164 Marlborough is located on the SW corner of Marlborough and Dartmouth, with 315 Dartmouth to the east, across Dartmouth, 166 Marlborough to the west, 163 Marlborough to the north, across Marlborough, and 314 Dartmouth to the south.
164 Marlborough was designed by Henry Hobson Richardson and built ca. 1870 as the home of dry goods merchant Benjamin Williams Crowninshield and his wife, Katharine May (Bradlee) Crowninshield.
The land on which 164 Marlborough was built had originally been acquired from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts by building contractor George Wheatland, Jr., part of a larger parcel on which 164 Marlborough and 312-314 Dartmouth would be built. He originally purchased the land at the Commonwealth’s auction on April 10, 1869, and then entered into agreements on August 23, 1869, and January 29, 1870, with Katharine Crowninshield under which he agreed to sell her the lot for 164 Marlborough once the Crowninshields had built their home on it. 164 Marlborough was completed in late 1870, the Commonwealth conveyed the land to George Wheatland, Jr., on November 15, 1870, and he conveyed the lot for 164 Marlborough to Katharine Crowninshield on December 15. 1870. He retained the land for 312-314 Dartmouth and began construction soon thereafter.
The original lot acquired from the Commonwealth by George Wheatland, Jr., had a frontage of 80 feet on Marlborough. On December 9, 1870, Eben D. Jordan purchased the lot immediately to the west from the Commonwealth, with a 25 foot frontage on Marlborough, and on December 15, 1870, he sold a 7 foot wide strip to George Wheatland, Jr. That same day, George Wheatland, Jr., sold the 7 foot strip at the west of 164 Marlborough to Katharine Crowninshield, increasing the frontage of her lot to 87 feet on Marlborough. On April 30, 1874, Eben Jordan sold the remainder of his lot, with an 18 foot frontage on Marlborough, to George Tyson, by then the owner of 314 Dartmouth, and on July 7, 1874, George Tyson sold the portion behind 164 Marlborough to Katharine Crowninshield, and the portion behind 312 Dartmouth to Catherine Fay, owner of 312 Dartmouth, increasing the east-west depth of each lot to 105 feet.
In the December 15, 1870, deed transferring the land to Katharine Crowninshield, George Wheatland, Jr., had agreed to restrictions on the dimensions of the houses he would build at 312-314 Dartmouth so that they would conform with the house already constructed at 164 Marlborough. That agreement also specified that nothing would be built on a small strip of land on Dartmouth Street, about 4.5 feet deep and extending about 7.3 feet at the face of the buildings on either side of the property line between 164 Marlborough and 314 Dartmouth.
On January 12, 1872, after 312-314 Dartmouth were completed, their new owners and Katharine Crowninshield entered into an agreement confirming that the dimensional requirements in the earlier deeds had been met and extending in perpetuity the prohibition on building on the small strip between 164 Marlborough and 314 Dartmouth.
The various deeds and agreements also specified a five foot (later four foot) wide easement at the western edge of 312-314 Dartmouth providing access and drainage from all three properties to the alley.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 164 Marlborough, and click here for further information about the land between the south side of Marlborough and Alley 425, from Dartmouth to Exeter.
After it was completed in 1870, Benjamin and Katharine Crowninshield made 164 Commonwealth their home. They previously had lived at 16 Brimmer. They also maintained a home at Peaches Point in Marblehead.
During the 1884-1885 winter season, the Crowninshields were living elsewhere and 164 Marlborough was the home of Joseph Burnett, his wife, Josephine (Cutter) Burnett, and their unmarried son, Harry Burnett. They had lived at 321 Dartmouth during the previous season.
Joseph Burnett was a chemical manufacturer and maker of flavoring extracts. He owned Deerfoot, a large summer estate and dairy farm in Southborough. In 1860, he had donated the Church of St. Mark’s in Southborough, and in 1862, he founded St. Mark’s School in association with the Church.
By the 1885-1886 winter season, the Burnetts had moved to 61 Commonwealth.
The Crowninshields may have briefly resumed living at 164 Marlborough, but in the fall of 1885 they leased the house to the newly-formed Algonquin Club as its temporary clubhouse. On December 6, 1885, the Boston Globe’s “Table Gossip” column reported both that “Mr. B. W. Crowninshield has removed from 164 Marlboro street to 209 Beacon street,” and (in a separate item) that “Mr. B. W. Crowninshield and family will spend the winter in Washington.”
On December 12, 1885, the Boston Globe reported on the Algonquin Club’s plans to move to 164 Marlborough, noting that the “contracts for the furniture, draperies, carpets, crockery and glassware have been given. Mr. Preissler, who has been connected with several New York clubs, has been engaged as superintendent, and M. Auguste, formerly of the Union Club, is to be chef. The membership of the club has now reached 300.” While awaiting their new quarters, the Club met at the Hotel Vendôme. The Globe’s “Table Gossip” column on December 20, 1885, provided details on the Club’s lease, reporting that it had “leased the Crowninshield House for five years and that at the end of that period they are to give up the house exactly as it now is; but in the meantime any alterations may be made. Mr. H. H. Richardson, who was the architect of the house, is to have charge of any alterations required. The Club will take possession by January 2.”
