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.

The land was part of the Boston Water Power Company’s land in the residential portion of the Back Bay, which included all of the land from the south side of Beacon to the north side of Commonwealth west of the Commonwealth’s lands by a line about 95 feet east of what is now Fairfield Street. The company also owned the land on the south side of Commonwealth west of a point about 135 feet west of Hereford. The land to the east was owned by the Sears family.

The company sold all 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.

Click here for more information on the Boston Water Power Company land in the Back Bay.

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.

Grenville Temple Winthrop Braman was a real estate investor and served as treasurer of the Boston Water Power Company until mid-1869. He and his wife, Susie A. (Davies) Braman, lived at 9 Brimmer and later at 447 Beacon.

Henry Dwight Hyde was an attorney. He and his wife, Luvan Augusta (Charles) Hyde, lived at 153 West Newton and at 380 Commonwealth. Frank William Andrews was a real estate investor and former importer of iron and crockery. He and his wife, Maria Frances (Adams) Andrews, lived at 6 Marlborough.

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, Daniel Davies and Grenville T. W. Braman joined with the Beacon Street Lands Trust to acquire 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 parcels.

On March 6, 1879, it sold the eastern parcels, 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, for speculative sale.

In late 1879 and early 1880, the trust sold the next three 24 foot lots to the west to individual purchasers. On October 15, 1879, the trust sold the lot to the east to Sarah Howland (Ricketson) Williamson, the wife of William Cross Williamson, and they built their home at 370 Marlborough. On November 5, 1879, the trust sold the next lot to Frank H. Skinner, who built his home at 372 Marlborough. And on January 9, 1880, the trust sold the lot to the west to Mary Manzer (Clark) Harding, the wife of Albert Ellis Harding, and they built their home at 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 Williams Crowninshield and Walter Channing 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.

Original Land Deeds

The Boston Water Power Company sold its land on the south side of Marlborough between Hereford and Massachusetts Avenue by the following deeds:

Address Description Date Grantee Book Page
364-402 Marlborough Hereford to Parker Street 01Mar1872 Grenville T. W. Braman, Henry D. Hyde, and Frank W. Andrews, trustees 1095 1
400-416 Marlborough Parker Street to Massachusetts Avenue 01Mar1872 Grenville T. W. Braman, Henry D. Hyde, and Frank W. Andrews, trustees 1095 1
396-406 Marlborough Parker Street roadway 30Apr1878 Grenville T. W. Braman, Henry D. Hyde, and Frank W. Andrews, trustees; Grenville T. W. Braman; and Daniel Davies 1449 3