Grand Back Bay penthouse offers loads of luxury space

WAYNE BRAVERMAN AND TODD LARSON
STAFF WRITERS
The living room benefits from a bay window and another window for optimum sun and a breathtaking view of the Commonwealth Avenue Mall, John Hancock Tower and the Old South Church’s Gothic tower. A chevron-patterned white-oak floor graces the space, a woodburning fireplace with Carrara marble mantel warms the occasion and two built-in bookcases flank an art wall.

A prodigious penthouse in one of Boston’s most historied buildings is on the market.

A journey through the spectacular spaces, soaring ceilings and sun-splashing skylights of south-facing penthouse Unit 61 at 191 Commonwealth Ave. in the Back Bay will evince the ecstasy of staying at a presidential suite in a high-end hotel - which the building once was, in a way.

Back in the day when “hotel” referred to an apartment building for long-term residents rather than a traveler’s temporary sleeping spot, the Hotel Agassiz - one of Boston’s first “family hotels,” comprising six French flats, was erected in 1872-1873 at this site.

Designed by Weston & Rand in a hybrid of French Second Empire and High Victorian Gothic styles, the brick-and-sandstone structure was built by Weston & Shepard for three notable Bostonians: scientist Alexander Agassiz, son of Harvard zoologist Louis Agassiz, founder of the university’s Museum of Comparative Zoology; Alexander’s brother-in-law Henry Lee Higginson, founder of the Boston Symphony Orchestra; and Henry’s father, investment banker George Higginson. By 1973, the building was a 16-unit condominium development.

Noury-Ello Architects of Boston and Adams & Beasley Associates of Carlisle completely renovated the 4,072-square-foot penthouse Unit 61 with a white-oak floor plan of four bedrooms, three and a half baths, and spacious, versatile common areas capitalizing on the bright sunlight from oversized skylights and three exposures.

The old-school Gothic entrance, a lobby with a terra cotta tile floor and turned-baluster stairway welcome you with the vintage grace of a Parisian hotel at 191 Commonwealth Ave. in the Back Bay.

Kudos to the corner location, the mansard/gable roof’s exceptional height and the unit’s occupation of two-thirds of the penthouse level, the insulated windows offer awe-inspiring city views akin to those in a high-rise hotel.

And it is not just the views that are impressive here. In keeping in the style of its past, residents get that welcomed, special treatment that hotel guests love to receive.

Hotel-level amenities include daily concierge (8 a.m. to 9 p.m.), resident superintendent, a fire/security alarm with water-flow detection and Wi-Fi with access points throughout.

The old-school Gothic entrance, a lobby with a terra cotta tile floor and turned-baluster stairway welcome you with the vintage grace of a Parisian hotel.

A skylight dangling a chandelier of cone-lights, a cubical decorative mantel, crown molding, milled casings and a chevron-patterned white-oak floor give the foyer an art gallery aura, inviting artwork displays on the pearly-white walls.

The unit vestibule’s mosaic-tiled floor continues this spirit, contrasted by the foyer’s new-age loftiness. A skylight dangling a chandelier of cone-lights, a cubical decorative mantel, crown molding, milled casings and a chevron-patterned white-oak floor give the foyer an art gallery aura, inviting artwork displays on the pearly-white walls.

The foyer centrally accesses all points, conveniently grouped by function: laundry, a workshop plus primary and secondary bedroom suites on the left; the double bedroom/office on the right; a powder room and the third bedroom suite beside the vestibule as well as common spaces straight ahead.

Similarly, a transitional hall accesses the sunny dining room on the left, the gourmet kitchen straight ahead and the spacious living room on the right.

French-door sidelights introduce the dining room, where a skylight gable dangling a crystal chandelier illuminates all occasions from Sunday brunches to candlelight dinners.

In the kitchen, the counters encompass copious cabinet, drawer and pantry storage with brass hardware, a Thermador smooth-top electric range, stainless sink with a brass gooseneck faucet, a cabinet-hidden dishwasher and Sub-Zero refrigerator.

From here, two more French-door sidelights introduce the skylit kitchen where a long Carrara marble island and wall counters form an elegantly efficient food-prep center for everything from breakfasts to banquets.

The counters encompass copious cabinet, drawer and pantry storage with brass hardware, a Thermador smooth-top electric range, stainless sink with a brass gooseneck faucet, a cabinet-hidden dishwasher and Sub-Zero refrigerator. The adjoining butler’s pantry boasts a marble dry bar and Sub-Zero fridge drawers and wine cooler.

