31 Hereford was designed by Alfred S. Bither, architect, and built in 1879 by Goldthwait & Chapin, builders, for building contractor Samuel Tarbell Ames. It was one of four contiguous houses (364 Marlborough and 27-29-31 Hereford) built for Samuel Ames, probably for speculative sale. He is shown as the owner on the original building permit application, dated March 27, 1879.
In his Houses of Boston’s Back Bay, Bainbridge Bunting attributes 364 Marlborough, 27-29-31 Hereford, 435 Beacon, 7-9-11 Hereford, and 216-218 Commonwealth – all built in 1879 – to R. S. Bither. This is a misreading of the handwriting on the permit applications. It is clearly written as “A. S. Bither” on several of the permit applications, and is less legible on several others. There was no R. S. Bither listed in the Boston City Directories at any time in the 1870s or 1880s, whereas Alfred S. Bither was a practicing architect there from 1870 to 1880.
By the 1880-1881 winter season, 31 Hereford was the home of Russell Sturgis, III, and his wife Anne Outram (Bangs) Sturgis. They had married in March of 1880, and 31 Hereford was their first home together. At that time, he was a medical student; he subsequently became a physician. They moved to 190 Marlborough in about 1882
By the 1882-1883 winter season, 31 Hereford was the home of boot and shoe dealer Edwin Loring Sprague and his wife, Elizabeth (Davis) Sprague. They had been married in April of 1881, and 31 Hereford probably was their first home together. Prior to their marriage, he had lived with his brother, Henry, at 19 Mt. Vernon.
Elizabeth Sprague is shown as the owner of 31 Hereford on the 1883, 1888, 1890, and 1895 Bromley maps.
During their ownership of 31 Hereford, the Spragues commissioned Peabody and Stearns to remodel the first floor, including the addition of a bay window inset into the alley façade for a sitting room on the first floor, located between the front parlor and the dining room in the rear. Plans for the remodeling are included in the Peabody and Stearns Collection in the Boston Public Library’s Arts Department (reference PS/MA.143). The plans are undated and it is unclear whether the work was ever done; if it was, the window was subsequently altered to be two separate windows.
The Spragues continued to live at 31 Hereford in 1896, but moved thereafter to 4 Brimmer.
By the 1896-1897 winter season, 31 Hereford was the home of Mrs. Hannah Brown (Wattson) Merrill, the widow of Joseph Warren Merrill, and their son-in-law and daughter, Rev. Wilford L. Hoopes and Lillie Edith (Merrill) Hoopes, who had been married in September of 1896. Hannah Merrill et al are shown as the owners on the 1898 and 1908 Bromley maps.
By the 1898-1899 winter season, 31 Hereford was the home of attorney Charles Edward Hellier and his wife, Mary (Harmon) Hellier. They previously had lived at in an apartment at 373 Commonwealth. They continued to live at 31 Hereford in 1906, but had purchased and moved to 105 Beacon by 1907.
By the 1906-1907 winter season, 31 Hereford was the home of wool merchant Conrad Hobbs and his wife, Jessie (Langmaid) Hobbs. They had been married in November of 1906 and 31 Hereford probably was their first home together. Prior to their marriage, he had lived at 313 Commonwealth with his parents, Warren D. Hobbs and Annie F. (Kettell) Hobbs.
They continued to live at 31 Hereford in 1908, but had purchased and moved to 318 Commonwealth by 1909.
By mid-1908, 31 Hereford was owned by Susan (Emmons) Garfield, the wife of Irvin McDowell Garfield. They lived at 409 Marlborough in June of 1908 and probably never lived at 31 Hereford.
In the fall of 1908, 31 Hereford was purchased from Susan Garfield by shoe manufacturer Lewis Abbott Crossett to be the home of his daughter, Ruth Lewis Crossett, and her future husband, T. Russell Appleton. The transaction was reported in the Boston Globe on August 21, 1908. Russell Appleton and Ruth Crossett were married in October of 1908 and made 31 Hereford their home. Prior to their marriage, they had lived with their parents, he at 52 Townsend and she at 304 Commonwealth.
Russell Appleton was employed with a shoe manufacturing company, probably the firm owned by his father-in-law, Lewis Abbott Crossett.
The Appletons continued to live at 31 Hereford in 1911. By 1912, they were living at 52 Townsend, where he died in August of 1912.
