This 5,267-square-foot penthouse is so grand-scale from common areas to bedrooms to roof decks that it feels more like a townhouse than a condo or even a penthouse.

Built c.1873, 35 Commonwealth Ave. in the Back Bay packs a treasure-trove of history into its narrow, but noble brownstone shell from its eminent title-deed pedigree to its three-unit condo conversion.

One of three attached French Academic brownstones designed by Nathaniel J. Bradlee, No. 35 was built for sugar refiner, ship owner and importer Elisha Atkins. A later occupant was Charles Marsh, a partner of the Jordan Marsh department store (now Macy’s at Downtown Crossing), for which Bradlee designed the ornate 1860s Washington Street building that spurred a major historic preservation movement when demolished in 1975.

In 1911, the house was acquired by architect Arthur Little, who added its ground-level entry and was famous for his 1878 book Early New England Interiors, noted in Bainbridge Bunting’s Houses of Boston’s Back Bay as “the first work published in Boston in connection with the Georgian Revival.”

In the 1940s, his home became the location for the Academie Moderne fashion modeling school and the Hart Modeling Agency.

Today, it’s a fashionable model for millennial living in an historical ambiance. Payne/Collins Design and Sea-Dar Construction of Boston have graced the sweeping, sunny spaces of its studio, duplex and triplex penthouse units with intricate moldings, classic mantels, oak floors, marble baths, symmetrical layouts and other traditional details. Not forgotten are such contemporary amenities as recessed lighting, gas fireplaces, intercom, room-arrangement flexibility and elevator access to all levels of all units.

This 5,267-square-foot penthouse is so grand-scale from common areas to bedrooms to roof decks that it feels more like a townhouse than a condo or even a penthouse.

This effect is immediate upon alighting from the elevator into a floor-through flow, inviting guests into the large, light-filled living and dining rooms at left and right, respectively.

The central hall’s alcove can fit an armoire for outerwear, though a coat closet is off the dining room.

The living room radiates with style, space, light and heat – courtesy of the picture-frame, crown, ceiling and baseboard moldings prevalent throughout the unit as well as the oversized window and bay-window sitting area rising above their cornices. There’s also the herringbone oak floor, the light gray marble gas fireplace and its classical mantel with fluted pilaster pairs and ribboned, festooned urn relief.

The banquet-sized dining room has a tray ceiling for added grandeur, but its long main wall is molding-free to accommodate cupboards, highboys, buffet tables, etc. Off the dining room are the coat closet, a powder room featuring a Carrara marble vanity with tapered chrome legs and elegant front and back stairs.

The dining room flows into the contiguous family room and chef’s kitchen. The family room reprises the light gray marble gas fireplace, this time flanked by fluted Ionic column pairs. The rear bow window forms a sunny breakfast space.

The kitchen’s marble waterfall island counter/bar unifies social and food-prep elements as a dinner-party center. A matching marble wall counter, backsplash and “home central” desk complement the paneled white cabinetry and the appliances, some concealed in the cabinetry to make the kitchen feel homey.

A Wolf six-burner gas range, convection oven, microwave and pot-warming drawer are ready for your big housewarming feast.

To cool down a bit, a French door opens to an iron balcony.

The second floor has more symmetrical convenience: a versatile central hall introduces the left-hand master suite and right-hand bedroom suites.

In the adjacent laundry room, an Electrolux Energy Star washer and dryer under a sorting counter and shelves faces a counter with a deep sink and a backsplash of glass tiles framing a collage of c.1913 newspaper ads.

The master bedroom reprises the living room’s above-ceiling-height bay window, creating an airy sitting area. The deep walk-in dressing closet awaits built-ins of your choice. The palatial master bath boasts a Carrara marble twin-sink vanity and standup shower, a Corian soaking tub reminiscent of Victorian iron tubs, a pocket-doored water-closet with a corner cabinet complex and floors tiled in interlinked cloverleaf patterns.

The second bedroom has a northwestern sky view of the Back Bay and a walk-in closet with automatic light. Its en suite bath has a Carrara marble floor and vanity and a beveled marble-tile tub/shower with stationary and hand-held showerheads.

The one-windowed third bedroom can become a study. Its own en suite bath features a shower tiled and benched in variegated gray marble evoking images of waterfalls over rocks, calming a daily cleaning.

The third floor surprises you with a spacious, sunny studio for entertaining or family lounging. A built-in gas fireplace leaves ample wall area for a TV.

Skylights align on axial symmetry with glass-flanked French doors at either end, leading out to your choice of private decks with teak-plank parquet floors, copper-paneled walls and stunning skyline vistas.

The front-deck view contrasts the low historic scale of Victorian mansard roofs with the gargantuan modernity of the Hancock and Prudential towers.

On the rear deck, faux ivy screens conceal HVAC units for a garden effect. A walk-in closet off the main space provides seasonal storage of outdoor furniture and grills.

For privacy, paneled twin pocket doors close off part of the big space as an intimate sitting area or guestroom with rear-deck access. This space’s en suite bath has another gray marble shower.

One of the two larger units comes with an offer to purchase the ground-floor studio as an au pair suite. (Check with the brokerage for availability.) Its main space has a full kitchen with gas cooking along one wall and a bay-window view of the front garden. The rear bedroom has two closets, one with stacked washer/dryer, and a bath with marble shower.

Offered at $15.55 million, Unit PH at 35 Commonwealth Ave. elevates townhouse living to a penthouse level in a historically reverent but millennially relevant way.

For a private showing, contact Tracy Campion of Campion and Company at 617-236-0711 or


- “Back Bay Houses: 35 Commonwealth,”, 2017,

- Bunting, Bainbridge, Houses of Boston’s Back Bay (Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1967), p. 357

- “Jordan Marsh,” Wikipedia, last updated May 2019,

- “Nathaniel Jeremiah Bradlee,” Wikipedia, last updated June 2019,

- Sammarco, Anthony M., Jordan Marsh: New England’s Largest Store (Charleston, S.C.: The History Press, 2017), p. 93