The block on the north side of Marlborough between Exeter and Fairfield is 600 feet in length and 112 feet from Marlborough to Alley 417.
The eastern 504.8 feet of the block were part of the approximately 108 acres of land owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The western 95.2 feet were part of the lands owned by the Boston Water Power Company, which included all of the land from the south side of Beacon to the north side of Commonwealth west of the Commonwealth’s lands.
There was a 0.37 foot (4½ inch) discrepancy in the original deeds from the Commonwealth and the Boston Water Power Company, with the Commonwealth deeds placing the boundary at 95.20 feet from Fairfield and the Boston Water Power Company deeds placing it at 95.57 feet from the corner. Click here for more detail.
Commonwealth of Massachusetts Land. 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 Exeter and Fairfield both through public auctions on March 7, 1871, and March 2, 1872, and thereafter through privately-negotiated sales.
At its auction on March 7, 1871, the Commonwealth sold the six lots furthest east, the 30 foot lot at the corner of Exeter (Lot 1) and five 25 foot lots (Lots 2-6). Reports on March 8, 1871, in the Boston Journal, Boston Herald, and Boston Daily Advertiser indicated that all six lots were purchased by building contractor George Wheatland, Jr.
At its auction on March 2, 1872, the Commonwealth sold the next six 25 foot lots (Lots 7-12), and the Boston Journal and Boston Herald reported that they, too, were purchased by George Wheatland, Jr.
The Commonwealth suspended all sales until 1879, after which it sold most of the remaining land through privately-negotiated sales. In their annual reports, the Harbor and Land Commissioners reported the total amount of land sold on each street and the amount remaining unsold. Unlike the earlier sales made by public auction, there was little press coverage of the transactions and the identity of the original purchasers usually was not reported. The 25 foot lot west of Lot 12 was sold in 1880, and the remaining lots were sold in 1881-1884 and 1886.
Boston Water Power Company Lands. The Boston Water Power Company sold its land in large parcels, almost exclusively to real estate investment trusts which then subdivided the land and resold it. It sold land in 1863, 1866, 1868, and 1872, by which point it had sold all of its land between the Commonwealth’s lands and a line 125 feet west of Massachusetts Avenue (West Chester Park). It sold the remainder of its land in the residential portion of the neighborhood in 1880.
On February 16, 1863, the Boston Water Power Company sold all of its land from the boundary with the Commonwealth to Fairfield on the south side of Beacon, north and south side of Marlborough, and north side of Commonwealth, to Daniel Davies, Jarvis D. Braman, and Grenville T. W. Braman.
Grenville Temple Winthrop Braman was a real estate investor and treasurer of the Boston Water Power Company, remaining in that position until mid-1869. Jarvis Dwight Braman was his brother. In the mid-1860s he was assistant paymaster for the Commonwealth, and by the 1870s he was engaged in real estate with his brother. In mid- to late-1878, he became President of the Boston Water Power Company, remaining in that position until his death in October of 1888. Daniel Davies was a housewright and master carpenter. His daughter, Susan (Susie) A. (Davies) Braman, was Grenville Braman’s wife.
Eastern Parcels. George Wheatland, Jr., who was the successful bidder for all six lots offered at the March 7, 1871, auction, built 7-9-11 Exeter at the corner of Exeter and Marlborough for speculative sale. He took title to the eastern 66 feet of land from the Commonwealth on August 13, 1872, probably after he had begun construction, and to the western 39 feet on May 9, 1873, after the houses were completed (the combined 105 feet being the corner lot and three 25 foot lots west of it).
George Wheatland, Jr., used the eastern 20 feet of the 39 foot lot for the rear yards of the houses on Exeter, combined the western 19 feet with the remaining two 25 foot lots he had purchased at the auction, and built 225-227-229-231 Marlborough for speculative sale. Rather than take title to the two 25 foot lots, he transferred his deed bond to his father, who then acquired them from the Commonwealth on October 20, 1874, after the houses were completed. George Wheatland, Jr., retained 225 Marlborough, which he subsequently sold, and sold his father the excess 1 foot 9 inch strip of land to the west, on which part of 227 Marlborough had been built. George Wheatland, Sr., subsequently sold the houses at 227-229-231 Marlborough.
George Wheatland, Jr., also had been the successful bidder on March 2, 1872, for the next six 25 foot lots (Lots 7-12).
