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 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.