303 Marlborough was designed by L. Newcomb and Son (Edgar A. P. Newcomb), architects, and built in 1877-1878 by Abel C. Small, builder, one of two contiguous houses (301-303 Marlborough). They are designed as a symmetrical pair, but with a wider bay at 301 Marlborough reflecting the wider lot on which it is built.
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 301-303 Marlborough, Edgar A. P. Newcomb also designed two houses for James B. Ames across the street, at 294–296 Marlborough, with similar distinctive peaked roofs on the bays.
James B. Ames is shown as the owner on the original permit application for 301-303 Marlborough, dated November 19, 1877, and on the final inspection report, dated November 18, 1878.
By 1879, 303 Marlborough was the home of wholesale grocer William Dexter Smith and his wife Lucy Ann (White) Smith. They had lived at 31 Appleton in 1878. Lucy Smith is shown as the owner of 301 Marlborough on the 1883, 1888, and 1890 Bromley maps.
Their adult sons — William Dexter Smith, Jr., Albert A. Smith, and Frank Gardner Smith — lived with them.
Lucy Smith died in February of 1883. William Smith continued to live at 303 Marlborough until his death in October of 1892.
Their son, William Dexter Smith, Jr. (known as Dexter Smith) continued to live at 303 Marlborough during the 1892-1893 winter season, after which he moved to Quincy. He was a poet, journalist, music critic, and composer. He was editor of the Musical Record in the 1890s and later editor and publisher of Dexter Smith’s Musical Monthly. He composed numerous popular songs, the best known of which (according to his November 30, 1909, obituary in the Boston Globe) was “Put Me in My Little Bed.”
By the 1894-1895 winter season, 303 Marlborough was the home of Everett Morss and his wife, Ethel (Reed) Morss. They previously had lived at the Hotel Royal apartments at 295-297 Beacon. He is shown as the owner of 303 Marlborough on the 1895, 1898, and 1908 Bromley maps.
Everett and Ethel Morss continued to live at 303 Marlborough during the 1908-1909 winter season, after which they moved to 115 Commonwealth.
In the fall of 1909, 303 Marlborough was purchased from Everett Morss by banker Henry Prentice Binney, Jr., and his wife Alberta (Sturtevant) Binney. The transaction was reported in the Boston Globe on September 15, 1909. They previously had lived at 30 Chestnut. They also maintained a home in Wareham. Alberta S. Binney is shown as the owner on the 1912, 1917, 1928, and 1938 Bromley maps.
Alberta Binney’s step-brother, Francis B. Todd, lived with them from about 1920 (and probably from the time he graduated from Harvard in 1918) until about 1926. He was a wool merchant.
The Binneys continued to live at 303 Marlborough during the 1930-1931 season, after which they moved to Milton.
303 Marlborough was not listed in the 1932-1937 Blue Books and was shown as vacant in the 1933-1941 City Directories.
By 1941, 303 Marlborough was owned by Louise Bowes.
In September of 1941, the house was purchased from Louise Bowes by Kenneth Woodman, a gardener, and his wife, Elizabeth Helen (Fortune) Woodman. They previously had lived at 50 Gloucester. They operated 303 Marlborough as a lodging house, although it appears they did not change the legal occupancy from a single-family dwelling. They continued to live and operate a lodging house there until about 1947.
In the spring of 1947, 303 Marlborough was acquired by Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery to be its first dormitory, to be called Career House. The transaction was reported in the Boston Globe on June 29, 1947. In September of 1947, the School applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the house from a single-family dwelling into a dormitory. Miss Farmer’s School continued to operate a dormitory at 303 Marlborough in 1949.
It was shown as vacant in the 1950 City Directory.
By 1951, 303 Marlborough was the home of Margaret L. Cassidy, who operated it as a lodging house. She continued to live there until about 1962.
In 1962, 303 Marlborough became the home of Edward Charles and his wife, Estelle Charles.
In June of 1962, Estelle Charles filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the house from a lodging house into a single-family dwelling.
Edward and Estelle Charles operated several lodging houses on West Newton Street and on St. Botolph Street. It appears, however, that they made 303 Marlborough their home and did not accept lodgers there.
Edward Charles died in April of 1987. Estelle Charles continued to live at 303 Marlborough in the 1990s, and possibly until her death in September of 2001.
The property changed hands in December of 2002. It remained a single-family dwelling in 2014.