315 Dartmouth

315 Dartmouth (2013)

315 Dartmouth (2013)

Lot 112' x 53' (5,936 sf)

Lot 112′ x 53′ (5,936 sf)

315 Dartmouth is located on the SE corner of Dartmouth and Marlborough, with 137 Marlborough (317 Dartmouth) to the north, across Marlborough, 303  Dartmouth to the south, across Alley 424, 148 Marlborough to the east, and 164 Marlborough to the west, across Dartmouth.

315 Dartmouth was designed by Charles Brigham of Sturgis and Brigham, architects, and built in 1870 by Weston & Shepard as the home of banker Hollis Hunnewell and wife, Louisa (Bronson) Hunnewell.

Louisa Hunnewell purchased the land for 315 Dartmouth on April 3, 1869, from attorney Peleg Whitman Chandler. The original parcel had a frontage of 78 feet on Marlborough and consisted of three lots Peleg Chandler had purchased from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on March 30, 1865, April 6, 1865, and April 8, 1865. The Hunnewells had their home built on the corner, at 315 Dartmouth, with a 53 foot frontage on Marlborough. On November 2, 1872, Louisa Hunnewell sold the remaining 25 feet to the east to John Fisher Farrington, a carpenter and builder, who built 148 Marlborough on the lot. The deed included a requirement that any house built at 148 Marlborough could be no higher and no deeper than the Hunnewell’s house at 315 Dartmouth.

315 Dartmouth under construction (ca. 1870), photograph by Josiah Johnson Hawes, courtesy of the Boston Athenaeum

315 Dartmouth under construction (ca. 1870), photograph by Josiah Johnson Hawes, courtesy of the Boston Athenaeum

Click here for an index to the deeds for 315 Dartmouth, and click here for further information about the land between the south side of Marlborough and Alley 424, from Clarendon to Dartmouth.

As originally designed, 315 Dartmouth had a mansard roof above two stories plus a basement, with a terra-cotta cornice between the second floor and the mansard roof. Douglas Shand-Tucci’s Built in Boston describes it as “one of the first examples of exterior ceramic decoration on any Boston building” and notes that it “heralded the same firm’s use of ornamental terra-cotta the next year in the Museum of Fine Arts” in Copley Square.

Correspondence between Charles Brigham and John Hubbard Sturgis (as summarized by historian David J. Russo) indicates that final plans for 315 Dartmouth were completed in mid-1869, the piles driven in late October, and the foundations laid in December. Work resumed in the spring of 1870 and the house was substantially completed by the end of the year.

Hollis and Louisa (Bronson) Hunnewell made 315 Dartmouth their Boston home in 1871. They had traveled abroad during the 1869-1870 winter season, and had lived at 145 Beacon during the season before that. They also maintained a home in Wellesley.

In January of 1872, Hollis Hunnewell purchased the corner lot at Commonwealth and Dartmouth, across the alley from 315 Dartmouth. In 1876, his brother-in-law, architect Robert Gould Shaw, designed two houses on the lot at 303 Dartmouth and 151 Commonwealth. Robert and Isabella (Hunnewell) Shaw lived at 151 Commonwealth; Arthur Hunnewell (brother of Hollis Hunnewell and Isabella Shaw) and his wife, Jane (Boit) Hunnewell, lived at 303 Dartmouth.

In about 1874, Hollis Hunnewell added a one-story plus basement wing, extending the house to the edge of the alley.  A December 19, 1876, Boston Journal article commented that “within the past two years, Mr. Hunnewell has built on an addition about 20 x 25 feet, one story in height, for the better regulation of draft, at considerable expense.”