On May 3, 1873, he transferred the deed bonds for the three eastern lots to Eben Dyer Jordan and Charles Marsh, co-partners in the dry goods firm of Jordan, Marsh & Co. He subsequently built 233-235-237-239 Marlborough on the land and, when they were completed, acquired the bonds back from Eben D. Jordan and Charles Marsh, purchased the land from the Commonwealth on November 28, 1876, and proceeded to seek buyers for the houses. None of the four houses sold, and on February 28, 1877, he, transferred the 75 foot lot and houses back to Eben D. Jordan and Charles Marsh. They sold the houses between September of 1878 and January of 1881, and on September 1, 1881, sold the remaining 8.33 foot lot to the west to real estate dealer Samuel Horatio Whitwell.
Central Parcels. George Wheatland, Jr., sold or transferred his right to purchase the western three 25 foot lots he had purchased at the March 2, 1872, auction. On August 24, 1881, the Commonwealth sold the eastern 45 feet to real estate dealer Samuel Horatio Whitwell and the western 30 feet to Josiah Bradlee.
S. Horatio Whitwell combined his lot with the 8.33 foot lot he purchased from Eben D. Jordan and Charles Marsh. He sold the eastern 23.33 feet on October 16, 1882, to James Barr Ames, whose father, building contractor Samuel Tarbell Ames, built 241 Marlborough; it was purchased on May 12, 1883, by Richard Olney as his home. S. Horatio Whitwell sold the western 30 feet of his land on December 26, 1882, to Dr. Francis Peleg Sprague. He sold it on April 28, 1883, to George Richards Minot, who built his home at 245 Marlborough (there is no house numbered 243 Marlborough).
Josiah Bradlee built his home at 247 Marlborough.
The Commonwealth’s land west of 247 Marlborough was sold under privately-negotiated contracts rather than at public auction. In several cases, the purchasers took title to the land after they had built their homes on it.
On January 26, 1880, the Commonwealth sold a 25 foot lot to Otis Norcross, Jr., who built his home at 249 Marlborough. The western wall of the house was built entirely on his land, rather than straddling the boundary with 251 Marlborough (as was customary).
On December 1, 1885, the Commonwealth sold a 26 foot lot to Francis Henry Appleton, and on December 8, 1885, Otis Norcross, Jr., sold him the western 6 inches of his land, with the western half of the party wall. Francis Appleton subsequently built his home at 251 Marlborough.
On March 3, 1885, the Commonwealth sold a 28.8 foot lot to the west of Francis Appleton’s land to Helen Read (Gardner) Curtis, the wife of James Freeman Curtis. They built their home at 253 Marlborough.
On May 20, 1884, the Commonwealth sold a 24 foot lot to Robert Stow Bradley, who built his house at 255 Marlborough,
By early 1883, the Commonwealth had entered into a contract to sell William Simes the 24.5 foot lot west of where 255 Marlborough would be built. On March 22, 1883, he took title to the western six inches of the land and subsequently built his home at 257 Marlborough, with the western wall entirely on his land. On April 16, 1884, he sold the western six inch strip (with half of the party wall on it) to Martha Anna (Ellis) White, the wife of Dr. James Clarke White, who had contracted to buy the land further west from the Commonwealth. On October 29, 1885, the Commonwealth conveyed to William Simes the 24 foot lot on which he had built 257 Marlborough.
By early 1884, the Commonwealth had entered into a contract to sell Martha White the 24 foot lot west of William Simes’s land. After acquiring the six inch strip from William Simes in April of 1884, on June 23, 1884, she acquired the western six inches of the lot she had under contract with the Commonwealth. She and her husband subsequently built their home at 259 Marlborough, with the western party wall entirely on their land. On January 26, 1886, the Commonwealth conveyed to her the remaining 23.5 feet she had agreed to purchase (bringing the lot to 24.5 feet), and on January 24, 1887, she sold the six inch strip to the west (with half of the party wall on it) to Henry A. Whitney, who was planning to build at 261 Marlborough.
On May 19, 1887, the Commonwealth sold Henry Whitney the 25.5 foot lot next to the Whites’ land. He combined it with the six inch strip he had acquired from Martha White and built 261 Marlborough as his home.
One year earlier, on February 26, 1886, the Commonwealth had sold the 22 foot lot at the western edge of its land to Nelson Slater Bartlett. He sold the land on March 3, 1866, to George Haywood Binney, who built his home at 275 Marlborough (there are no houses numbered 263-265-267-269-271-273 Marlborough).
