449 Marlborough was designed by architect Obed F. Smith and built in 1887 by Charles A. Dodge, mason, for building contractor George Wheatland, Jr., for speculative sale, one of five contiguous houses (449-457 Marlborough) built in the same style. George Wheatland, Jr., is shown as the owner on the original building permit for 449 Marlborough, dated February 26, 1887, and on the final building inspection report, dated October 21, 1887, and is shown as the owner of all five houses on the 1888 Bromley map.
By the 1889-1890 winter season, 449 Marlborough was the home of Harrison Gray Otis Colby and his wife, Mary Catherine (Thompson) Colby. They previously had lived at 71 Beacon.
Mary Catherine Colby’s mother, Ruth S. (Welch) Thompson, widow of Francis Thompson, lived with them and is shown as the owner of 449 Marlborough on the 1895 and 1898 Bromley maps. She died in March of 1900, and 449 Marlborough became her daughter’s property. Mary Catherine Colby is shown as the owner on the 1908 and 1917 Bromley maps.
Harrison G. O. Colby was a career Naval officer. He served in the Civil War and the Spanish American War, retiring in 1908 with the rank of Rear Admiral. During World War I, he resumed active duty and served at the Charlestown Navy Yard.
Mary Catherine Colby died in May of 1921 and Harrison Colby died in November of 1926.
449 Marlborough was inherited by their only son, Francis Thompson Colby. The Heirs of Mary C. Colby are shown as the owners of 449 Marlborough on the 1928 and 1938 Bromley maps.
Francis Colby was a career army officer and noted big game hunter. His Massachusetts home was in Hamilton and he appears to have left 449 Marlborough largely unoccupied. He maintained the house (in November of 1931 he filed for, and subsequently received, permission to install a gas heating system) and may have used it on occasion. However, it is shown as vacant in the 1930-1953 Boston City Directories and is not listed in the annual Boston Lists of Residents.
Francis Colby was unmarried and at the time of his death in July of 1953, he left the bulk of his estate to the Boston Museum of Science for the purpose of establishing a replica of his gun and trophy room.
By late 1953, 449 Marlborough was owned by Henry H. Davis. In October of 1953, he filed for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property from a single-family dwelling into three apartments, and in May of 1953, he filed for (and subsequently received) permission to increase the number of apartments to five.
By 1967, 449 Marlborough was owned by Garland Junior College. In August of 1967, it applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the property into school offices. One year later, in August of 1968, it applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the building from offices into an infirmary for the school.
Garland Junior College owned a portfolio of 22 properties in the western portion of the Back Bay: 315, 319, 321, 329, 337, 339, 341, 343, 349, 377, 407, 409, 411, 413–415 Commonwealth, 24 Charlesgate East (419 Commonwealth), and 447, 449, and 451 Marlborough (composed of 451-457 Marlborough).
In April of 1976, Garland Junior College announced that, because of financial difficulties, it was merging with Simmons College. It subsequently sold twelve of its properties and transferred the remainder — those located furthest west (407-415 Commonwealth, 24 Charlesgate East, and 451 Marlborough) — to Simmons College.
Glen G. Grant, trustee of the Commonwealth College Trust, purchased eleven of the twelve properties from Garland Junior College. In October of 1976 he purchased 447 and 449 Marlborough and 315 and 341 Commonwealth; in January of 1977, he purchased 319, 321, 329, 337, 339, 343, and 377 Commonwealth. The remaining property, 349 Commonwealth, had been purchased in September of 1976, by Andrew Saggese, Jr., trustee of the Drew Realty Trust.
In June of 1979, the Commonwealth College Trust applied for (and subsequently received) permission to legalize the occupancy of 449 Marlborough as four apartments (notwithstanding the changes in occupancy to school offices and then to an infirmary approved in 1967 and 1968, the Building Department indicated that there was no record of the previous occupancy).
449 Marlborough subsequently changed hands. It remained a four-unit apartment building in 2014.