238 Marlborough was designed by architect Samuel D. Kelley and built in 1881 by Keening & Fellows, masons, for real estate dealer Henry Whitwell. He is shown as the owner on the original building permit application for 238-240 Marlborough, dated April 4, 1881.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 238 Marlborough.
238 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 at public auctions in November of 1879. It appears likely that the Whitwells were the successful bidders and held bonds from the Commonwealth assuring them the right to purchase the land. They probably retained Samuel D. Kelley to prepare a common design for the houses and retained Samuel T. Ames to oversee their construction, transferring the bonds for the lots at 232-234-236 Marlborough to him as compensation. He then acted as the builder for those three lots and oversaw the construction of the other six. Alternatively, he may have been the successful bidder 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 1882-1883 winter season, 238 Marlborough was the home of banker and broker John Parkinson and his wife, Gertrude (Weld) Parkinson. They had married in June of 1881, and had lived at 71 Beacon during the 1881-1882 season. He purchased the land for 238 Marlborough on August 10, 1882, from the Commonwealth.
They continued to live at 238 Marlborough until late 1902, when they moved to a new house they had built at 160 Beacon.
On October 13, 1902, 238 Marlborough was purchased from John Parkinson by Ruth (Dexter) Grew, the wife of real estate broker Edward Wigglesworth Grew. They previously had lived at 267 Clarendon . They also maintained a home, Juniper Hill, in Dover, Massachusetts.
Edward Grew died in January of 1945. Ruth Grew continued to live at 238 Marlborough until about 1953. By 1954, she was living in an apartment at the Hotel Agassiz at 191 Commonwealth.
On July 28, 1953, 238 Marlborough was purchased from Ruth Grew by Albert Leo Hollingdale. He and his wife, Margaret E. (Tabor) Hollingdale, lived at 517 Beacon, where they operated a lodging house.
On August 3, 1953, 238 Marlborough was acquired from Albert Hollingdale by Emma Augustus Stevens (Brennan) Carr, the wife of Earl W. Carl. They made it their home and operated it as a lodging house. They previously had lived at 972 Beacon.
Earl Carr died in June of 1964.
On August 11, 1964, 238 Marlborough was purchased from Emma Carr by Chamberlayne School and Chamberlayne Junior College located at 128 Commonwealth. The school operated 238 Marlborough as a dormitory.
In the mid-1970s, Chamberlayne went bankrupt and on June 25, 1975, it transferred 238 Marlborough to Bernard P. Rome, trustee in bankruptcy.
On December 15, 1976, 238 Marlborough was purchased from Bernard Rome by the Back Bay Restorations Company, Limited Partnership (Zena Nemetz, president, treasurer, and general partner). At the same time, it also purchased Chamberlayne’s properties at 199 Marlborough, 148 Commonwealth, 278–280–282 Commonwealth, and 298 Commonwealth). In November of 1976, it had acquired 274 Commonwealth and 276 Commonwealth, which also previously had been owned by Chamberlayne.
In conjunction with the purchase, Back Bay Restorations entered into an agreement with the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) to operate the buildings as rental properties in exchange for being allowed to make yearly payments to the city in lieu of paying property tax on the properties.
In October of 1976 (prior to taking title to the property), Back Bay Restorations filed for (and subsequently received) permission to remodel the property and convert it from a dormitory into six apartments.
On February 3, 1984, Back Bay Restorations converted 274-276-278-280-282 Commonwealth into condominiums, and on September 24, 1984, it converted 148 Commonwealth, 298 Commonwealth, 199 Marlborough, and 238 Marlborough into condominiums.
238 Marlborough was converted into six condominium units, the 238 Marlborough Condominium.
In March of 1985, the BRA brought legal action for violation of the 1976 agreement, and in July of 1985, Back Bay Restorations signed a consent decree agreeing to keep most of the units as rental apartments for three years and to provide relocation costs to tenants previously forced to move out.
On February 24, 1992, the St. Paul Federal Bank for Savings foreclosed on its mortgage to Back Bay Restorations and sold all of the condominium units at 238 Marlborough, 199 Marlborough, 148 Commonwealth, and 298 Commonwealth to Managed Properties, Inc., of Chicago.
On June 29, 1992, Patricia M. Bailey, trustee of the PBH Realty Trust, purchased the condominium units at 238 Marlborough and the other three properties from Managed Properties, Inc. She subsequently sold the units to individual buyers.