On January 9, 1886, the Boston Journal described the Club’s remodeling in detail:
“The doors open into a wide entrance hall, in which an office has been fitted up on the left of the entrance and a coat room on the right. To the left of the hall is the dining room, which is a remarkably pleasant room, having windows both on the Marlboro’ and the Dartmouth street sides. Square oak tables are placed around the sides of the room, and a massive extension table occupies the center. Across the hall from the dining room is the parlor, which also has windows on two sides. The ceiling is handsomely frescoed. The window draperies are of rich heavy stuffs, and the furniture is upholstered with plush in several shades of maroon and olive. On the second floor are four rooms. Two small ones over the parlor are for card games or general purposes, a third room over the entrance hall is for the library, and over the dining room is the café. The library has shelf room for about three hundred volumes, and the walls are adorned with a landscape in oil and several fine engravings of classical and modern subjects. The café is fitted up in much the same style as the parlor, and both this room and the card rooms are hung with spirited engravings and handsome paintings in oil. The rooms on the third and fourth floors correspond to those on the second and are to be used for general purposes, except the large room on the fourth floor, which is the billiard room, and contains a billiard and a pool table. The corresponding room on the third floor will be available for private dinners. The kitchen and store room are in the basement. …”.
On October 22, 1888, the Boston Journal reported that the Algonquin Club would m move from 164 Commonwealth on November 1, noting that the “terms of the lease demanded that the club should restore the house to its original condition at the expiration of the term, but the matter has been adjusted by the payment of a satisfactory amount in lieu of alterations and the vacating of the premises one month earlier than the close of the three years.”
The Club moved to its newly-built permanent location at 217 Commonwealth at the beginning of November, 1888, and the Crowninshields resumed living at 164 Marlborough soon thereafter.
Benjamin Crowninshield died in January of 1892 in Rome.
Emily Crowninshield died in September of 1892.
Katharine Crowninshield continued to live at 164 Marlborough and in Marblehead with their four surviving children.
Francis Crowninshield, an insurance broker, married in June of 1900 to Louise Evalina duPont. After their marriage, they lived in an apartment at 330 Dartmouth.
Bowdoin Crowninshield, a naval architect, married in May of 1901 to Priscilla Janet McPhail. After their marriage, they lived at The Metropole at 1455 Beacon in Brookline and then the New Hotel Bellevue at 19-23 Beacon; in May of 1903 they purchased and moved to 27 Hereford.
Bowdoin Crowninshield’s marriage received attention from the press because, according to the accounts in the Boston Globe and Boston Post, the couple married without the knowledge of his family or business associates. The newspapers also reported that, in July of 1900, Priscilla McPhail had filed suit against Henry Niebuhr Richards, a real estate and insurance dealer, for breach of promise. The suit apparently was not pursued and he married in January of 1901 to Mary Derby Flagg; after their marriage, they lived at 103 Marlborough.
Katharine (Bradlee) Crowninshield died in August of 1902. In her will, she left bulk of her estate, including 164 Marlborough, in equal shares to her four surviving children: Bowdoin. Francis, Benjamin, Jr., and Katharine Crowninshield. In a codicil, she specified that the portion inherited by Bowdoin Crowninshield was to be held in trust for his benefit and the benefit of his children, with the residual to be distributed to her remaining children, because he “has married without my approval and it is my desire that his wife in no event take any part of my property.”
Katharine Crowninshield married in October of 1902 to Dr. Lincoln Davis, a physician and surgeon. After their marriage, they lived at 315 Marlborough.
During the 1902-1903 winter season, 164 Marlborough was the home of Isaac Tucker Burr, Jr., a banker and broker, and his wife, Alice McClure (Peters) Burr. They previously had lived in Milton. By the 1903-1904 winter season, they had moved to 127 Commonwealth.
In May of 1903, Francis Boardman Crowninshield acquired his three siblings’ interests in 164 Marlborough, and he and Louise (duPont) Crowninshield made it their Boston home. They also maintained homes at Peaches Point in Marblehead, in Boca Grande, Florida, and at the duPont family estate, Eleutherian Mills, north of Wilmington, Delaware.
Pauline C. Metcalf, in Ogden Codman and the Decoration of Houses, indicates that Ogden Codman, Jr., provided Francis Crowninshield with interior decoration services at 164 Marlborough between 1903 and 1910.
Francis Crowninshield had served as a member of Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders during the Spanish American War. He was one of the country’s leading yachtsmen and was part of the American team that won the King of Spain’s cup in 1910.
Benjamin W. Crowninshield, Jr., continued to maintain his Boston residence at 164 Marlborough with his brother and sister-in-law, but made his home primarily in Marblehead. He was unmarried.
Between about 1908 and 1911, the Crowninshields were living elsewhere.
