181 Marlborough was designed by Shaw and Shaw, architects, and built in 1881 by Casper C. E. Clark and Vinal & Dodge, builders. It was built as the home of attorney John Larkin Thorndike and his wife, Florence (Greenough) Thorndike. They previously had lived at 131 Mt. Vernon. He is shown as the owner of 181 Marlborough on the original building permit application, dated March 15, 1881, and on the 1883, 1888, 1898, 1908, and 1917 Bromley maps.
They also maintained a summer home in Manchester.
John Thorndike died in October of 1920.
Florence Thorndike continued to live at 181 Marlborough until her death in 1940. The Heirs of John L. Thorndike are shown as the owners on the 1928 Bromley map, and Moses Williams et al, trustees, are shown as the owners on the 1938 map.
By 1941, 181 Marlborough was owned by M. James Sproul. In October of 1941, he applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a single-family dwelling into a lodging house.
The property changed hands and in September of 1950 was acquired by Claude W. Yorke, who continued to operate it as a lodging house. He previously had been a lodger at 2 Marlborough. He continued to live at 181 Marlborough until about 1964.
In February of 1963, 181 Marlborough was acquired from Claude Yorke by Herbert Lemelman, trustee of the Bethan Realty Trust.
In May of 1965 was acquired from Herbert Lemelman by Richard J. Reynolds and William R. Smith, Jr. They continued to operate it as a lodging house.
William R. Smith, Jr., died in October of 2004, and in June of 2005, Richard Reynolds filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a lodging house into three apartments.
In October of 2005, the 181 LLC purchased 181 Marlborough from Richard J. Reynolds, and in August of 2007, it converted the property into three condominiums.