In April of 1876, Hollis Hunnewell joined with Nathaniel Thayer of 22 Fairfield (239 Commonwealth), and George Walker Weld of 1 Arlington to purchase land near the northeast corner of Dartmouth and Buckingham Street (which ran roughly parallel to what is today Stuart Street, between Stuart and Columbus). On the property, they built the first indoor tennis court in the United States, designed by Hollis Hunnewell’s brother-in-law, Robert Gould Shaw. The owners hired Ted Hunt, a tennis professional from Oxford, to run the court, and he hired Tom Pettitt to assist him. Pettit later became a tennis player of international renown. In December of 1878, George Weld sold his interest in the property to Hollis Hunnewell and Nathaniel Thayer. In May of 1892, the property was purchased by Fiske Warren. The building was demolished in1898, along with all of the other buildings on the north side of Buckingham Street, for construction of the Back Bay Station. Buckingham Street was obliterated entirely in the 1980s by expansion of the station.

During the night of December 18-19, 1876, 315 Dartmouth was seriously damaged by a fire which resulted in the death of Annie O’Hara, a kitchen maid, who was trapped on the top floor.

315 Dartmouth, 1887 Sanborn map

As part of the reconstruction following the fire, an additional story was added to the house. A tower with a mansard roof was built at the Dartmouth-Marlborough corner and the mansard roof on the remainder of the building was modified to accommodate two stories. The terra-cotta cornice was raised one story on the tower but remained at the original level for the rest of the house. The work was described in a Boston Journal article on March 19, 1877, which commented that the “handsome residence of Mr. Hollis Hunnewell on Dartmouth street, which was damaged by a fire long since, is being repaired and enlarged by the addition of another story and a tower.” It probably also was at this time that mansard above the bay on Dartmouth (to the south of the entrance) was modified.

In 1879, Hollis Hunnewell built a stable at 324 Newbury. It remained in the Hunnewell family until 1898.

Hollis Hunnewell died in June of 1884.  Louisa Hunnewell continued to live at 315 Dartmouth and in Wellesley, and also maintained a home, Gull Rock, in Newport. Their two children, Hollis Horatio Hunnewell and Charlotte Bronson Winthrop Hunnewell, lived with her.

During the 1886-1887 winter season, the Hunnewells were living elsewhere and 315 Dartmouth was the home of banker Eugene Van Rensselaer Thayer and his wife, Susan (Spring) Thayer.  They previously had lived at 23 Commonwealth. They also maintained a home, Fairlawn, in Lancaster and a home in Pride’s Crossing. By the next season they were living at 151 Commonwealth and 315 Dartmouth was once again the home of Louisa Hunnewell and her children.

Louisa Hunnewell died in November of 1890. In her will, she left 315 Dartmouth to her son, and her homes in Wellesley and Newport in equal shares to her son and daughter.

During the 1890-1891 winter season, Hollis H. Hunnewell and Charlotte Hunnewell were living elsewhere and 315 Dartmouth was the home of wholesale dry goods merchant Joseph Stevens Kendall and his wife, Ellen (Ling) Kendall.  They had lived at 61 Commonwealth during the previous season and by the 1891-1892 season, they had moved to 8 Gloucester.

315 Dartmouth (ca. 1876); detail from photograph of the south side of Marlborough, courtesy of Historic New England

Hollis H. Hunnewell married in April of 1891 to Maud Somerville Jaffray of New York. After their marriage, they lived at 315 Dartmouth and in Wellesley and Newport.

Charlotte Hunnewell lived with her brother and sister-in-law until her marriage in October of 1894 to Victor Sorchan, after which they lived in New York and Newport. They divorced in December of 1920 and she married again, in January of 1921, to Dr. Walton Martin, a New York surgeon; in the early 1920s, they built Hidden Valley Castle in Cornwall, Connecticut.

Hollis and Maud Hunnewell continued to live at 315 Dartmouth during the 1893-1894 winter season, but made Wellesley and Newport their year-round homes thereafter. They divorced in 1902. She married again in July of 1903 to John Stansbury Tooker, and he married again in November of 1903 to Mary Isabelle (Neilson) Kemp, the former wife of Arthur T. Kemp.

During the 1894-1895 winter season, 315 Dartmouth was the home of cotton manufacturer Horatio Nelson Slater and his wife, Mabel De Carteret (Hunt) Slater. They had lived at 205 Commonwealth during the previous season. They also maintained homes in Webster, where several of his cotton mills were located, and in Magnolia.

