Back Bay Land: South Side of Marlborough between Hereford and Massachusetts Avenue

The block on the south side of Marlborough between Hereford and Massachusetts Avenue (formerly West Chester Park) is 640 feet in length and 112 feet from Marlborough to Alley 429.

Parker Street as shown on the 1874 Hopkins map

Originally, the block was divided by Parker Street, a 60 foot wide street located on top of the Cross Dam. The east side of Parker Street intersected with the south side of Marlborough at a point about 394 feet west of Hereford. It ran from Beacon southwest at approximately a 45 degree angle, intersecting Marlborough, Commonwealth, Newbury, and Boylston, and then continuing to Centre Street. Various manufacturing and industrial businesses had been located on the street to utilize the tidal power provided by the dam before its operation was terminated.

On March 1, 1872, all of the land on the south side of Marlborough and the north side of Commonwealth between Hereford and Massachusetts Avenue, with the exception of the land where Parker Street was located, was purchased from the Boston Water Power Company by a real estate investment trust formed by Grenville T. W. Braman, Henry D. Hyde, and Frank W. Andrews, known as the Beacon Street Lands Trust. The land under Parker Street remained the property of the company.

The trust also purchased the land on the north side of Marlborough and the south side of Beacon to the west of Parker Street. The land on the north side of Marlborough and south side of Beacon to the east of Parker Street was purchased by Daniel Davies, a housewright and carpenter, who also was Grenville T. W. Braman’s father-in-law.

The portion of Parker Street between Beacon and Commonwealth was discontinued as a public thoroughfare in December of 1879. In anticipation of the street’s abandonment, on April 30, 1878, the trust and Daniel Davies jointly purchased the land under the roadway from the Boston Water Power Company.

Excerpt from 1872 Plan of land on Marlborough and Commonwealth, between Hereford and West Chester Park (Massachusetts Avenue), showing land on which Parker Street was located; Suffolk County Deed Registry, Book 1095, p. 1

Daniel Davies died in June of 1878, and on February 1, 1879, his heirs and the Beacon Street Lands Trust entered into a series of transactions (using Chester M. Dawes as conveyancer) to apportion the Parker Street land between them. The trust acquired all of the land between the south side of Marlborough and the north side of Commonwealth, so that it then owned the entirety of those blocks.

The trust subsequently subdivided the land into several lots.

On March 6, 1879, it sold the eastern lot, at Hereford, with a 70 foot frontage on Marlborough, to Charles A. Morss, who contracted with Samuel Tarbell Ames to build 364 Marlborough and 27-29-31 Hereford on the land.

On October 15, 1879, November 5, 1879, and January 9, 1880, the trust sold the next three lots to the west, each with a 24 foot frontage, to individual purchasers, who built their homes at 370, 372, and 374 Marlborough.

On January 20, 1880, the trust sold the remaining land, with a 498 foot frontage, to J. Brooks Fenno and William S. Eaton, who transferred it on the same day to Benjamin W. Crowninshield and Walter C. Cabot. They subdivided the land and sold the lots to individual buyers.

The houses built at 396-398-400-402-404-406 Marlborough were partially built on land that previously had been Parker Street, with the Cross Dam below.

South side of Marlborough showing lots for 388-416 Marlborough, with area where Parker Street formerly was located

Building Restrictions in Original Land Deeds

The March 1, 1872, original land deed from the Boston Water Power Company to the Beacon Street Lands Trust, which included several tracts of land, included requirements that buildings be built of brick, stone, or iron; that buildings be not less than three stories in height including the basement; and that buildings not be used for a livery stable or for any mechanical or manufacturing purpose. The deed not include any requirement that houses be set back a specified distance from Marlborough.

All of the subsequent deeds from the Beacon Street Lands Trust conveying portions of their land on the south side of Marlborough repeated these restrictions and added a requirement that buildings be set back twenty-two feet from Marlborough, provided that doors, porticos, windows, and roof cornices were allowed to project into the reserved space with depth and dimensional limitations similar to those required by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts deeds conveying its lands (as expanded upon by the regulations of the Commissioners on Public Lands).

These deeds also included language governing the erection of and payment for party walls on the land.