296 Marlborough was designed by L. Newcomb and Son (Edgar A. P. Newcomb), architects, and built in 1877 by Goldthwait and Chapin, one of two contiguous houses (294-296 Marlborough).
The houses were built for Harvard law professor James Barr Ames, probably for speculative sale. His father, Samuel Tarbell Ames, was a building contractor credited with having built over thirty residences in the Back Bay between 1879 and 1885. At about the same time as he designed 294-296 Marlborough, Edgar A. P. Newcomb also designed two houses for James B. Ames across the street, at 301–303 Marlborough, with similar distinctive peaked roofs.
James B. Ames is shown as the owner on the original building permit application for 294-296 Marlborough, dated December 5, 1877, and on the final inspection report, dated October 8, 1878.
By 1879, 296 Marlborough was the home of Samuel Carr, Jr., and his wife, Susan Waters (Tarbox) Carr. They previously lived at the Hotel Alexandra (1759 Washington at Massachusetts Avenue). He is shown as the owner of 296 Marlborough on the 1883, 1888, and 1898 Bromley maps.
Samuel Carr was Cashier of the National Hide and Leather Bank. In 1882, he was named president of the Central National Bank, and in 1883, he became secretary to Frederick Lothrop Ames, then the largest real estate owner in Boston. He subsequently became a trustee of the Ames Estate. Samuel Carr also was an organist and composer.
The Carrs continued to live at 296 Marlborough in 1902, but had moved to 403 Commonwealth by 1903.
296 Marlborough was not listed in the 1903 Blue Book.
By the 1903-1904 winter season, 296 Marlborough was the home of cotton dealer Francis Lowell Coolidge and his wife Alice Brackett (White) Coolidge. They previously had lived in an apartment at 362 Commonwealth. Alice Coolidge is shown as the owner of 296 Marlborough on the 1908, 1917, and 1928 Bromley maps. They also maintained a residence in Milton.
Alice Brackett died in December of 1927. Francis Coolidge continued to live at 296 Marlborough until his death in September of 1942.
296 Marlborough was shown as vacant in the 1943 City Directory.
By 1945, 296 Marlborough had been converted into a multiple dwelling, either a lodging house or apartments.
By 1953, 296 Marlborough was owned by Matthew Joseph Malloy and his wife, Ione (Wilkinson) Malloy, who operated it as a lodging house. They lived in Newton. In the 1930s, the Malloys had founded Stratford School, located at 128 Commonwealth. In the 1950s, it merged with Chamberlayne School, located at 130 Commonwealth.
In June of 1952, the Malloys had entered into a mortgage with H. Lorraine (Johnson) Cory. In September of 1953, she foreclosed the mortgage and took possession of the property. She continued to operate it as a lodging house.
The property subsequently changed hands and in May of 1961 was purchased by attorney Daniel J. Finn. Daniel Finn and his wife, Mary (Ross) Finn, lived next door, at 294 Marlborough.
In March of 1962, he filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a lodging house into seven apartments (which he asserted was the use at the time he purchased the property).
296 Marlborough remained an apartment building in 2014.