300 Berkeley was built for building contractor George Wheatland, Jr. ca. 1867, for speculative sale, one of two contiguous houses (300-302 Berkeley) in a symmetrical composition with matching two story oriel windows and arched, recessed entries.
George Wheatland, Jr., bought the land for 300-302 Berkeley on February 28, 1865, from Horace Gray, Jr., an Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and later Chief Justice of the Massachusetts court and then an Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court. It was part of a larger lot which included the land where 53 Marlborough and 300-302-304 Berkeley would be built. Horace Gray, Jr., had acquired the lot on August 8, 1863, from shipping merchant and real estate investor John Lowell Gardner, whose sister, Sarah Russell (Gardner) Gray, was Horace Gray, Jr.’s stepmother. John L. Gardner had purchased the land from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on May 2, 1860.
The original deeds for 300-302-304 Berkeley provided a five foot wide easement at the western edge of the lots, running from the northwest corner of 300 Berkeley through the rear yards of 302 and 304 Berkeley to provide for access to the alley.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 300 Berkeley, and click here for further information about the land between the north side of Marlborough and Alley 420, from Berkeley to Clarendon.
On August 27, 1868, 300 Berkeley was purchased from George Wheatland by iron and steel merchant Charles Stratton Dana. He and his wife, Marie (Grogan) Dana, made it their home. They previously had lived at the Parker House hotel.
Charles Dana died in February of 1922. Marie Dana continued to live at 300 Berkeley until shortly before her death in August of 1924.
On April 26, 1924, 300 Berkeley was purchased from Marie Dana and her daughter, Martha Isabella (Dana) Mercer, the wife of William R. Mercer, by Arthur Pratt Felton and his wife, Louise Abbott (Twambly) Felton. They previously had lived in Allston. He was a dealer in paint, oil, and varnish. They continued to live at 300 Berkeley in 1926, but moved that year to Marblehead.
On September 8, 1926, 300 Berkeley was purchased from the Feltons by Estella (Stella) Adelle (Smith) Summers, the wife of Richard Henry Summers, who operated it as a lodging house. They previously had lived in Allston. They also maintained a home in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire.
Richard Summers was an antique dealer, china repairer, and locksmith.
He died in December of 1939. Stella Summers continued to live at 300 Berkeley until about 1941.
On April 5, 1941, 300 Berkeley was acquired from Stella Summers by the Massachusetts Hospital Life Insurance Company, and on April 15, 1941, it sold the property to Delphine (Dusossoit) Greene, the widow of Frank H. Greene, who operated it as a lodging house. She was assistant chief chemist with the US Customs Laboratory. She previously had lived at 175 Newbury. She continued to live at 300 Berkeley until about 1954, when she moved to Marblehead.
On May 25, 1954, 300 Berkeley was acquired from Delphine Greene by Frederick V. Tirrell and his wife, Evelyn L. (McMahon) Tirrell, who continued to operate it as a lodging house. They previously had lived in Watertown. They continued to live at 300 Berkeley until about 1957.
On May 3, 1957, 300 Berkeley was acquired from the Tirrells by Robert N. Benoit of Salem. It became the home of his sister, Irene A. Benoit, who continued to operate it as a lodging house. Their two unmarried aunts, Helen and Anna Benoit, lived with her. She continued to live there until about 1965, when she moved to an apartment at 118 Marlborough.
On September 2, 1965, 300 Berkeley was purchased from Robert Benoit by Richard Morton Claflin and his wife, Jane Evans (Darrah) Claflin. He was sales and marketing director at Hancock Mutual Life Insurance. In September of 1965, he applied for (and subsequently received) permission to remodel the kitchen and bathroom, indicating that the current and proposed occupancy was as a single-family dwelling and that “no change in occupancy” was being proposed. They continued to live there in 1972, but had moved to 37 Chestnut by 1975.
On April 11, 1972, 300 Berkeley was acquired from the Claflins by the French Library, located at 53 Marlborough next door. The Library converted the house into an annex to the library, offices, and one apartment.
In 2017, the French Library applied for (and subsequently received) permission to modify the front entrance of 300 Berkeley, relocating the front stairs and installing a wheelchair lift in the vestibule, with a gate securing the area from the street, to provide a universally accessible entrance to 53 Marlborough. As part of the approval process, the French Library committed to the Back Bay Architectural Commission that the entrance to 300 Berkeley would be reconstructed to restore its original configuration, matching the entrance to 302 Berkeley if, in the future, the building was returned to residential use or any other use that eliminated the need for a universally accessible entrance.
Founded in 1945, the French Library was known for several years as the French Cultural Center before it returned to its original name in 2022.
The French Library continued to be located at 53 Marlborough and 300 Berkeley in 2022.