Western Parcels. On February 16, 1863, the Boston Water Power Company sold all of its land on the north side of Marlborough between Exeter and Fairfield to Daniel Davies, Jarvis D. Braman, and Grenville T. W. Braman. The deed indicated that the parcel extended west 95.57 feet from the boundary with the lands owned by the Commonwealth to Fairfield. As noted above, this description was inconsistent with the Commonwealth’s deeds, which placed the boundary 95.20 feet east of Fairfield. Click here for more details.
On January 16, 1866, Daviel Davies and his partners sold the parcel to retired druggist William Gardiner Prescott. He and his wife, Josephine Augusta (Peabody) Prescott, lived at 129 Beacon. The next day, he transferred a half-interest in the land to real estate dealer Henry Whitwell. On March 1, 1870, they divided the land, with Henry Whitwell taking full ownership of the eastern 48 feet and William Preston taking full ownership of the western 47.57 feet.
On March 5, 1872, Henry Whitwell sold his land to architect and building contractor Frederick Pope, who subsequently built 277-279 Marlborough on two 24 foot lots, for speculative sale. At the same time, Henry Whitwell also sold Frederick Pope the equivalent parcel across the alley, where he built 343-345 Beacon.
William Prescott subdivided his land into two lots, fronting on Fairfield: a lot at the corner of Marlborough with a 58.5 foot frontage on Fairfield, and a lot at the corner of the alley, with a 53.5 foot frontage. He sold both on October 1, 1879, the northern lot to John Lowell Gardner, who built 8-10 Fairfield on it for speculative sale, and the southern lot to Georgina Lowell, who built her home at 12 Fairfield.
Original Construction. All of the buildings on the north side of Marlborough between Exeter and Fairfield had been built by 1887.
The plans below illustrate when the land on the block was first sold by the Commonwealth or the Boston Water Power Company, when the Commonwealth or Daniel Davies and his partners conveyed the land (based on the dates of the deeds), (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).
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.
The February 16, 1863, deed from the Boston Water Power Company to Daniel Davies and his partners included language almost identical to that of the Commonwealth’s deeds, with the exception that the height of the buildings was required to be “at least two stories high for the main part thereof exclusive of basement and attic” and the prohibition against stables was clarified as being a prohibition against “livery stables.”
Original Land Deeds
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts conveyed the land on the north side of Marlborough between Exeter and Fairfield by the following deeds:
|13Aug1872||66’||112’||George Wheatland, Jr.||1121||147|
|225-227 Marlborough||09May1873||39’||112’||George Wheatland, Jr.||1158||99|
|227-231 Marlborough||20Oct1874||50’||112’||George Wheatland||1239||206|
|233-241 Marlborough||28Nov1876||75’||112’||George Wheatland, Jr.||1366||137|
|241-245 Marlborough||24Aug1881||45’||112’||S. Horatio Whitwell||1535||561|
|247 Marlborough||24Aug1881||30’||112’||Josiah Bradlee||1536||8|
|249-251 Marlborough||26Jan1880||25’||112’||Otis Norcross, Jr.||1482||76|
|251 Marlborough||01Dec1885||26’||112’||Francis H. Appleton||1704||19|
|253 Marlborough||03Mar1885||28.8’||112’||Helen R. Curtis, wife of James F. Curtis||1669||397|
|255 Marlborough||20May1884||24’||112’||Robert S. Bradley||1638||449|
|257 Marlborough||29Oct1885||24’||112’||William Simes||1700||178|
|257 Marlborough||22Mar1883||0.5’||112’||William Simes||1634||373|
|259 Marlborough||26Jan1886||23.5’||112’||Martha Anna White, wife of James C. White||1711||217|
|259-261 Marlborough||23Jun1884||0.5’||112’||Martha Anna White, wife of James C White||1757||548|
|261 Marlborough||19May1887||25.5’||112’||Henry Austin Whitney||1784||401|
|275 Marlborough||26Feb1886||22’||112’||Nelson S. Bartlett||1714||513|
The Boston Water Power Company conveyed the land on the north side of Marlborough between Exeter and Fairfield by the following deed:
|16Feb1863||95.57’||112’||Daniel Davies, Jarvis D. Braman, and Grenville T. W. Braman||826||86|
Daniel Davies, Jarvis Braman, and Grenville T. W. Braman conveyed the land on the north side of Marlborough between Exeter and Fairfield by the following deed:
|16Jan1866||95.57’||112’||William G. Prescott||871||13|