328 Dartmouth was designed by architects Snell and Gregerson and built in 1871-1872, one of three houses – 163 Marlborough and 326-328 Dartmouth — built at the same time, creating a symmetrical composition on Dartmouth.
In his Houses of Boston’s Back Bay, Bainbridge Bunting comments that the houses are “three closely related structures” that “fit together to create an impressive whole.” 326 Dartmouth forms the center house of the three, half a story lower than the houses on either side and differentiated by changes in floor level and stone trim.
The three houses were built on a parcel with a 100 foot frontage on Marlborough and a 112 foot frontage on Dartmouth. The parcel was assembled by building contractor George Wheatland, Jr., who purchased the eastern portion at the corner of Dartmouth, with a 30 foot frontage on Marlborough, from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on November 29, 1870, and the western portion, with a 70 foot frontage on Marlborough, from Eben D. Jordan on December 3, 1870 (it was part of a 100 foot wide lot that Eben Jordan had purchased from William Thomas on March 9, 1870; William Thomas had purchased it from the Commonwealth on November 2, 1869).
On December 3, 1870, George Wheatland, Jr., sold Thomas Forbes Cushing the southern portion of the parcel, with a 100 foot frontage on Marlborough and a 57 foot frontage on Dartmouth. He retained the northern portion. Thomas Cushing had 163 Marlborough built on his lot, and George Wheatland, Jr., had 326-328 Dartmouth built on his, for speculative sale. 163 Marlborough appears to have been completed before 326-328 Dartmouth.
The houses were built with an irregular east-west line. As a result, the eastern (Dartmouth) façade of 163 Marlborough is 22 feet wide (on a 44 foot lot frontage) and the western wall is 39 feet wide (on a 61 foot lot frontage); the eastern façade of 326 Dartmouth is 46 feet and the western wall is 18 feet, and the eastern façade of 328 Dartmouth is 22 feet and the western wall is 33 feet. The lot bought by Thomas Cushing did not match the footprint of the house he had built at 163 Marlborough, and on December 29, 1871, and January 16, 1872, he and George Wheatland, Jr., exchanged parcels of land to reflect the irregular shape. The deed from George Wheatland, Jr. – and subsequent deeds conveying 326 Dartmouth and 328 Dartmouth — also included a 4 foot wide easement over the rear of 328 Dartmouth to provide access to the alley for 326 Dartmouth.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 328 Dartmouth, and click here for further information about the land between the north side of Marlborough and Alley 418, from Dartmouth to Exeter.
326-328 Dartmouth were built by Standish & Woodbury, masons and builders. In early August of 1871, they filed a Notice of Intention to Build for the two houses on behalf of George Wheatland, Jr. (reported in the Boston Evening Transcript on August 8, 1871). Construction probably started soon thereafter.
On October 1, 1874, George Wheatland, Jr., offered 326-328 Dartmouth for sale at public auction. A September 22, 1874, Boston Traveller advertisement by Samuel Hatch & Co., the auctioneer, described 328 Dartmouth as “a splendid, English-basement house” with “a superior cellar under the house, wine room, laundry and man’s room, etc.; on the main entrance floor is a fine hall, reception room, a large kitchen and servant’s dining room, toilet room; on the second floor a drawing room, library room, dining room, and large china closet.” The upper floors included “five large chambers and dressing rooms; bathroom and water closet; three servants’ rooms.” The advertisement also noted that “the house contains the best of plumbing and all modern improvements; front and back stairs, elaborate statuary, marble and carved wood mantles.”
The successful bidder at the auction probably was Dr. William Thornton, a physician, who took title to the property from George Wheatland, Jr., on October 30, 1874. He and his wife, Sarah (Gamble) Thornton, made it their home, and he also maintained his medical office there. They previously had lived at 626 Tremont.
They continued to live at 328 Dartmouth during the 1884-1885 winter season. By the 1885-1886 season, they had moved to the Hotel Oxford (southeast corner of Exeter and Huntington), and by 1887 were living at 313 Marlborough.
On April 22, 1885, 328 Dartmouth was purchased from William Thornton by Joshua Gardner Beals. He and his wife, Edith (Simmons) Beals, made it their home. They previously had lived at 419 Beacon.
Joshua Beals had been an owner of the Boston Post newspaper, founded by his father, William Beals, and Charles G. Greene. He sold his interest in the paper in 1875.
On June 5, 1913, he transferred 328 Dartmouth into his and his wife’s names.
Joshua Beals died in July of 1914. Edith Beals continued to live at 328 Dartmouth with their son, Sidney Gardner Beals, an attorney. It remained their home during the 1915-1916 winter season, but they moved thereafter to 41 Marlborough.
On August 1, 1916, 328 Dartmouth was purchased from Edith Beals by Georgia (Pope) Sawyer, the wife of Henry Buckland Sawyer. They previously had lived in Brookline. They also maintained a home in Beverly Cove.
Henry Sawyer was an engineer. He retired in 1931 as vice president of the engineering firm of Stone and Webster.
The Sawyers continued to live at 328 Dartmouth until about 1941. The house was shown as vacant in the 1942-1946 City Directories.
On October 22, 1944, 328 Dartmouth was acquired from Georgia Sawyer by the Massachusetts School of Physiotherapy, located at 240 Beacon (which it had acquired earlier that year). In November of 1944, it applied for permission to convert 328 Dartmouth from a single-family residence into a dormitory. The application was denied, and the School’s appeal was dismissed. However, in March of 1945, the Building Department issued the permit.
On March 22, 1946, 328 Dartmouth was acquired from the Massachusetts School of Physiotherapy by the Notre Dame Training School. It became the convent of the Boston Province of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, to whom the training school transferred the property on September 3, 1974.
The convent remained at 328 Dartmouth until about 1982.
On August 30, 1983, 328 Dartmouth was acquired from the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur by Jeffery J. Jarvis, trustee of the 328 Dartmouth Realty Trust. In October of 1983, he applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a dormitory into five apartments. In January of 1984, he modified his plans to increase the number of units to twelve.
On May 21, 1984, he converted the property into twelve condominium units, the 328 Dartmouth Street Condominium.