239 Marlborough was built in 1875-1876 for building contractor George Wheatland, Jr., one of four contiguous houses (233-235-237-239 Marlborough), designed as two sets of symmetrical pairs.
On November 14, 1874, the Boston Globe reported that George Wheatland, Jr., had been issued a building permit for the four houses. Construction may have started soon thereafter, but probably was delayed until the spring. In his Houses of Boston’s Back Bay, Bainbridge Bunting indicates that these houses were built in 1874. However, based on the date of the permit and references to them in advertisements and deeds, it appears that they were completed in 1876.
233-235-237-239 Marlborough were built on the eastern 66.67 feet of a 75 foot wide parcel of land that George Wheatland, Jr., purchased as three 25 foot lots at the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’s public sale on March 2, 1872. On May 3, 1873, he transferred the Commonwealth’s bonds securing his right to purchase the lots to Eben Dyer Jordan and Charles Marsh, co-partners in the dry goods firm of Jordan, Marsh & Co. On November 25, 1876, after the houses were built, they transferred the bonds back to him, and on November 28, 1876, he purchased the land from the Commonwealth.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 239 Marlborough, and click here for further information about the land between the north side of Marlborough and Alley 417, from Exeter to Fairfield.
None of the four houses sold, and on February 28, 1877, George Wheatland, Jr., transferred the 75 foot lot and “four new dwelling houses thereon” back to Eben D. Jordan and Charles Marsh. They sold the houses between September of 1878 and January of 1881, and in September of 1881 sold the remaining 8.33 foot lot to the west to real estate dealer Samuel Horatio Whitwell.
On October 31, 1878, 239 Marlborough was purchased from Eben D. Jordan and Charles Marsh by Miss Isabel Harris of Woonsocket, Rhode Island. She married the next month to William Penn Metcalf, a wool merchant, and they made it their home. They continued to live at 239 Marlborough during the 1880-1881 season, but moved thereafter to 75 Mt. Vernon, by which time he had become a stockbroker.
On July 2, 1881, 239 Marlborough was purchased from Isabel Metcalf by banker George Whitney. He and his wife, Elizabeth (Whitney) Whitney, made it their home. They had married in December 1880; before their marriage, he had lived at 75 Marlborough with his unmarried sisters, Eunice and Mary Whitney. The Whitneys also maintained a home in Nahant.
The Whitneys raised their three children at 239 Marlborough: Elinor Whitney, George Whitney, Jr., and Richard Whitney.
During the 1899-1900 winter season, the Whitneys were living elsewhere and 239 Marlborough was the home of Charles Ritchie Simpkins and his sister, Mabel Simpkins. By the 1900-1901 season, they had moved to 183 Marlborough, and the Whitneys were once again living at 239 Marlborough.
George Whitney died in April of 1901. Elizabeth Whitney continued to live at 239 Marlborough.
In 1902, she was briefly joined at 239 Marlborough by Dr. Charles Sedgwick Minot, a physician and professor of anatomy at Harvard Medical School, and his wife, Lucy (Fosdick) Minot. They previously had lived in Milton, where they continued to maintain a home. By the 1902-1903 winter season, they had moved to 227 Marlborough.
Elizabeth Whitney continued to live at 239 Marlborough during the 1903-1904 winter season, but was living elsewhere during the next two seasons.
In October of 1904, Elinor Whitney married to Archibald Blanchard of 8 Gloucester, a stock broker. After their marriage, they lived at 1091 Boylston and, by the 1910-1911 winter season, at 10 Fairfield.
During the 1904-1905 winter season, 239 Marlborough was the home of Mary Augusta (Richards) Bullard, the widow of attorney John Richards Bullard. She previously had lived in an apartment at 407 Marlborough. By 1906, she had moved to Dorchester.
During the 1905-1906 winter season, 239 Marlborough was the home of Susan (Tiffany) Player, widow of attorney John Preston Player, and their son, Preston Player, a mechanical and electrical engineer. They previously had lived at the Abbotsford at 186 Commonwealth. By 1907, they had moved to 405 Beacon and Elizabeth Whitney was once again living at 239 Marlborough.