The Slaters continued to lived at 315 Dartmouth during the 1895-1896 winter season, but moved thereafter to 17 Gloucester.

315 Dartmouth was not listed in the 1897 Blue Book.

By the latter part of the 1897-1898 winter season, 315 Dartmouth was the home of Henry Denison Burnham and his wife, Johanna (Heckscher) Burnham.  They had lived at 183 Marlborough in 1896.  He was a trustee of estates.   They continued to live at 315 Dartmouth during the 1898-1899 season. By the 1899-1900 winter season, they had moved to the recently completed Hotel Somerset.

315 Dartmouth was not listed in the 1900 and 1901 Blue Books.

On May 7, 1901, 315 Dartmouth was purchased from Hollis H. Hunnewell by Thomas Jefferson Coolidge. He was a recent widower, his wife, Mehitable (Hetty) Sullivan (Appleton) Coolidge, having died in March of 1901. At the time of her death, they were living at the Tudor, at the corner of Beacon and Joy Streets. 

T.  Jefferson Coolidge was the former treasurer of the Boott Mills in Lawrence, and was an investor in textile mills, banks, and railroads.  In 1890, he had joined his son, Thomas Jefferson Coolidge, Jr., in founding the Old Colony Trust Company.  He served as US Minister (Ambassador) to France in 1892 and 1893.

After acquiring 315 Dartmouth, T. Jefferson Coolidge had the interior extensively remodeled. The remodeling was designed by his nephew, Joseph Randolph Coolidge, Jr., of the firm of Coolidge & Carlson. J. Randolph Coolidge, Jr., and his wife, Mary Hamilton (Hill) Coolidge, lived at 87 Marlborough.

A January 3, 1902, Boston Post article on the remodeling commended that ”the alterations now almost completed have been expensive. A new heating system and new plumbing has been installed and new stairs have been built. Electric lights have been provided and the ceilings and walls have been re-tinted. Mr, Coolidge has also had a passenger elevator put in.”

315 Dartmouth (1902); Boston Post, 3Jan1902

“The Chatterer” in the Boston Herald for January 1, 1902, commented: “A remodeled house is not always successful, but that cannot be said of Mr. Jefferson Coolidge’s new mansion on Dartmouth street.  It occupies one of the most desirable locations in town, and may proudly join the procession of ‘palaces’ which Boston has gathered under its wing during the last two or three years.  I hear an immense amount of money has been spent on changing this Hunnewell estate into what is ostensibly three houses in one for our former ambassador to France, and whose ideas have been rather Parisian than Venetian or colonial in regard to reconstruction and decoration…”.

By the 1902-1903 winter season, T. Jefferson Coolidge had made 315 Dartmouth his home. He also maintained a home on Coolidge Point at Manchester, Massachusetts (frequently described in the Social Register and other sources as Red Cliff in Magnolia).

A November 29, 1903, article in the Boston Herald, with photographs, described the interior design, furniture, and art work in detail, introducing it as a “simple modern house.” It noted that “the main staircase, which is in the middle of the building, is brightened by a high wainscoting, originally of black walnut, but changed by the present owner to ivory white.” “Opening out of the hall, near the stairway, is the dining room, which is finished in oak and has a panelled ceiling, the walls being hung with Japanese leather, having a groundwork of dull green, and the draperies being of dull blue.” “On the corner which faces Dartmouth and Marlboro streets are the reception and music rooms, only separated by superb hangings of brocade.” The article commented that “the principal apartment of the house” was the library, “the pride of the owner,” located in the one story ell on Dartmouth, “finished in black walnut, its ceilings being richly carved and coffered in the same material, and the book-cases, window casings, mantel and over-mantel all correspond in material and in finish. The style of the room is that of the French renaissance, and the color effect is a harmony of browns…”.

