397 Marlborough was designed by architect Samuel D. Kelley and built in 1888 by John W. Shapleigh, builder, for speculative sale, one of three contiguous houses (393-395-397 Marlborough) designed as a single composition, with the central house (395 Marlborough) having a higher and more elaborate façade and the two flanking houses (393 and 397 Marlborough) being identical in design. John Shapleigh is shown as the owner on the original building permit application for 397 Marlborough, dated January 16, 1888.
In his Houses of Boston’s Back Bay, Bainbridge Bunting erroneously states that 393-395-397 Marlborough were built in 1883. In fact, the land for the houses was not purchased by John Shapleigh until late 1887 and the original building permit applications for all three houses were filed in 1888. Bunting also does not attribute the buildings to a specific architect. However, the final building inspection report for 393 Marlborough indicates the architect was Samuel D. Kelley and includes a floor plan for the second floor labeled “383-395-397 Marlboro St – 1888” signed by Samuel Kelley.
John Shapleigh purchased the land for 393-395-397 Beacon on November 23, 1887, from George B. Upton. The lot was 65.42 feet in width, and on November 28, 1887, John Shapleigh purchased the additional 0.58 feet to the east, with half of the party wall with 391 Marlborough on it, from George Wheatland, Sr.
The land originally had been intersected by Parker Street, a 60 foot wide street located on top of the Cross Dam, which ran southwest from Beacon at approximately a 45 degree angle, intersecting the north side of Marlborough at a point about 355 feet west of Hereford. The land to the east of Parker Street had been purchased on June 12, 1868, from the Boston Water Power Company by Daniel Davies, and the land to the west of Parker Street had been purchased from the company on March 1, 1872, by a real estate investment trust formed by Grenville T. W. Braman, Henry D. Hyde, and Frank W. Andrews. In the late 1870s, Parker Street was abandoned and Daniel Davies and the real estate investment trust jointly purchased the land under the roadway. Through a series of transactions, the owners traded triangular shaped lots to “square off” their holdings. The dividing line between the two parcels was 360.58 feet west of Hereford (resulting in the 0.58 foot lot which John Shapleigh ultimately purchased from George Wheatland, Sr.).
Click here for an index to the deeds for 397 Marlborough, and click here for further information on the land on the north side of Marlborough between Hereford and Massachusetts Avenue.
On February 7, 1889, 397 Marlborough was purchased from John Shapleigh by John Scott Bleakie, a woolen manufacturer. He and his wife, Margaret (Sheridan) Bleakie, made it their home. They previously had lived in Hyde Park. They also maintained a home in Falmouth, where John Bleakie built a private water supply company that served the town and surrounding area.
John Bleakie died in May of 1902. In his will, he left 397 Marlborough in trust for the benefit of his wife, and established trust accounts for the remainder of his estate for the benefit of their three surviving children: Mary Josephine Bleakie, Robert Maxwell Bleakie, and Marguerite A. Bleakie. Margaret Bleakie and their children moved soon thereafter to Brookline. The trust continued to own 397 Marlborough and lease it to others.
By the 1902-1903 winter season, 397 Marlborough was the home and medical office of Dr. Edgar Garceau, a gynecologist. He previously had lived and maintained his office at The Marlborough at 416 Marlborough.
Dr. Francis Ingersoll Proctor, an ophthalmologist, also maintained his office at 397 Marlborough. He and his wife, Mary L. (Stevens) Putnam Proctor, lived at in an apartment at 384 Commonwealth. They previously had lived at 369 Marlborough.
By 1905, Dr. William Lord Smith also lived and maintained his medical offices at 397 Marlborough. The previous year, he had been living in Persia where he served, briefly, as physician to the Shah. In 1902, he had lived and maintained his offices at 254 Beacon.
Dr. Garceau married in May of 1905 to Sally Holmes Morse. After their marriage, they lived at 397 Marlborough until about 1912, but had moved to an apartment at 8 Gloucester by 1913.
By the 1912-1913 winter season, 397 Marlborough was the home Dr. Henry H. Hawkins, a physician, and his wife, Ellen W. (Smith) Hawkins. He also maintained his medical office there. They previously had lived in Cambridge and he had maintained his office at 394 Marlborough. They continued to live at 397 Marlborough until about 1916, when they moved to Dorchester. He continued to maintain his office at 397 Marlborough in 1916, but had moved it back to 394 Marlborough by 1917.
Dr. Proctor also continued to maintain his medical office at 397 Marlborough until about 1916.
397 Marlborough was not listed in the 1917-1919 Blue Books.
The property continued to be owned by the trust established under John Bleakie’s will, with his daughter, Mary Josephine Bleakie, as successor trustee. She lived with her mother in Brookline.
