Back Bay Land: North Side of Marlborough between Clarendon and Dartmouth

The block on the north side of Marlborough between Clarendon and Dartmouth is 548 feet in length and 112 feet from Marlborough to Alley 419.

The land was part of the approximately 108 acres of land in the Back Bay owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Plan of Commonwealth lands, 5Dec1856 (Suffolk Co. Deed Registry, Book 743, end of book)

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.

Click here for more information on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts land in the Back Bay.

All of the land on the north side of Marlborough between Clarendon and Dartmouth was sold by the Commonwealth at its auction on January 3, 1863, in twenty-two lots: a 30 foot lot at the corner of Clarendon (Lot 1), eight 25 foot lots to the west of the corner lot (Lots 2-9), twelve 24 foot lots to the west of those (Lots 10-21), and a 30 foot lot at the corner of Dartmouth (Lot 22). The names of the buyers of the lots were reported by the Boston Herald on January 5, 1863.

Excerpt from plan of land sales through 1879, showing price paid per s.f.; 1879 Harbor and Land Commissioners Report

The corner lot at Marlborough and Clarendon was purchased by banker and broker Robert Marion Pratt. Lot 2 lot to the west of it was purchased by William B. Towne, and Lots 3 and 4 by William Scollay Whitwell, treasurer of the Boston and Roxbury Mill Corporation. Lots 5-8 were purchased by attorney Peleg W. Chandler, and Lot 9 by James M. Ellis. Attorney Edward Sprague Rand purchased Lot 10, and the next seven lots to the west, Lots 11-17, were purchased by Norman Carmine Munson. Lots 18 and 19 were purchased by William Brown, and the last three lots to the west, Lots 20-22, including the corner lot at Dartmouth, were purchased by Peleg Chandler.

Norman Munson, who purchased seven of the lots, was the Commonwealth’s contractor for filling the land. He had been in partnership with George Goss until 1860 and, during that time, they had received several large parcels of land as partial compensation for their services. It appears that the land purchased by Norman Munson at the January 3, 1863, auction was from his own funds.

Peleg Chandler took title to the eastern three lots (Lots 20-22) he purchased at the auction, and sold or transferred the deed bonds for the other four lots. Edward Rand transferred his deed bond for the lot he purchased (Lot 10) but then acquired the property back after a house had been built on it. All of the other successful bidders sold or transferred their deed bonds and the property was purchased from the Commonwealth by someone else.

Eastern and Central Parcels. On November 21, 1865, the Commonwealth sold the corner lot at Marlborough and Clarendon to attorney Francis E. Parker. It was purchased from him by Catherine Sanders (Pickman) Fay, the widow of Richard Sullivan Fay on April 22, 1869, and from her by Augustus Flagg on July 10, 1871. He built his home at 274 Clarendon.

The Commonwealth sold Lot 2, the 25 foot lot to the west, on January 3, 1863, to Catherine Louisa Hill and her sister, Almira H. Hill. They built their home at 103 Marlborough.

The Commonwealth sold Lots 3-5 as a single 75 foot parcel on October 15, 1870, to architect and building contractor Charles K. Kirby. He built 105-107-109 Marlborough for speculative sale.

The four 25 foot lots to the west (Lots 6-9) appear to have been developed by Charles Kirby in association with builder James M. Standish and his son, James Henry Standish. Lot 6 was purchased by James Henry Standish on June 14, 1872, from attorney Edward Ingersoll Browne, who had acquired it from the Commonwealth that same day. Lots 7-8 were purchased from the Commonwealth by Charles Kirby on September 3, 1872, and Lot 9 was acquired by James M. Standish on October 15, 1872, from Dr. Edward H. Clarke, who had purchased it from the Commonwealth on January 4, 1866. The Standish family and Charles Kirby built 111-113-115-117 Marlborough in 1872-1873 for speculative sale.

