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 indicates that 393-395-397 Marlborough were built in 1883, but this appears to be an error inasmuch as the original building permit applications all were dated 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.
By the 1889-1890 winter season, 397 Marlborough was the home of John Scott Bleakie, a woolen manufacturer, and his wife, Margaret (Sheridan) Bleakie. They previously had lived in Hyde Park. He is shown as the owner of 397 Marlborough on the 1890, 1895, and 1898 Bromley maps.
John Bleakie died in May of 1902, and Margaret Bleakie moved soon thereafter. The Heirs of John S. Bleakie are shown as the owners of 397 Marlborough on the 1908 and 1917 Bromley maps, and were the assessed owners through 1919.
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.
By 1919, 397 Marlborough was the home of real estate dealer Simon Goldsmith and his wife, Fanny (Dollman) Goldsmith. They previously had lived at The Buckminster at 645 Beacon. Fanny Goldsmith was the assessed owner of 397 Marlborough from 1920 through 1927.
In April of 1919, Simon Goldsmith applied for (and subsequently received) permission to add a rear ell.
Simon Goldsmith died in February of 1927. Fanny Goldsmith continued to live at 397 Marlborough. Simon Goldsmith et al, trustees, were the assessed owners from 1928 through 1932, and S. and F. Goldsmith et al, trustees, are shown as the owners on the 1928 Bromley map.
Fanny Goldsmith died in November of 1938, the victim of asphyxiation as a result of leak from a gas log in her bedroom. Fanny Goldsmith et al, trustees, were the assessed owners of 397 Marlborough from1933 through 1939 and are shown as the owners on the 1938 Bromley map.
397 Marlborough was shown as vacant in the 1939 City Directory.
By 1939, 397 Marlborough was owned by the Home Savings Bank, which was the assessed owner from 1940 through 1942. 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.
By 1941, 397 Marlborough had been acquired by The Colonial School, which taught secretarial, bookkeeping, and general office skills. It was the assessed owner from 1943 through 1945.
In June of 1941, the Home Savings Bank 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 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 apparently 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.
By 1945, 397 Marlborough was the location of the Kingsley School, 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 (Halliday) 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.
397 Marlborough was initially acquired by Edith Kingsley, who transferred the property to the school in November of 1945. The school was the assessed owner from 1946.
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.
In June of 1981, the K & Realty Trust filed for (and subsequently received) permission to legalize the occupancy as six apartments, which it indicated was the existing condition.
The property changed hands and in October of 1998 was purchased by the Madeira Isle Real Estate Corporation.
In December of 1998, Maderia Isle applied for (and subsequently received) permission to reduce the number of apartments from six to four.
In August of 1999, it converted the property into four condominium units, the Justin Douglas House Condominium.