The block on the north side of Marlborough between Berkeley and Clarendon is 548 feet in length and 112 feet from Beacon to Alley 420.
The land was part of the approximately 108 acres of land in the Back Bay owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
The Commonwealth sold its land starting in 1857. The earliest transactions were by private sales negotiated by the Commissioners on the Back Bay. In 1860, the legislature required that all future sales be made through public auctions. The first auction was held on October 24, 1860, and they continued until March of 1872, when they were suspended due to depressed real estate values. In 1879, the legislature authorized the Harbor and Land Commissioners (successors to the Commissioners on the Back Bay) to sell lots with frontages of up to 100 feet by privately negotiated sale. The land sales resumed in May of 1879 and the last of the remaining land was sold in 1886.
The Commonwealth sold its land on the north side of Marlborough between Berkeley and Clarendon through private sales on May 2, 1860, and at public auctions on October 24, 1860, and November 18, 1862.
Eastern Parcel. The land at the corner of Marlborough and Berkeley, with a frontage of 95 feet on Marlborough, was purchased on May 2, 1860, by shipping merchant and real estate investor John Lowell Gardner. He and his wife, Catharine Elizabeth (Peabody) Gardner, lived at 7 Beacon, and would build a new home at 182 Beacon in the mid-1860s.
John Gardner sold the lot on August 3, 1863, to Horace Gray, Jr., an Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and later Chief Justice of the Massachusetts court and then an Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court. Horace Gray, Jr., subdivided the lot and on February 28, 1865, he sold the corner lot, with a frontage of 95 feet on Marlborough and 52 feet on Berkeley, to Edward Wainwright Codman, who built his home at 53 Marlborough.
On September 20, 1867, Horace Gray, Jr., sold the two abutting lots further north on Berkeley to building contractor George Wheatland, Jr., and on December 14, 1867, he sold him the remaining lot at the corner of Berkeley and Alley 420. George Wheatland, Jr., built 300-302 Berkeley for speculative sale, and on March 18, 1868, he sold the lot at 304 Berkeley to Marianne (Mason) Crafts, the widow of Royal Altamont Crafts, who built her home there.
Central and Western Parcels. The Commonwealth offered all of the lots west of 53 Marlborough at its first auction, on October 24, 1860: the corner lot at Clarendon, with a frontage of 30 feet on Commonwealth (Lot M); two 24 foot lots to the east of it (Lots N-O), and fifteen 25 foot lots running east to the lot at 53 Marlborough.
The October 27, 1860, Commercial Bulletin reported the results of the auction. Lot M, at the corner of Clarendon, was purchased by cotton manufacturer and merchant Abbott Lawrence (at the same auction, he also purchased the corner lot at Clarendon on the north side of Commonwealth). The two 24 foot lots (Lots N-O) were purchased by attorney Edward S. Rand, Jr. and Lot P was purchased by Robert Orr, a carpenter. The next eight lots (Lots Q-X) did not sell. Lot Y was purchased by Rev. Richard Manning Hodges; Lot Z by merchant tailor Horace E. Armington, Lots AA-BB by attorney Henry Augustin Johnson; and Lots CC-DD by Henry Lee, Jr., co-founder of the investment banking firm of Lee, Higginson & Co.
Lots Q-X, which did not sell, were offered again at the auction on October 21, 1862, when they again did not sell, and then at the auction on November 18, 1862, when all eight lots, with a frontage of 200 feet, were purchased by John Lowell Gardner.
Central Parcels. Of the successful bidders at the October 27, 1860, auction, only one, Rev. Richard Manning, purchased and took title to the land. All of the other successful bidders subsequently sold or transferred their rights to purchase the land, and the property ultimately was purchased from the Commonwealth by someone else.
Rev. Richard Manning Hodges purchased Lot Y from the Commonwealth on December 3, 1867. He and his wife, Elizabeth Quincy (Donnison) Hodges, lived in Cambridge. The lot remained vacant and after his death in August of 1878, their son, Dr. Richard Manning Hodges, Jr., built his home and office at 67 Marlborough.
On December 31, 1862, before the land was conveyed to Rev. Hodges by the Commonwealth, he entered into a party wall agreement (Suffolk Co. Deed Registry, Book 868, p. 184) with John Lowell Gardner, who had purchased Lot X to the west at the Commonwealth’s auction on November 18, 1862, and also held the right to purchase the Lot Z (Horace Armington had been the successful bidder for Lot Z at the October 24, 1860, auction and John L, Gardner had acquired his right to purchase the land). John L. Gardner subsequently sold or transferred the right to purchase Lot Z, and it subsequently was held by Prescott Bigelow, who died in July of 1868. The Commonwealth sold the land on July 30, 1868, to Frank Andrews as trustee for Prescott Bigelow’s minor children. The lot remained vacant and was purchased on May 24, 1876, from Frank Andrews by Dr. Francis Minot, who built his home at 65 Marlborough.
On August 1, 1863, the Commonwealth sold the lot at 57 Marlborough to a trust established under the will of Charles Russell Codman for the benefit of his daughter, Frances Anne (Codman) Sturgis, the wife of architect John Hubbard Sturgis, and on the same day it sold the lot at 59 Marlborough to John Sturgis. On September 10, 1866, John Sturgis and the trust exchanged lots. John Sturgis subsequently had 57 Marlborough built as his home, but sold it before it was completed to his brother-in-law, attorney Charles Russell Codman. The trust sold the lot at 59 Marlborough on February 27, 1873, to Clémence (Haggerty) Crafts, the wife of James Mason Crafts, and they built their home there (James Mason Crafts was the son of Royal Altamont Crafts, whose widow, Marianne (Mason) Crafts, lived at 304 Berkeley).