Elizabeth Whitney continued to live at 239 Marlborough in April of 1910, at the time of the 1910 US Census. George Whitney, Jr., a bond broker, and Richard Whitney, a clerk with investment bankers Kidder, Peabody & Co., lived with her. They both moved soon thereafter to New York City, where they became stock and bond brokers. Richard Whitney subsequently founded his own firm, purchased a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, and became internationally known for his attempts to support the failing stock market on October 24, 1929, through huge purchases of falling stocks. He served as president of the New York Stock Exchange from 1930 to 1935. In 1938, investigations showed that he had borrowed large amounts from his family, friends, and accounts in his trust, and was convicted of embezzlement.
Elizabeth Whitney had moved by the 1910-1911 winter season, probably also to New York City, where she was living in May of 1912 (in January of 1915 she was living temporarily at the Abbotsford at 184-186 Commonwealth when she either fell or jumped from the window and was killed; she was in Boston to visit her son-in-law and daughter, Archibald and Elinor Blanchard, living at 10 Fairfield).
By the 1910-1911 winter season, 239 Marlborough was the home of attorney Charles Sedgwick Rackemann and his wife Fanny S. (Pomeroy) Rackemann. They also maintained a home in Readville (Milton). On May 22, 1912, he purchased the property from Elizabeth Whitney.
They continued to live at 239 Marlborough during the 1911-1912 season, but moved thereafter to the Hotel Kempton at 237 Berkeley.
239 Marlborough was not listed in the 1913-1915 Blue Books.
By the 1915-1916 winter season, it was the home of Miss Mary A. Spalding and her sister, Miss Dora Narcissa Spalding. They previously had lived at 37 Bay State Road. They continued to live at 239 Marlborough during the 1922-1923 winter season, but moved thereafter to an apartment at 8 Gloucester.
On June 29, 1923, 239 Marlborough was acquired from Charles Rackemann by the Central Congregational Church. It became the home of the church’s pastor, Rev. Seeley Kelly Tompkins, and his wife, Sara Ina (Gilfillan) Tompkins. They previously had lived in Brockton, where he had been pastor of the South Congregational Church. They continued to live at 239 Marlborough during the 1925-1926 winter season, but moved thereafter to Colorado Springs, where he became pastor of the First Congregational Church.
On July 7, 1926, 239 Marlborough was purchased from the Central Congregational Church by Dorothy (Morgan) Courtney, the wife of Paul Graham Courtney, an investment banker with Lee, Higginson & Co. They previously had lived at 10 Fairfield. They continued to live at 239 Marlborough until about 1929, when he became manager of Lee, Higginson’s Paris office.
On February 25, 1930, 239 Marlborough was acquired from Dorothy Courtney by Ethel (Whiting) Otis, widow of Herbert Foster Otis, who made it her home with her adult children, James Otis, a lawyer with the Boston Safe Deposit & Trust Company, and Mary Otis. The previous year, Ethel and Mary Otis had lived in Montecito, California, and before that at 13 Gloucester; James Otis previously had lived at the Tennis & Racquet Club at 939 Boylston. They all had lived at 9 Hereford during the 1926-1927 winter season.
James Otis moved to 4 Boylston Place in about 1937.
Ethel and Mary Otis continued to live at 239 Marlborough until the early 1950s.
On June 24, 1954, 239 Marlborough was purchased from Ethel Otis by Edward M. Walsh and his wife, Octavia Morley (Sawyer) Walsh. They lived at 304 Beacon.
On December 1, 1954, 239 Marlborough was purchased from the Walshes by Frederick Goodridge and his wife, Meriale Catherine (Lund) Goodridge. He was a vice president of Hollingsworth and Whitney, paper manufacturers. They previously had lived in Cambridge.
On August 26, 1955, 239 Marlborough was purchased from the Goodridges by a trust established under the will of Charlotte (Winslow) Lowell, the widow of Robert Traill Spence Lowell, III, for the benefit of their son, poet and playwright Robert Traill Spence Lowell, IV. He and his wife, Elizabeth (Hardwick) Lowell, made it their home. She was an essayist, novelist, critic, and founder of the New York Review of Books. At that time, Robert Lowell was a lecturer and then an assistant professor at Boston University.
They continued to live at 239 Marlborough until about 1961.
On July 31, 1961, 239 Marlborough was purchased from the Lowell trust by Michael Lay and his wife, M. Elizabeth Lay. On November 30, 2007, Michael and M. Elizabeth Lay transferred the property to themselves as trustees of the Marlborough Street Nominee Trust.
239 Marlborough remained a single-family dwelling in 2020.