The block on the south side of Marlborough between Clarendon and Dartmouth is 548 feet in length and 112 feet from Marlborough to Alley 424.
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.
All of the land on the south side of Marlborough between Clarendon and Dartmouth was sold by the Commonwealth at its auction on April 9, 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 Evening Transcript on April 9, 1863.
The corner lot at Marlborough and Clarendon was purchased by a Dr. Sharp, probably Dr. John Cauldwell Sharp, a physician, who lived at 40 Commonwealth. The two lots to the west of it (Lots 2-3) were purchased by merchant and banker William Thomas, who lived at 10 Marlborough. Dwight Foster, an attorney, purchased the next five lots (Lots 4-8), and Dr. Sharp purchased the four lots west of those (Lots 9-12). Peleg W. Chandler, also an attorney, was the successful bidder for the remaining ten lots (Lots 13-22), including the corner lot at Marlborough and Dartmouth.
William Thomas took title to the two lots (Lots 2-3) he purchased at the auction. Peleg Chandler took title to the corner lot at Dartmouth and the two to the east of it (lots 20-22), and sold or transferred the deed bonds for the other seven. All of the other successful bidders sold or transferred their deed bonds and the property was purchased from the Commonwealth by someone else.
Eastern Parcels. On April 9, 1863, the Commonwealth conveyed Lots 2-3, the two 25 foot lots west of the corner lot at Clarendon, to William Thomas, who had purchased the lots at the April 9, 1863, auction. On November 8, 1865, hardware merchant Albert Fleetford Sise acquired the corner lot from the Commonwealth, and on November 10, 1865, his wife, Edith (Ware) Sise purchased the eastern 10 feet of William Thomas’s land. The SIses combined the lot with the western 9 feet of the corner lot and built their home at 104 Marlborough.
Albert Sise continued to own the corner lot, with a frontage of 21 feet on Marlborough, which he kept vacant until 1873. That year, he and his wife moved to Medford and, on August 4, 1873, he sold the lot to Dr. James Reed Chadwick, who built his home at 270 Clarendon.
On December 16, 1865, William Thomas sold the eastern 22 feet of his remaining 40 foot lot to his son-in-law, attorney Charles Mayo Ellis, probably with the expectation that he and his wife, Helen (Thomas) Ellis, would build a home on it. Instead, they built their home at 129 Commonwealth. On April 6, 1868, Charles Ellis sold the eastern 18 feet to Rev. Rufus Ellis, who had 106 Marlborough built on it. On the same day, Charles Ellis sold the remaining 4 feet, to the west, back to William Thomas, who combined it with his remaining 18 feet and had 108 Marlborough built on it for his daughter, Mary M. (Thomas) Guild, the widow of George Dwight Guild.
Central and Western Parcels. On October 26, 1868, the Commonwealth sold Lots 4-8, with a frontage of 198 feet, to Charles William Freeland, a cotton manufacturer, merchant, and real estate developer. He built eleven houses on the land at 110-112-114-116-118-120-122-124-126-128-130 Marlborough, for speculative sale.
Prior to Charles Freeland’s purchase of the land at 110-130 Marlborough, the two 24 foot lots to the west had been sold by the Commonwealth, Lot 9 on April 14, 1865, to attorney and author Richard Henry Dana, Jr., and Lot 10 on January 3, 1867, by attorney Edwin H. Abbot. Both lots remained vacant. On March 1, 1871, builder John Fisher Farrington purchased Richard Henry Dana’s lot, and on December 4, 1871, he purchased Edwin Abbot’s lot. That same day, he also purchased Lot 11 from the Commonwealth. John Farrington subsequently built 132-134-136 Marlborough for speculative sale.
On April 9, 1863, the Commonwealth had sold Lot 12, to the west of the land later purchased by John Farrington, to Miss Sarah Jones of Hingham. She left it vacant and probably rejected offers from John Farrington to acquire it. After her death in March of 1889, it was inherited by her niece, Eliza Jones (Hersey) Andrew, the wife of John Albion Andrew, who had been Governor of Massachusetts during the Civil War. Eliza Andrew sold the land on January 20, 1891, to real estate dealer George W. Nason, who built a four-unit apartment building at 138 Marlborough.
At about the same time John Farrington completed the houses at 132-134-136 Marlborough, he purchased the land to the west of Sarah Jones’s lot in three transactions: a 58 foot wide lot to the east on July 29, 1872, from Francis E. Parker; a 25 foot lot to the west on November 2, 1872, from Louisa (Bronson) Hunnewell, the wife of Hollis Hunnewell; and a 38 foot wide lot between the other two on April 15, 1873, from Joseph Washington Clark. He subsequently built 140-142-144-146-148 Marlborough for speculative sale.
The land John Farrington acquired originally had been Lots 16-20 and one foot of Lot 21. Peleg W. Chandler had been the successful bidder for the lots 16-22, and sold or transferred his deed bonds for Lots 16-19. Lot 16 was purchased from the Commonwealth on April 11, 1864, by Robert R. Bishop, who sold it to attorney Francis E. Parker on June 30, 1864. Lots 17-19 were purchased from the Commonwealth on April 17, 1865, by George Putnam, Jr., who sold them to Francis Parker on March 24, 1870. Francis Parker sold the western 38 feet to Joseph Washington Clark on March 14, 1872 (who sold it to John Farrington on April 15, 1873), and the eastern 58 feet to John Farrington on July 29, 1872.
Peleg W. Chandler retained the deed bonds for Lots 20-22, the eastern three lots he purchased at the April 9, 1863, auction, and the Commonwealth conveyed the land to him in March and April of 1865. He sold all three lots on April 3, 1869, to Louisa (Bronson) Hunnewell. Hollis and Louisa Hunnewell built their home at 315 Dartmouth on the eastern 53 feet and she sold the remaining 25 feet to John Farrington on November 2, 1872.
Original Construction. All but one of the buildings on the south side of Marlborough between Clarendon and Dartmouth had been built by 1873; the last building, 138 Marlborough, was built in 1891.
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).
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.
Original Land Deeds
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts conveyed the land on the south side of Marlborough between Clarendon and Dartmouth by the following deeds:
|08Nov1865||30’||112’||Albert F. Sise||868||177|
|104-108 Marlborough||09Apr1863||50’||112’||William Thomas||868||39|
|110 130 Marlborough||26Oct1868||198’||112’||Charles W. Freeland||943||59|
|132 Marlborough||14Apr1865||24’||112’||Richard H. Dana, Jr.||859||201|
|134 Marlborough||03Jan1867||24’||112’||Edwin H. Abbot||892||292|
|136 Marlborough||04Dec1871||24’||112’||John F. Farrington||1083||134|
|138 Marlborough||09Apr1863||24’||112’||Sarah Jones||827||165|
|140 Marlborough||11Apr1864||24’||112’||Robert R. Bishop||841||206|
|142 Marlborough||17Apr1865||24’||112’||George Putnam, Jr.||862||130|
|144 Marlborough||17Apr1865||24’||112’||George Putnam, Jr.||862||131|
|146 Marlborough||17Apr1865||24’||112’||George Putnam, Jr.||862||133|
|148 Marlborough||30Mar1865||24’||112’||Peleg W. Chandler||867||113|
|315 Dartmouth||06Apr1865||24’||112’||Peleg W. Chandler||867||115|
|315 Dartmouth||08Apr1865||30’||112’||Peleg W. Chandler||867||116|