On May 1, 1873, the Commonwealth sold the lot at 61 Marlborough to James Henry Standish, a carpenter and builder, who built a home for speculative sale.
On June 8, 1875, the Commonwealth sold the lot at 63 Marlborough to Dr. Charles Pickering Putnam and his brother, Dr. James Jackson Putnam. They built their home and office there,
As noted above, Lots Q-X to the west of 67 Marlborough, with a combined frontage of 200 feet, were sold by the Commonwealth at its auction on November 18, 1862, to John Lowell Gardner, who took title to the property on March 6, 1863. He had nine houses built at 71-73-75-77-79-81-83-85-87 Marlborough, all of which he retained as rental property (there is no house numbered 69 Marlborough).
Western Parcels. On June 27, 1863, the Commonwealth sold the lot to the west of John L. Gardner’s land (Lot P with a 25 foot frontage) to Nathaniel L. Williams; on November 3, 1863, it sold the abutting lot (Lot O, with a 24 foot frontage) to Francis E. Parker; and on January 9, 1864, it sold the lot at the corner (Lot M, with a 30 foot frontage) to John Lowell Gardner.
On October 7, 1864, Nathaniel Williams sold Lot P to real estate dealer James T. Eldredge.
Between February and April of 1866, all three lots (Lots M, O, and P) were acquired by attorney William Everett, and on April 12, 1866, the Commonwealth sold him the remaining 24 foot lot (Lot N). He combined the lots and had 89 Marlborough built on the eastern 18 feet, which he sold to Jacob Crowninshield Rogers when it was completed. On February 27, 1869, he sold the remaining 85 foot lot at the corner to building contractor George Wheatland, Jr., who built 91 Marlborough and 273-275-277-279 Clarendon on the land, for speculative sale.
Original Construction. All of the houses on the north side of Marlborough between Berkeley and Clarendon had been constructed by 1878.
The plans below illustrate when the land on the block was first sold at auction by the Commonwealth, when the Commonwealth conveyed the land (based on the dates of the deeds), and when houses were first constructed (based on dates provided in Bainbridge Bunting’s Houses of Boston’s Back Bay).
Building Restrictions in Original Land Deeds
The May 2, 1860, deed from the Commonwealth (Suffolk Co. Deed Registry Book 777, p. 159) for the land at the corner of Marlborough and Berkeley specified that any building on the land was to be “at least three stories high for the main part thereof and shall not in any event be used for a stable, or for any mechanical or manufacturing purposes;” that the front walls were to be set back twenty-two feet from Marlborough, with “steps, windows, porticos, and other usual projections appurtenant thereto” allowed in the reserved space; and that “no cellar or lower floor of any building shall be placed more than four feet below the level of the mill-dam, as fixed by the top surface of the hammered stone at the south-easterly corner of the emptying sluices.” The deed also provided that the owners of the land would have the right to “plant and cultivate trees on the side walks” in front of their land provided that they left a distance of ten feet between the front boundary of their lots and the trees.
In November of 1858, the Commissioners on the Back Bay had voted to clarify that the prohibition on stables would not be enforced “in such a manner as to prevent the erection and use of private stables by gentlemen as appurtenances to their own dwelling homes; provided, such stables are so constructed and used as not to be justly offensive to the occupants of the surrounding buildings.” This clarification was subsequently published in the auction catalogues issued by the Commissioners, but usually was not included in the deeds.
In January of 1863, the Commissioners on Public Lands (successors to the Commissioners on the Back Bay) adopted dimensional limitations on the projections allowed in the setback area. These applied to the deeds previously executed by the Commonwealth, including the May 2, 1860, deed for the corner lot at Marlborough and Berkeley, and were included in all of the subsequent deeds for land on the north side of Marlborough between Berkeley and Clarendon.
Original Land Deeds
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts conveyed the land on the north side of Marlborough between Berkeley and Clarendon by the following deeds:
|53 Marlborough||02May1860||95’||112’||John L. Gardner||777||159|
|57 Marlborough||01Aug1863||25’||112’||Robert Codman and Charles R. Codman, trustees under the will of Charles R. Codman for the benefit of Frances A. Sturgis||896||209|
|59 Marlborough||01Aug1863||25’||112’||John H. Sturgis||832||273|
|61 Marlborough||01May1873||25’||112’||James H. Standish||1159||198|
|63 Marlborough||08Jun1875||25’||112’||Charles P. Putnam and James J. Putnam||1274||258|
|65 Marlborough||30Jul1868||25’||112’||Frank W. Andrews||936||173|
|67 Marlborough||06Dec1867||25’||112’||Richard M. Hodges||913||287|
|71-87 Marlborough||06Mar1863||200’||112’||John L. Gardner||827||71|
|27Jun1863||25’||112’||Nathaniel L. Williams||849||287|
|03Nov1863||24’||112’||Francis E. Parker||841||283|
|09Jan1864||30’||112’||John L. Gardner||838||113|