Thursday, February 27, 2014

5 House Museums Around Boston to Visit

Boston is FULL of museums (definitely compared to living in the South), but maybe you don’t want to look at galleries full of encyclopedic art. Maybe you want a particular focus or just some context for the objects that you’re looking at. Or perhaps you want to spend just an hour looking at things. That’s where house museums come in. Rather than the gigantic collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, you get a more focused and somewhat personal view of someone’s taste in objects.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

So this is kind of a hybrid. The permanent collection is in her mansion and nothing is to be moved from its original location (unless it’s being conserved). There is also a Renzo Piano addition with a more modern collection attached. It’s pretty wild to be just blocks from Fenway and walking through rooms of art collected by a very wealthy Bostonian. They were also the victim of a major art theft in the 70s. The works were cut from their frames, and you can still see the empty frames in the rooms. It’s haunting but also fascinating.

Gropius House

The entryway to the Gropius House, Lincoln, MA.

The entryway to the Gropius House, Lincoln, MA.

If you like more modern aesthetics, New England can seem like a desert with all the colonial and federalist architecture. But Walter Gropius was hired by Harvard’s School of Design in the 30s, and he built a fantastically Bauhaus home in the town of Lincoln. It’s such a departure from the usual house museum in New England. Every design element was thought out to be the most efficient use of space. I feel like I’m walking through a Dwell article. Plus I want EVERYTHING in that house.

Paul Revere House

Is history your thing? Well, there’s plenty of it in Boston. Paul Revere’s home in Boston’s North End is part of the Freedom Trail. Plus, it’s just blocks from cannoli. Sold yet? I’ve never had the time to stop in when walking the Freedom Trail, but I’ve spoken with some of their employees and visitors. Revere is such a mythologized figure from the Revolutionary War that it seems surreal to tour his home. They have a ticket pass that includes entrance to all of the paid sites on the Freedom Trail if you want a day full of Revolutionary history.

Louisa May Alcott House

Okay, maybe this is just my own bias, but I LOVED Little Women and Little Men as a kid. I think I read Little Women about 50028626726987 times. Her house museum is in Concord, tucked near the Old North Bridge (where the first battle of the Revolutionary War took place) as well at Thoreau’s home. Concord can keep you busy all day with small museums and cute shops.

Gore Place

Multisensory model of Gore Place for visually impaired visitors.

Multisensory model of Gore Place for visually impaired visitors.

Full disclosure: I work at Gore Place but I’m writing this on my own time without getting any cashola. If you like Federalist architecture and/or Monticello, you need to see Gore Place. It’s a huge mansion with ingenious details like inserting china closets between two oval shaped rooms to allow for hidden clean up by servants, an indoor shower, central heating, and more. All from 1806. They also have a working farm on the property. The house was owned by Christopher Gore who was a lawyer, a MA state senator, and many other things during his career. It’s located in Waltham.

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