85 Marlborough was built ca. 1864 for shipping merchant and real estate investor John Lowell Gardner, one of nine contiguous houses (71-73-75-77-79-81-83-85-87 Marlborough) he had built as rental property. He and his wife, Catharine Elizabeth (Peabody) Gardner, lived at 7 Beacon and then at 182 Beacon.
71-85 Marlborough are designed as a symmetrical composition (following a pattern of c-c-b-a-a-b-c-c). In the center are 77 and 79 Marlborough, with bow fronts and entrances that mark the center of the composition. 75 Marlborough and 81 Marlborough flank the central two houses and are designed to match each other and to have a continuous cornice line with 77-79 Marlborough. 71–73 Marlborough and 83–85 Marlborough flank 75 and 81 Marlborough and are designed to match each other, forming ends to the composition. 87 Marlborough – which gives the impression of possibly having been built as an afterthought – has the same roof and cornice design as 83-85 Marlborough, extending the composition one house further to the west, but includes an oriel window which sets it apart from the other eight houses.
71-87 Marlborough were originally numbered 65-81 Marlborough, and renumbered in about 1868 when houses were built further east.
John L. Gardner contracted to purchase the land for 71-87 Marlborough from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the early 1860s. On December 31, 1862, he entered into a party wall agreement with Richard M. Hodges, the owner of the lot to the east where 67 Marlborough would be built, and on February 26, 1863, he entered into a party wall agreement with James T. Eldredge, owner of the lot to the west where 89 Marlborough would be built. On March 3, 1863, the Commonwealth conveyed to John L. Gardner the 200 foot wide lot where 71-87 Marlborough would be built.
John Gardner died in June of 1884 and on January 3, 1885, his executors (his sons George Augustus Gardner and John Lowell Gardner, Jr., and his grandson George Peabody Gardner, son of George A. Gardner) transferred the property to themselves as trustees under his will. They continued to own the property and lease it to others.
On December 21, 1899, the trustees transferred 71-73 Marlborough to John Lowell Gardner’s grandson, Francis Skinner, Jr., the son of Francis Skinner and Eliza Blanchard (Gardner) Skinner (who had died in September of 1898). On the same day, they transferred 85-87 Marlborough to John Lowell Gardner’s grandsons, Joseph Peabody Gardner, Jr., William Amory Gardner, and Augustus P. Gardner, the sons of Joseph Peabody Gardner (who had died in June of 1875) and Harriet Sears (Amory) Gardner. The trustees retained the remaining five houses (75-77-79-81-83 Marlborough). All nine houses remained rental properties until 1906-1907, when they were sold to individual purchasers.
Click here for an index to the deeds for 85 Marlborough, and click here for further information about the land between the north side of Marlborough and Alley 420, from Berkeley to Clarendon.
While they were rental houses, 71-87 Marlborough tended to change occupants more frequently than many other Back Bay homes.
By mid-1865, 85 Marlborough was the home of Edward Reynolds Andrews and his wife, Sarah Hannah (Addoms) Andrews. They also maintained a home in West Roxbury, on a 100-acre farm, Home Farm, he had purchased in the mid-1850s.
In 1866, the Andrewses moved to Paris, where he became a banker. They returned to Boston in the mid-1880s to found a company, Andrews & Co., which introduced improved methods of creosoting timber. During the 1886-1887 winter season, they lived at 265 Beacon.
By 1867, 85 Marlborough was the home of John Haldane Flagler and his wife, Anna Harper (Converse) Flagler. They previously had lived at the Revere House hotel.
John Haldane Flagler was a manufacturer of boiler iron and tubing. He founded the National Tube Company and served as its president until it merged with United States Steel.
By mid-1870, 85 Marlborough was the home of furrier Henry Pazolt and his wife, Josephine (Reggio) Pazolt. They previously had lived at 130 Warre. They continued to live at 85 Marlborough in 1871, but by 1872 had moved to Newton.