On May 24, 1919, 397 Marlborough was acquired by Fanny (Dollman) Goldsmith, the wife of real estate dealer Simon Goldsmith. They previously had lived at The Buckminster at 645 Beacon.
In April of 1919, Simon Goldsmith applied for (and subsequently received) permission to add a rear ell.
On December 2, 1926, Fanny Goldsmith transferred 397 Marlborough to herself, her husband, and their son-in-law, Albert F. Rees, as trustees of the Williams Trust. Albert Rees and Lillie Olivia (Goldsmith) Davidow Rees, lived in Hanover, Pennsylvania.
Simon Goldsmith died in February of 1927. Fanny Goldsmith continued to live at 397 Marlborough until her death in November of 1938, the victim of asphyxiation as a result of leak from a gas log in her bedroom.
397 Marlborough was shown as vacant in the 1939 City Directory.
On January 25, 1939, Albert Rees and Lillie (Goldsmith) Rees, as surviving trustees of the Williams Trust, transferred 397 Marlborough to the Home Savings Bank, which held the first mortgage on the property.
The bank leased the property to Myles J. Joyce and his wife, Florence J. (Smith) Doerfler Joyce, who applied for a lodging house license in June of 1939. Myles Joyce was a shipper with the Allston Storage Warehouse. They previously had lived in Brookline.
In October of 1939, the Boston Iron Works applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a single-family dwelling into a lodging house (Boston Iron Works probably was the firm responsible for constructing the required fire escapes).
The Joyces continued to live at 397 Marlborough in 1940, but moved soon thereafter to 173 Marlborough.
397 Marlborough was shown as vacant in the 1941 City Directory.
On January 7, 1942, 397 Marlborough was acquired from the Home Savings Bank by The Colonial School, Inc., which taught secretarial, bookkeeping, and general office skills. In June of 1941, the Home Savings Bank had applied for permission to convert the property from a lodging house into a school. The application was abandoned but the school nevertheless operated there in 1942 and 1943.
397 Marlborough also was the home of George Russell Thurber and his wife, Rachel Marion (Helgesen) Penn Doherty Thurber. George Thurber was treasurer of the Colonial School and Marion H. Thurber was Dean. They previously had lived in Worcester, where they had operated the Salter Secretarial School. George Thurber’s mother, Mary Elizabeth (Ryan) Thurber, the widow of Daniel S. Thurber, lived with them.
By 1944, the Colonial School had ceased operation and the Thurbers had moved.
397 Marlborough was shown as vacant in the 1944 City Directory.
In September of 1944, the Colonial School applied for permission to convert the property from a single-family dwelling into a school, and in October of 1944, it applied for permission to install a fire escape and make other fire safety and egress improvements. The September permit application was abandoned, but the October application, which showed the current and proposed occupancy to be a school, was approved.
These applications were made to bring the building into compliance for use as a school in anticipation of the sale of the property to Edith Kingsley, who also filed a permit application to operate a school there and then withdrew it in preference to the Colonial School’s application.
On August 2, 1945, 397 Marlborough was acquired from The Colonial School by Edith (Halliday) Kingsley, and on November 13, 1945, she transferred the property to The Kingsley School, Inc.
Kingsley School was a school for children of normal intelligence with reading difficulties or other learning problems. It previously had been located at 480 Beacon. The school was operated by Edith Kingsley and Helen Loud, who had founded it in 1938. Edith Kingsley’s husband, Howard L. Kingsley, was a professor of psychology at Boston University.
In 1948, the Kingsleys’ son, Lowell V. Kingsley, became the school’s director. It continued to be located at 397 Marlborough until about 1975, when it moved to 30 Fairfield.
397 Marlborough was shown as vacant in the 1976 City Directory and was not listed in the 1978 City Directory.
In June of 1977, G. Raymond Ahrens, trustee of the K & R Realty Trust, purchased 397 Marlborough from the Kingsley School.
On June 2, 1977, 397 Marlborough was purchased from Kingsley School by G. Raymond Ahrens, trustee of the K & R Realty Trust. In June of 1981, the trust filed for (and subsequently received) permission to legalize the occupancy as six apartments, which it indicated was the existing condition.
On October 15, 1981, 397 Marlborough was purchased from G. Raymond Ahrens by Jane W. Carey and Helen W. Donovan, trustees of the Wylie Welles Trust.
On October 22, 1998, they transferred the property to themselves as tenants in common, with Helen Donovan holding a two-thirds undivided interest and Jane Carey holding a one-third undivided interest.
On the same day, 397 Marlborough was purchased from Jane Carey and Helen Donovan by the Madeira Isle Real Estate Corporation (Daniel Silva, president and treasurer). In December of 1998, it applied for (and subsequently received) permission to reduce the number of apartments from six to four.
On August 12, 1999, it converted the property into four condominium units, the Justin Douglas House Condominium.