 am to 5:30 pm and got $8 dollars week… memories.

  • John G on 03.03.2012 at 8:19 am

    Fantastic article/videos. Commonwealth Chevy also sold Austin Healeys,when Jerry Oste bought it and he also sold Avanti’s. Going up Brighton Av. there were a couple of Speed shops for the hot rod set. Way out on Comm. Av there was a Rolls Royce dealer. And for the sports car racers there was a group of garages behind Comm, near Harvard, called Gasoline Alley. Sunday afternoons, when we were kids, my friends and I would pedal over the Cottage Farm Bridge and go up and down the Ave and just dream and admire the cars in the windows. Great job. XXX

  • Jonathan on 05.09.2012 at 8:36 am

    I wish Packard would open their doors again. I would love to see what they would be manufacturing today.

  • Jason on 07.19.2013 at 9:16 pm

    You left out Turner & McBeath Edsel at 1168 Commonwealth… but… I wouldn’t expect anyone to catch that one because they were only open for a little over a month before folding… I do have a bad photo of the building with Edsel and I’d love to find better photos of such. The dealer who also was part of Coombs & McBeath Ford William Humphrey Turner is still living and is 88.

  • Chip on 07.20.2013 at 3:44 pm

    One other fun fact…Peter Fuller’s family collected Post-Impressionists; and he would go to the family home, select a couple of landscapes and order cars with color schemes to coordinate. Then, when the cars arrived, he would hang the paintings in the showroom behind the cars. What a display!
    Great article…

  • Doug Shepherd on 01.23.2014 at 7:58 pm

    I lived at 745 Comm. Ave (1965 – 1968) at the School of Theology. Saw many of the buildings in your article. Great memories! Thanks!

  • Ken Grant on 01.27.2014 at 2:46 pm

    This is the best article regarding Commonwealth Ave I’ve read. I’ve worked at three of the locations you mentioned and I felt like I was going home.

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