‘226 Commonwealth Ave.,’ Dr. Howard T. Swain’s office and home

I mentioned in a previous post that the physician and Harvard Medical School professor, Howard T. Swain, maintained – in the time-honored tradition of doctors everywhere prior to say, 1930 or 40 – a true home office.

The downstairs floor of the house at 226 Commonwealth Ave. in Boston’s Back Bay was the location for his large obstetrical, gynecological, and (I infer) pediatric practice. The upstairs floors were for his family, and, as such, held many of my grandmother’s – his daughter, Helen Swain Burgin’s – sweetest memories.

For several years after college, when my grandmother was “at home” (a 19th and early 20th century phrase connoting a sort of existential purgatory for talented but unmarried women), she would accompany her father on his home visits to see patients. Working as his assistant, she and the man she adored would go out from and return to this place each day.

In her elder years, probably the late ’80s,  I remember one car trip into Boston during which, at her request, we intentionally drove by the house and live parked in the street, flashers on and blocking traffic, while she looked up at it, one last time, saying nothing.


Howard Swain's office and home at 226 Commonwealth Ave

226 Comm. Ave. – Howard T. Swain, M.D.’s office and home



One thought on “‘226 Commonwealth Ave.,’ Dr. Howard T. Swain’s office and home

  1. Helen B. Hazen March 12, 2017 / 9:12 pm

    Hi Langdon – I remember that house. When I was very young we would often go there for Sunday dinners with “Gagie”. The old office was still intact with examining table, medical instruments still there as well as the adjoining “waiting room” for patients. The dining room was also on the ground floor with a butlers pantry where the food was sent up from the kitchen below by a “dumb waiter” Sunday lunch often ended with finger bowls with small Chinese paper flowers floating in them which expanded as they absorbed the water. It was fun to see your photo – just as I remember it. There were bedrooms and a large nursery on the top floor. Wonderful research! Aunt R.

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