By the 1903-1904 winter season, T. Jefferson Coolidge had been joined at 315 Dartmouth by his daughter, Marian Appleton (Coolidge) Sargent, the widow of attorney Lucius Manlius Sargent, and their daughter, Mehitable (Hetty) Appleton Sargent. They previously had lived at the Empire at 333 Commonwealth; at the time of her husband’s death in November of 1893, they had lived at 184 Beacon.

315 Dartmouth (ca. 1942), photograph by Bainbridge Bunting, courtesy of The Gleason Partnership

315 Dartmouth (ca. 1942), photograph by Bainbridge Bunting, courtesy of The Gleason Partnership

In October of 1903, T. Jefferson Coolidge purchased 148 Marlborough, which he leased to Rear Admiral Francis Tiffany Bowles and his wife, Adelaide Hay (Savage) Bowles. In May of 1908, Adelaide Bowles purchased the house.

Hetty Sargent married in June of 1905 to Francis Lee Higginson, Jr. After their marriage, they lived in London, where he was an investment banker in the English branch of his family’s firm, Lee, Higginson & Company. They returned in 1910 and made their home at 215 Commonwealth.

By the 1913-1914 winter season, T. Jefferson Coolidge and his daughter had been joined at 315 Dartmouth by Susan Blake (Hall) Horton, the widow of Nathaniel (Nathan) G. Horton.  She served as a companion to Mr. Coolidge.  In 1910, she had lived at 448 Beacon, where she had been a companion to Helen Hooper.

Thomas Jefferson Coolidge died in November of 1920. 315 Dartmouth was inherited by Marian Sargent and on December 20, 1921, she transferred the property to the trust established for her benefit under her father’s will. By the 1921-1922 winter season, she had moved to the Hotel Agassiz at 191 Commonwealth.

Susan Horton had continued to live at 315 Dartmouth until T. Jefferson Coolidge’s death.  She moved thereafter to Milton.

315 Dartmouth was not listed in the 1922 Blue Book.

315 Dartmouth, looking north from alley (ca. 1942), photograph by Bainbridge Bunting, courtesy of The Gleason Partnership

315 Dartmouth, looking north from alley (ca. 1942), photograph by Bainbridge Bunting, courtesy of The Gleason Partnership

On April 7, 1922, 315 Dartmouth was purchased from Marian Sargent’s trust by Charles Fanning Ayer. He and his wife, Sara Theodora (Ilsley) Ayer, made it their home. They previously had lived at 127 Commonwealth.  They also maintained a home, Juniper Ridge, in Hamilton.

Charles (“Chilly”) Ayer was an attorney and the son of Frederick Ayer, a patent medicine manufacturer and major textile mill investor who, with his son-in-law, William Madison Wood, had founded the American Woolen Company, which eventually grew into the largest woolen manufacturing company in America.

On March 30, 1932, Charles Ayer transferred the property into a trust for the benefit of Theodora Ayer and their children.

Theodora Ayer died in January of 1945.  Charles Ayer continued to live at 315 Dartmouth and in Hamilton, and in March of 1946 married again, to Anne Phillips, formerly his secretary.  They continued to live at 315 Dartmouth until 1951.

On January 14, 1952, 315 Dartmouth was purchased from the Ayer trust by the Douglas A. Thom Clinic for Children. The clinic remained there until 1993.

On September 1, 1993, the house was purchased from the clinic by Dr. Bernardo Nadal-Ginard, a pediatric cardiologist and professor at Harvard Medical School, and his wife, Dr. Vijak Mahdavi, also a professor at Harvard Medical School.  They were noted collectors of modern art.

On January 10, 1997, 315 Dartmouth was acquired by general construction contractor Jay M. Cashman, as trustee of the 315 Dartmouth Trust.

In September of 1997, he applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the house from a doctor’s office, consulting room, and day care center into a single-family dwelling. In January of 1999, he applied for (and subsequently received) permission to construct an interior garage in the basement of the house.

315 Dartmouth continued to be assessed as a single-family dwelling in 2021.