438 Marlborough was designed by architect Obed F. Smith and built in 1885-1886 by Charles H. Dodge, mason, for building contractor George Wheatland, Jr., for speculative sale, one of six contiguous houses (430-432-434-436-438-440 Marlborough), arranged in a symmetrical group, the three to the east (430-434 Marlborough) with bays on the eastern side, and the three to the west (436-440 Marlborough) with bays on the western side. The peaks of the bays have varied designs. George Wheatland, Jr., is shown as the owner on the original building permit for 438 Marlborough, dated October 16, 1885. At the same time, George Wheatland, Jr., was having six more houses built at 381-391 Commonwealth on the lots to the south, behind 430-440 Marlborough, also designed by Obed Smith and built by Charles Dodge.
By 1888, 438 Marlborough was the home of Mrs. Sarah A. (Garland) Kennard, widow of Daniel Kennard. She previously had lived in the Wollaston district of Quincy where she and her husband had owned a farm. She is shown as the owner of 438 Marlborough on the 1888 Bromley map.
Sarah Kennard died in April of 1890, and 438 Marlborough became the home of her younger daughters, Minnie G. Kennard and Edith M. Kennard. Edith Kennard is shown as the owner on the 1895, 1898, 1908, and 1912 Bromley maps.
In November of 1892, their third sister, Eugenie (Jennie) Kennard, married to Thomas R. Mathews, a widower. Prior to their marriage, she had lived with her brother, Charles Kennard, a leather merchant, in the Longwood district of Brookline. After their marriage, the Mathewses lived briefly at 8 Wayne in Roxbury and then made 438 Marlborough their home.
Thomas Mathews was a wholesale coffee merchant. He had served in the Civil War and, in addition to his business, was an officer of the Massachusetts militia, rising to the rank of brigadier general, serving as commander of the Massachusetts Coast Guard, and retiring in 1904.
Minnie Kennard continued to live at 438 Marlborough until the mid-1890s, when she moved to Quincy to live on the family farm with her brothers, Harrison and Frank Kennard.
The Mathewses and Edith Kennard continued to lived at 438 Marlborough and in Quincy.
During the 1902-1903 winter season, they were living elsewhere and 438 Marlborough was the home of Mrs. Welthea Loring (Malbon) Bremer, the widow of William Mathias Bremer, and their adult children, Maud Clifton Bremer and Clifton Long Bremer, a lawyer. They had lived at The Charlesgate at 535 Beacon the previous season. By the 1903-1904 season, they had moved to the Hotel Tuileries at 270 Commonwealth.
The Mathewses resumed living at 438 Marlborough during the 1903-1904 season, but were again living elsewhere during the 1904-1905 season, and 438 Marlborough was the home of Dr. Edward Stickney Wood and his wife, Elizabeth A. (Richardson) Wood. They previously had lived at The Holland at 50 Commonwealth. They also maintained a home in Pocasset. Dr. Wood was a professor of medical chemistry at Harvard Medical School. A specialist in analyzing human blood, he was an expert witness in numerous murder cases. The Woods moved from 438 Marlborough after the 1904-1905 season, and he died in July of 1905.
During the 1906-1907 winter season, 438 Marlborough was the home of William Adams Copeland and his wife, Ida May (Haynes) Copeland. They previously had lived in Melrose. He was a manufacturer of shoe tree machinery. They had moved by the 1907-1908 season and by 1909 were living in Newton.
By the 1907-1908 winter season, 438 Marlborough was the home of Mary Caroline (Painter) May, the widow of Charles William May, and their two daughters, Mary Caroline Spencer May and Lucy Isabelle May. They previously had lived at 337 Marlborough. Mary Caroline Spencer May operated a school at 339 Marlborough and Lucy Isabelle May was one of the teachers. They continued to live at 438 Marlborough during the 1908-1909 season, after which they moved to an apartment at 222 Marlborough.
By the 1909-1910 winter season, 438 Marlborough was the home of Arthur S. Austin, a banker and note broker, and his unmarried sisters, Harriet Almira Austin and Caroline W. Austin. They previously had lived in Brookline. They also maintained a home in Swampscott.
The Austins originally leased 438 Marlborough from Edith Kennard and then from Maria Antoinette (Hunt) Evans, the widow of Robert Dawson Evans, who acquired the house in about 1912. She was the assessed owner from 1913 and is shown as the owner on the 1917 Bromley map. Maria Evans lived at 17 Gloucester.
Maria Evans died in October of 1917 and Arthur Austin acquired 438 Marlborough. He was the assessed owner from 1918.
Arthur Austin died in January of 1924. His sisters continued to live at 438 Marlborough. The Heirs of Arthur S. Austin are shown as the owners on the 1928 Bromley map.
Caroline Austin died in November of 1929. Harriet Austin continued to live at 438 Marlborough, where she celebrated her 100th birthday on September 25, 1931. She moved soon thereafter and died in Hopedale in 1935.
438 Marlborough was not listed in the 1933 and 1934 Blue Books.
By the 1934-1935 winter season, it was the home of Dr. Whitman King Coffin, a physician, and his wife, Rosaline (Moncrieff) Coffin. He also maintained his medical office there. They previously had lived in Medford and he had maintained his office at 416 Marlborough. They are shown as the owners of 438 Marlborough on the 1938 Bromley map. By the 1940s, they also maintained a home on Swan Island in Maine.
The Coffins continued to live (and he to maintain his office) at 438 Marlborough until about 1962.
By 1964, 438 Marlborough was being operated as a lodging house by James D. Keller, who lived in Belmont.
By 1968, 438 Marlborough was owned by Alexander Paul Kocsy. In November of 1968, he was cited by the Building Department for failing to maintain the building and also for allowing it to be occupied as a four-family dwelling when its legal occupancy was a single-family dwelling.
In March of 1977, the East Cambridge Savings Bank foreclosed its mortgage to Alexander Kocsy and sold 438 Marlborough to Alan Victor DiPietro. In May of 1977, Alan DiPietro filed for permission to convert the property from a single-family dwelling into four apartments. The permit was abandoned. He filed again in September of 1977 and, once again, the permit was abandoned.
Alan DiPietro died in April 1995 and 438 Marlborough became the property of his parents, Carmine DiPietro and Celia L. (Bagnulo) DiPietro, of Revere. Carmine DiPietro died in November of 2004 and Celia DiPietro died in May of 2011.
In January of 2012, the property was acquired by the 438 Marlborough Street LLC.
438 Marlborough was assessed as a four-to-six family dwelling in 2014.