On September 9, 1867, the Commonwealth sold Lot 10, with a 24 foot frontage, to attorney Edwin H. Abbot. The lot had been purchased at the January 3, 1863, auction by Edward Sprague Rand, and it appears that he transferred the deed bond to Edwin Abbot to acquire the land on his behalf. On March 19, 1873, Edwin Abbot sold the land to builder James W. Tobey, who constructed the house at 119 Marlborough and sold it to Edward Rand on May 6, 1874, and he and his wife, Elizabeth (Arnold) Rand, made it their home.

Central and Western Parcels. On June 12, 1866, the Commonwealth sold Gardiner Howland Shaw a 168 foot parcel west of 119 Marlborough, comprising the seven lots purchased by Norman Munson at the January 3, 1863, auction (Lots 11-17). Gardiner Shaw and his wife, Cora (Lyman) Shaw, lived at 1 Joy Street. He died in May of 1867, and on April 2, 1877, the parcel was purchased from his estate by Charles William Freeland, a cotton manufacturer, merchant, and real estate developer. He built 121-123-125-127-129 Marlborough for speculative sale on the five eastern 24 foot lots.

On November 18, 1879, the Commonwealth sold Lots 18-19 to Henry Lee, Jr. He was a founder and partner in the investment banking firm of Lee, Higginson & Co. and president of the Provident Institution for Savings. He and his wife, Elizabeth Perkins (Cabot) Lee, lived in Brookline.

On November 28, 1879, Henry Lee, Jr., sold the eastern 12 feet of his land to Charles Freeland, who combined it with his remaining land (Lots 16-17) and built 131-133 Marlborough on 30 foot lots, for speculative sale.

Henry Lee, Jr., retained the 36 feet to the west and had 135 Marlborough built as the home of his son-in-law and daughter, Dr. Frederick Cheever Shattuck and Elizabeth Perkins (Lee) Shattuck.

On September 19, 1865, the Commonwealth sold the three lots further west (Lots 20-22), including the corner lot at Marlborough and Dartmouth, to Peleg W. Chandler, who had been the successful bidder at the January 3, 1863, auction. On November 25, 1868, he sold the lots to Hiram P. Bean, a mason, who built 317-319-321 Dartmouth for speculative sale.

Original Construction. All of the houses on the north side of Marlborough between Clarendon and Dartmouth had been built by 1880.

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 building permit applications, news reports, and dates provided in Bainbridge Bunting’s Houses of Boston’s Back Bay).

Original land sales on the north side of Marlborough between Clarendon and Dartmouth

Original deeds conveying land on the north side of Marlborough between Clarendon and Dartmouth

Original construction on the north side of Marlborough between Clarendon and Dartmouth

Building Restrictions in Original Land Deeds

The deeds from the Commonwealth included identical language specifying 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 subject to dimensional limitations enumerated in the deed; 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 “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.

Click here for more information on the restrictions contained in deeds of Back Bay land.

Original Land Deeds

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts conveyed the land on the north side of Marlborough between Clarendon and Dartmouth by the following deeds:

Address Date E-W N-S Grantee Book Page
274 Clarendon 21Nov1865 30’ 112’ Francis E. Parker 868 285
103 Marlborough 03Jan1863 25’ 112’ Catherine Louise Hill and Almira Hill 822 162
105-111 Marlborough 15Oct1870 75’ 112’ Charles K. Kirby 1019 246
111-113 Marlborough 14Jun1872 25’ 112’ Edward Ingersoll Browne 1113 97
113-117 Marlborough 03Sep1872 50’ 112’ Charles K. Kirby 1124 172
117-119 Marlborough 04Jan1866 25’ 112’ Edward H. Clarke 871 212
119 Marlborough 09Sep1867 24’ 112’ Edwin H. Abbot 908 128
121-133 Marlborough 12Jun1866 168’ 112’ Gardiner Howland Shaw 881 140
133-135 Marlborough 18Nov1879 24’ 112’ Henry Lee 1477 169
135 Marlborough 18Nov1879 24’ 112’ Henry Lee 1477 170
137 Marlborough 19Sep1865 24’ 112’ Peleg W. Chandler 867 118
317-321 Dartmouth 19Sep1865 24’ 112’ Peleg W. Chandler 867 119
317-321 Dartmouth 19Sep1865 30’ 112’ Peleg W. Chandler 867 121