A double French door opens to the living room that benefits from a bay window and another window for optimum sun and a breathtaking view of the Commonwealth Avenue Mall, 200 Clarendon (aka John Hancock Tower) and the Old South Church’s Gothic tower. A chevron-patterned white-oak floor graces the space, a wood-burning fireplace with a Carrara marble mantel warms the occasion and two built-in bookcases flank an art wall.

This generous space with a fireplace can be used as another bedroom or as a home office.

Built-in shelving and chevron flooring abound in the double bedroom/office that can be arranged for sleep/work space, a media/family room, game room or other uses. A bay window and square fireplace with a marble mantel characterize one space while a Gothic-arched window and a Roman-arched marble mantel distinguish the other. A closet is handy in the passage between the parts.

The Gothic-windowed space connects to the third bedroom suite’s initial corridor of closets, which accesses a powder room with a hotel-quality marble vanity and a shower bath with fixed and hand-held shower heads before reaching a hall closet and the bedroom. A bay window and an alcove window offer ideal corner exposure and southwestern sun. A sculpted-glass chandelier and a chevron-patterned white-oak floor add to the elegance.

The final corridor from the foyer accesses the laundry and workshop before the last two bedroom suites. The right-hand laundry comprises a wall-mount sink, a side-by-side LG washer and dryer fitting neatly under a marble sorting counter, linen/detergent shelves and an industrial overhead lamp.

The left-hand workshop has unfinished pine shelf units, a tool-hanging pegboard and handy back-stairway egress. A pocket door closes off the bedroom suites for privacy.

The secondary bedroom suite begins with a shower bath such as the previous one. The bedroom’s double window offers generous sun from an open sky view.

This home includes four large bedrooms, loaded with plenty of closet space and windows with great views.

In the primary bedroom suite, a corridor of built-in closets and drawers with a makeup vanity alcove accesses a hotel-like bath with a radiant-heated marble floor, a Waterworks soaking tub, Calacatta marble twin-sink vanity and a marble shower before leading into a walk-in closet with a skylight to illuminate clothing selection.

This hotel-like bathroom has a radiant-heated marble floor, Waterworks soaking tub, a Calacatta marble twin-sink vanity and marble shower.

The bath’s northwestern view into Cambridge brightens your daily grooming while maintaining your privacy. Sharing this view is the bedroom, enriched with a crystal-bronze chandelier scrolled in the Art Nouveau style of a French hotel.

Offered at $9,350,000, Unit 61 at 191 Commonwealth Ave. lets you live in hotel luxury while extending your stay indefinitely.

For more information, contact William Montero of Mizner + Montero - Gibson Sotheby's International Realty at 617-312-7232 (mobile), 617-375-6900 (office) or William.Montero@GibsonSIR.com.

The old-school Gothic entrance, a lobby with a terra cotta tile floor and turned-baluster stairway welcome you with the vintage grace of a Parisian hotel at 191 Commonwealth Ave. in the Back Bay.

DETAILS:

Address: 191 Commonwealth Ave., Unit 61, Back Bay

BR/BA: Four bedrooms plus office, three full bathrooms, one half bath

Size: 4,072 square feet

Housing type: Penthouse condominium

Price: $9.350,000

Condo fee: $2,335/month, includes heat, hot water, water, sewer, concierge, superintendent, building maintenance and insurance, elevator, landscaping, snow and refuse removal

Taxes: $48,368 (Tax Year 2020)

Year built: 1871-1872, renovated 1965, 1973 and 2018-2019

Number of units: 15

Number of floors: Six

Features: High ceilings, oversized skylights, recessed lighting, new insulated windows on four exposures, white oak floors, five-zone central heating and air conditioning, natural-gas water heating, two fireplaces, bay windows, custom built-ins, gourmet eat-in kitchen with gas cooking and marble island counter, primary bedroom suite with Waterworks soaking tub and radiant-heated floor in bath, in-unit laundry

Building amenities: New elevator, new rubber roof, common laundry, concierge (8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily), resident superintendent, offsite professional management, exterior maintenance, landscaping, snow removal, refuse removal, non-smoking building, pet-friendly with restrictions

Close by: Schools; houses of worship; medical facilities; shopping and dining on Newbury and Boylston streets; Boston Public Library; parks; fitness trails; boating on the Charles River; public transit on the MBTA’s Green and Orange lines, buses, commuter rail and Amtrak; highway access

Contact: William Montero, Mizner + Montero - Gibson Sotheby's International Realty

Phone: 617-312-7232 (mobile), 617-375-6900 (office)

Email: William.Montero@GibsonSIR.com

Websites: www.sothebysrealty.com/eng/sales/detail/180-l-962-5x87hb/191-commonwealth-ave-unit-61-back-bay-east-boston-ma-02116