232 Marlborough was designed by architect Samuel D. Kelley and built in 1880 by Edward Chapin, mason, for building contractor Samuel Tarbell Ames. He is shown as the owner on the original building permit application, dated February 27, 1880, and on the final building inspection report, dated October 23, 1880. The house is numbered 228 Marlborough on the permit application and building inspection documents, but was renumbered 232 Marlborough soon thereafter, when houses to the east were constructed.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 232 Marlborough, and click here for further information about the land between the south side of Marlborough and Alley 426, from Exeter to Fairfield.
232 Marlborough was one of nine contiguous houses (230-232-234-236-238-240-242-244-246 Marlborough) built in the same design and with similar architectural details, the only significant difference being the use of bows (rather than octagonal bays) at 244-246 Marlborough, the last two houses built. The original permit applications for all but 244 Marlborough are included in the Building Department’s files. Three of the applications – for 230, 232, and 246 Marlborough – indicate the architect as being Samuel D. Kelley. The other five applications do not indicate the name of the architect, but the houses are attributed to Samuel D. Kelley by Bainbridge Bunting’s Houses of Boston’s Back Bay, which, given the close similarity in design, appears to be correct.
Bunting also indicates that all nine houses were built for building contractor Samuel Tarbell Ames. This does not appear to be entirely correct. Based on the permit applications and final building inspection reports (to the extent that they are available), six of the nine houses were built for real estate dealers (and brothers) Frederick Augustus Whitwell (shown as owner of 230 Marlborough), Henry Whitwell (shown as owner of 238-240-242 Marlborough), and Samuel Horatio Whitwell (shown as the owner of 244-246 Marlborough), and three (232-234-236 Marlborough) were built for Samuel T. Ames.
The land for all nine houses was sold by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts through privately-negotiated agreements (rather than at public auctions) in November of 1879 and in early1880. Based on subsequent deeds and permits, it appears likely that the contracts for the four lots at 230-236 Marlborough, entered into on November 3, 1879, and for the four lots at 238-244 Marlborough, entered into on November 5, 1880, were with the Whitwells. The 25.3 foot lot at 246 Marlborough was composed of a 24.3 foot lot purchased from the Commonwealth on February 16, 1880, by George E. Niles, who sold it to Samuel H. Whitwell on March 23, 1883, and a one foot lot to the west that Samuel H. Whitwell purchased from the Commonwealth on January 15, 1884. The Whitwells probably retained Samuel D. Kelley to prepare a common design for the houses and retained Samuel T. Ames to oversee their construction, transferring to him their right to purchase the lots at 232-234-236 Marlborough as compensation. He then acted as the builder for those three lots and oversaw the construction of the other six. Alternatively, Samuel Ames may have held the original contracts for the three lots and used the same plans prepared by Samuel D. Kelley for his three houses.
In most cases, when the houses were nearing completion, they were sold to individual buyers who purchased the land directly from the Commonwealth and paid the Whitwells or Samuel T. Ames for the cost of the dwelling house. Frederick Whitwell kept 230 Marlborough, the first house built, as his home. Samuel H. Whitwell kept 244-246 Marlborough, buying the land and then reselling the land and houses to individual buyers.
By the 1881-1882 winter season, 232 Marlborough was the home of John Wells Cumings, an importer and dealer in raw sugar, and his wife, Abba (Clark) Cumings. Abba Cumings purchased the land from the Commonwealth on March 28, 1881. They previously had lived at 170 West Brookline.
The Cumings’ three children – Clara Louisa Cumings, Marion Wells Cumings, and John Bradley Cumings – lived with them.
Clara Cumings married in November of 1883 to architect George Homans Wetherell. After their marriage, they lived in Brookline.
Marion Cumings married in October of 1887 to Frank Brewer Bemis, a banker. After their marriage, they lived in the Longwood district of Brookline.
John Cumings died in a railroad accident on October 13, 1891. Abba Cumings and their son, John Bradley Cumings moved soon thereafter to an apartment at 295 Commonwealth. J. Bradley Cumings was a banker. He married in September of 1896 to Florence Briggs Thayer. After their marriage, they lived in Brookline and then moved to New York City in about 1898. In April of 1912, they were passengers on the SS Titanic; he was killed and she was rescued.
On December 1, 1891, 232 Marlborough was purchased from Abba Cumings by wool merchant Joseph Cutler Whitney. He and his wife, Georgiana (Hayward) Whitney, made it their home. They previously had lived at 124 Marlborough. They also maintained a home in Milton.
Joseph Whitney died in July of 1911. Georgiana Whitney continued to live at 232 Marlborough. Their sons — Henry Lawrence Whitney, George Haywood Whitney, and Robert Upton Whitney — lived with her.
Robert Whitney married in August of 1917 to Lucy Holman Burgess. After their marriage, they lived at 232 Marlborough while he served in the US Army. By 1920, they had moved to Milburn, New Jersey.
Henry Whitney married in August of 1923 to Rosamond Houghton. After their marriage, they lived at 7 Exeter. He was a city planner with the City of Boston.
George Whitney married in January of 1925 to Dorothy Jordan. He was a fire extinguisher dealer and fire insurance broker. He was a noted “spark” who went to major fires throughout Boston, and his marriage received special note in January 21, 1925, issue of the Boston Globe because the night of his marriage, he and his bride (still in her wedding dress) left the wedding reception at the Engineers Club (at 2 Commonwealth) to rush to a fire at the Highland Hotel in Roxbury.
After their marriage, George and Dorothy Whitney lived with his mother at 232 Marlborough. Georgiana Whitney also continued to maintain her home in Milton, while George and Dorothy Whitney maintained a second home in Ponkapoag, Massachusetts.
George and Dorothy Whitney continued to live at 232 Marlborough during the 1929-1930 winter season, but moved thereafter to Milton.
On April 6, 1935, 232 Marlborough was purchased from Georgiana Whitney’s estate by Dr. Frank Roberts Ober, a physician. He and his wife, Ina Mabel (Spurling) Ober, lived in Brookline and he maintained his medical offices at 234 Marlborough (which had been converted into medical offices in about 1908).
In August of 1935, he applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert 232 Marlborough from a single-family dwelling into doctors’ offices, cutting doors through the party wall between 232 and 234 Marlborough on the first, second, and third floors. Thereafter, 232 Marlborough was not listed separately in the City Directories.
The combining of the two buildings apparently was done under an agreement with Elizabeth (Storey) Lovett, the widow of Dr. Robert Williamson Lovett, who owned 234 Marlborough until her death in March of 1951. Frank Ober subsequently purchased the property from her estate in June of 1951.
On October 2, 1947, Frank Ober transferred 232 Marlborough to the Obrebar Corporation. After he acquired 234 Marlborough, he transferred it to the Obrebar Corporation as well.
Frank Ober continued to maintain his medical office at 234 Marlborough until his death in December of 1960.
On March 17, 1961, 232 Marlborough was purchased from the Obrebar Corporation by George Najarian, Nubar J. Dinjian, and John H. Ayvazian, trustees of the Penwood Realty Trust. In February of 1961, prior to taking title, the trust applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from doctors’ offices into ten apartments. In March of 1961, Albert H. Brewster, treasurer of the Obrebar Corporation, which still owned 234 Marlborough, applied for (and subsequently received) permission to “brick up openings in the party wall” between 232 and 234 Marlborough, and to install fire balconies between the two buildings. 234 Marlborough remained doctors’ offices.
The property changed hands and on April 27, 1972, was acquired by Betty Bishop.
On October 1, 1973, she converted the property into ten condominium units, the 232 Marlborough Street Condominium.