By 1872, 85 Marlborough was the home of attorney Edward Jackson Holmes and his wife, Henrietta Goddard (Wigglesworth) Holmes. They had married in October of 1871 and 85 Marlborough probably was their first home together. Prior to their marriage, he had served as private secretary to US Senator Charles Sumner in Washington DC; in Boston, he had lived with his parents, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes and Amelia Lee (Jackson) Holmes, at 164 Charles and then probably at 296 Beacon.
85 Marlborough was listed as vacant in the 1878 Blue Book.
By the 1878-1879 winter season, it was the home of George Harrison Mifflin and his wife, Jane Appleton (Phillips) Mifflin. They had married in October of 1878 and 85 Marlborough probably was their first home together. Prior to their marriage, he had lived at 260 Beacon with his parents, Dr. Charles Mifflin and Mary (Crowninshield) Mifflin.
George Mifflin was a partner in the publishing firm of Houghton, Osgood & Co. In the 1870s, the firm (previously Hurd and Houghton) had acquired the Atlantic Monthly magazine and the Ticknor & Fields publishing company. In 1895, the founder, Henry Oscar Houghton, died, and control of the firm passed to George Mifflin. In 1908, it was incorporated as Houghton Mifflin Company.
On February 26, 1907, George Mifflin purchased 85 Marlborough from Joseph Peabody Gardner, Jr., William Amory Gardner, and Augustus P. Gardner.
During the 1922-1923 winter season, they were living elsewhere and 85 Marlborough was the home of attorney Henry Eldridge Warner and his wife, Henrietta (Slade) Warner. Their primary residence was in Lincoln. By the next season, they had moved to 68 Marlborough.
85 Marlborough was not listed in the 1924 Blue Book.
By the 1924-1925 winter season, Jane Mifflin and George Mifflin, Jr., were living at 85 Marlborough once again. They also maintained a residence in Nahant and later in North Andover.
Jane Mifflin died in November of 1935.
George Mifflin, Jr., continued to live at 85 Marlborough until about 1937. The house was shown as vacant in the 1938 and 1939 City Directories.
In September of 1939, Augustus P. Loring, guardian for George Mifflin, Jr., filed to change the occupancy from a single-family dwelling into a school for medical secretaries. The Board of Appeal approved the change in occupancy, noting that 85 Marlborough was “a fine, old-fashioned single-family residence of second-class construction” that has “out-lived its usefulness,” and that allowing a school, while “technically … a violation of the letter of the law” would not “conflict with the spirit” of the law, which allowed “educational, religious, philanthropic, or other institutional uses” in a residential district.
By 1941, 85 Marlborough had become the Wyndham School, founded by Edward James O’Callahan and his wife, Helen (Gately) O’Callahan. They lived in Cambridge and later in Brookline. In addition to serving as the school’s director, he also was an actor and was a founder of the Poet’s Theater in Cambridge.
Wyndham School was a secretarial school which, in the words of Edward O’Callahan’s son, professional storyteller Jay O’Callahan, taught “not just shorthand, typing, and accounting, but courses in the novel for these young women, courses in short story, poetry, the arts” to give the students “a wider view of the world.”
On September 30, 1954, the O’Callahans purchased 85 Marlborough from Augustus P. Loring and John G. Brooks, guardians of George Harrison Mifflin.
Wyndham School continued to be located at 85 Marlborough until the early 1970s.
In April of 1973, Edward J. O’Callahan applied for (and subsequently received) permission to convert the house from a school into eight apartments.
On June 11, 1973, 85 Marlborough was purchased from the O’Callahans by Eugene Sears Summers, Anthony Sears Summers, and Stephen R. Ross, trustees of the 85 Trust.
On September 30, 1974, 85 Marlborough was acquired from the 85 Trust by David Sullivan, and on April 5, 1979, it was acquired from him by Mary W. Sullivan as trustee of the 85 Marlborough Realty Street Trust.
On October 15, 1979, Mary W. Sullivan converted the property into eight condominium units, the 85 Marlborough Street Condominium..