During the 1907-1908 winter season, 164 Marlborough was the home of Bellamy Storer and his wife, Maria (Longworth) Storer. He had been an attorney in Cincinnati and a Member of Congress. He subsequently served in Europe as US envoy to various countries, his last post being in Vienna. Maria (Longworth) Nichols Storer was an artist and, in 1880, had founded Rookwood Pottery in Cincinnati. Her nephew, Nicholas Longworth, who had married in 1906 to Theodore Roosevelt’s daughter, Alice, and later served as Speaker of the House of Representatives.
An April 27, 1907, Boston Globe article reporting that the Storers had leased 164 Marlborough described the house as having “more than 20 large and high-studded rooms…Its interior finish is of oak, and though the fashion of 20 years ago is very handsome.”
By the next season, the Storers had moved to 56 The Fenway.
During the 1908-1909 winter season, 164 Marlborough was the home of Eugene Van Rensselaer Thayer, Jr., and his wife, Gladys Baldwin (Brooks) Thayer. They had lived at 353 Commonwealth during the previous season. They also maintained a home in Lancaster. He was an investment broker, and later would become president of the Merchants National Bank in Boston and then president of Chase National Bank in New York. During the 1909-1910 season, Lancaster was their primary residence. During the 1910-1911 winter season, they made their Boston home at the Hotel Puritan at 390 Commonwealth, and in 1912 they moved to 340 Beacon.
During the 1909-1910 winter season, 164 Marlborough was the home of Dr. Elisha Flagg, a physician, and his wife, Eleanor Amelia Marguerite Cecilia (Shattuck) Whitney Flagg. They had married in November of 1909, and 164 Marlborough probably was their first home together. Prior to their marriage, Elisha Flagg had lived at 190 Commonwealth with his mother, Euretta (Lent) Reed Flagg, the widow of George Flagg, and Eleanor (Shattuck) Whitney had lived at 14 Gloucester. They continued to live at 164 Marlborough during the 1911-1912 season, but moved thereafter to 199 Commonwealth.
By the 1912-1913 winter season, Francis and Louise Crowninshield were living at 164 Marlborough once again. In about 1923, they made their Boca Grande home their primary residence but continued to maintain 164 Marlborough as their Boston home. They continued to live there until about 1935.
From 1935 through 1949, the house was shown as vacant in the Boston City Directories, and the Crowninshields probably were living at one of their other homes. Francis Crowninshield died in May of 1950. Louise Crowninshield resumed living at 164 Marlborough as her Boston home until her death in July of 1958.
On November 16, 1959, 164 Marlborough was purchased from the estate of Louise Crowninshield by Justin W. Griess and his wife, Katherine (Haskell) Sears Griess. They lived at 421 Beacon.
Justin Griess was founder and owner of Yankee Maid Products, a household design and outfitting firm on Newbury Street. After he retired, he purchased and remodeled houses in the Back Bay and Beacon Hill. He also was a prominent breeder of poodles.
On September 9, 1960, 164 Commonwealth was acquired from Justin and Katherine Griess by Toba Esther Finn (Tresa E. (Finkelstein) Friedman), the former wife of Julian Friedman. She also owned 163 Marlborough, across the street, where she operated a lodging house. In the mid- and late 1950s, she had lived at 317 Beacon, where she operated a restaurant.
On December 20, 1960, 164 Marlborough was acquired from Toba Finn by Harry Freedman and his wife, Lillian R. (Zacks/Sacks) Freedman. They acquired 163 Marlborough at the same time. They lived in Newton.
Harry Freedman was a real estate dealer specializing in dormitories and multiple dwellings.
In July of 1962, the Cambridge School of Business, located on Boylston, announced that both 163 Marlborough and 164 Marlborough would become women’s dormitories for their school.
On November 18, 1968, 164 Marlborough and 163 Marlborough were purchased from Garden Halls, Inc., by George J. Brennan, Jr., Louis Francis Musco, and Mary B. Musco, trustees of the Commonwealth Realty Trust. George Brennan and Louis F. Musco had co-founded Bay State Academy (later Bay State College), located at 122 Commonwealth. Mary Bernadette (McCabe) Musco was Louis Musco’s wife. Louis Musco also served as Suffolk County Register of Probate.
They continued to operate both properties as dormitories.
In 1972, 164 Marlborough was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Louis Musco died in October of 1972 and his son, Louis, Jr., succeeded him as co-trustee of the Commonwealth Realty Trust.
In May of 1974, Louis Musco, Jr., acquired 166 Marlborough. In July of 1976, when he sold it, he reserved to himself the right at some future time to increase by nine feet the height of “the present one-story building, now known as 164A Marlborough, attached to seller’s building at 164 Marlborough.” This one-story building at 164A Marlborough, which fills the entire side yard, had been built sometime after 1938 as an expansion of a previous ell located on the southern half of lot (the Building Department files do not include the permit for this addition).
In October of 1975, the Commonwealth Realty Trust sold 163 Marlborough. It retained 164 Marlborough, which continued to be a dormitory for Bay State College in 2015.