238 Marlborough was built in 1881 for real estate dealer Henry Whitwell, for speculative sale, one of three contiguous houses (238-240-242 Marlborough).
He is shown as the owner on the original building permit application for 238-240 Marlborough, dated April 4, 1881. No architect is listed on the application.
In his Houses of Boston’s Back Bay, Bainbridge Bunting indicates 238 Marlborough was one of nine contiguous houses (230-232-234-236-238-240-242-244-246 Marlborough) designed by Samuel D. Kelley, architect, and built for building contractor Samuel T. Ames in 1880-1882. It is possible that he originally owned the land and planned to develop all of these houses, but by the time the building permit applications were filed, he was shown as the owner for only three: 232-234-236 Marlborough. Members of the Whitwell family were listed as the owners of the rest: 230 Marlborough was owned by Frederick Augustus Whitwell (where he and his wife, Mary, lived), 238-240-242 were owned by his brother, Henry Whitwell, and 246 Marlborough was owned by their brother, S. Horatio Whitwell. The building permit application for 244 Marlborough has not, as yet, been located, but S. Horatio Whitwell is shown as the owner on the 1883 Bromley map. Samuel Kelley is shown as the architect on the applications for 230-232 and 246 Marlborough; no architect is listed on the applications for 234-236-238-240-242 Marlborough.
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 been married in June of 1881, and had lived at 71 Beacon during the 1881-1882 season. He is shown as the owner of 238 Marlborough on the 1883, 1888, and 1898 Bromley maps.
They continued to live there until late 1902, when they moved to a new house they had built at 160 Beacon.
In October of 1902, 238 Marlborough was purchased from the Parkinsons by real estate broker Edward Wigglesworth Grew and his wife, Ruth (Dexter) Grew. The transaction was reported by the Boston Globe on October 16, 1902. They had lived at 267 Clarendon in 1902. Ruth D. Grew is shown as the owner of 238 Marlborough on the 1908, 1917, 1928, and 1938 Bromley maps.
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.
By 1954, 238 Marlborough was the home of Earl W. Carr and his wife, Emma A. S. (Brennan) Carr, who operated it as a lodging house. They previously had lived at 972 Beacon. In November of 1954, they applied for (and subsequently received) permission to install fire balconies connecting with 240 Marlborough.
The Carrs continued to live at 238 Marlborough, and operate it as a lodging house, in 1963.
In August of 1964, Chamberlayne School and Chamberlayne Junior College acquired 238 Marlborough from Emma A. Carr. The school used 238 Marlborough as a dormitory.
In December of 1976, Back Bay Restorations Company, headed by Zena Nemetz of Newton, purchased 238 Marlborough from Bernard P. Rome. At the same time, Back Bay Restorations also purchased a number of Chamberlayne’s other properties (including 148 Commonwealth, 199 Marlborough, 278–280–282 Commonwealth, and 298 Commonwealth).
In October of 1976 (prior to formally acquiring the property), Back Bay Restorations filed for (and subsequently received) permission to remodel the property and convert it from a dormitory into six apartments.
In September of 1984, Back Bay Restorations converted 238 Marlborough into six condominiums.