By the 1911-1912 winter season, it was the home of George Davenport’s son-in-law and daughter, architect William Truman Aldrich and Dorothea (Davenport) Aldrich. The Aldriches also maintained a home in Marblehead. They had married in March of 1910 and were living in New York City in April of 1910, at the time of the 1910 US Census. William Aldrich’s partner, Robert Peabody Bellows, lived at 29 Hereford.
George H. Davenport continued to be shown as the owner of 31 Hereford on the 1917 Bromley map.
The Aldriches continued to live at 31 Hereford in 1919, but had purchased and moved to 263 Clarendon by 1920.
By the 1919-1920 winter saeason, 31 Hereford was the home of four teenaged sisters: Katherine Lyman Thomas, Alice Lee Whitridge Thomas, Rosamond Whitridge Thomas, and Elizabeth C. Thomas. They were the daughters of architect Douglas Hamilton Thomas and his wife Bessie Lyman (Chadwick) Thomas. Living with them at the time of the 1920 US Census was Miss Alice B. Gilmore, whose occupation was shown as “chaperone.”
The Thomas sisters continued to live there during the 1921-1922 season. By the 1923-1924 season, they had moved to 288 Beacon.
By the 1922-1923 winter season, 31 Hereford was the home of investment banker Franklin Haven Clark and his wife, Frances (Sturgis) Clark. They previously had lived in Brookline. They also maintained a home in Nahant.
They continued to live at 31 Hereford in 1926, but had purchased and moved to 9 Gloucester by 1927.
31 Hereford was not listed in the 1927 Blue Book.
By the 1927-1928 winter season, 31 Hereford was the home of Frank Rollins Maxwell, Jr., and his wife, Elma L. (Joffrion) Maxwell. They previously had lived in Dedham. Elma Maxwell is shown as the owner on the 1928 Bromley map and was the assessed owner through 1931.
Frank Maxwell was a salesman with the Thomas G. Plant Company, shoe manufacturers in Roxbury.
By 1929, they were joined at 31 Hereford by his father, Frank R. Maxwell, Sr., who was vice president and later would become president of the Thomas G. Plant Co. His wife, Ella (Wickes) Maxwell, had died in 1928. Before her death, they lived in an apartment at 137 Marlborough. He had moved to Brookline by 1930.
By the 1929-1930 winter season, 31 Hereford was the home of retired advertising executive Thorndike Howe Endicott and his wife, Ellen Derby (Bellows) Robinson Endicott. They had married in 1928 and had then lived at 154 Riverway. Prior to their marriage, he had lived in an apartment at 199 Marlborough. Ellen Endicott was the assessed owner of 31 Hereford from 1932, is shown (as Ellen Bellows) as the owner on the 1938 Bromley map, and was the assessed owner through 1939.
Ellen Endicott had been married previously to Dr. Samuel Robinson and two of their children — Thomas Derby Robinson and Katharine L. Robinson — lived with the Endicotts in 1930 and probably later. Prior to her marriage to Dr. Robinson in 1905, she had lived next door, at 29 Hereford, with her mother, Anna Huidekeoper (Peabody) Bellows, the widow of Rev. Henry Whitney Bellows.
The Endicotts continued to live at 31 Hereford in 1936.
The Endicotts spent the winter of 1936-1937 in Florida, and in their absence 31 Hereford was the home of shoe manufacturer Wilfred R. Shrigley and his wife, Constance (Jackson) Shrigley. They previously had lived in Salem. They also maintained a home on Marblehead Neck.
In September of 1939, Harold A. Mack and his wife, Caroline Stevenson (Saltonstall) Mack acquired 31 Hereford. They previously had lived at 31 Fairfield. That same month, he filed for (and subsequently received) permission to remodel the interior of the house. It remained a single-family dwelling.
Harold Mack was an importer with offices and a store, The Artisans, at 165 Newbury. Caroline Mack was Secretary of the Consumers League of Massachusetts and an active environmental conservationist.
Harold Mack died in January of 1968. Caroline Mack continued to live at 31 Hereford until her death in November of 1983.
In July of 1984, Mark Williams and his wife, Meryl S. LeBoff, purchased 31 Hereford from the estate of Caroline S. Mack. In October of 1984, they applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property into a two-family dwelling.
31 Hereford remained a two-family dwelling in 2014.