It was my first New England fall, something I have wanted to experience for years, to see the vibrant, rich colors of a New England autumn. Living in Houston, we have a few cold days but the trees are either green or have dropped their leaves. It’s the time of year in the Northeast that I miss as a child growing up, when the air is crisp and the colors are like a painting canvas.
Since 1837, Bostonians have been visiting the Public Garden, a quiet escape in the heart of Boston. I have been different times of year but the fall is particularly special. Like a Van Gogh painting with rich brushstrokes, the colors of the trees in the park are spectacular. I was excited that empty picture frames were scattered around the Public Garden where locals and tourists alike were taking photos. I felt like I was part of a painting with the deep oranges, yellows and reds.
Statues are scattered throughout the park including a dedication to Robert McCloskey’s book “Make Way for Ducklings” which I loved as a little girl. I have seen the ducklings dressed as Pilgrims or in Red Sox gear during the World Series. Children (and adults) enjoy these statues and visitors often sit on the ducks taking photos.
Boston’s proud history in the American Revolution and Civil War is depicted within the park as well as a special monument commemorating the discovery at Massachusetts General Hospital that inhaling ether makes a patient immune to pain.
An angel statue in a quiet corner of the garden is dedicated in memory to Boston philanthropist George Robert White, which is a beautiful spot in the park.
Frequent benches are scattered throughout the park with various dedications to residents who loved the Public Garden. I could sit on these benches for hours watching the world go by.
During the spring and summer, the Boston swan boats, which have been operating for over 130 years, transport visitors around the lake. I remember getting a postcard of the swan boats from my aunt and uncle as a little girl so I was interested in the Public Garden from a young age.
Evenings in the Public Garden are a great chance to relax and people watch. Wedding parties are often photographed on the bridge, I have seen couples dancing along the lake, and, I have heard either jazz saxophonists or classical violinists play by the lake. As the sun sets in Boston, be sure to head to the Public Garden to witness a taste of Boston with special memories.
The Public Garden is free. Dogs should be on leases and no skateboarding is allowed in the park. This Garden is a peaceful sanctuary in the heart of Boston’s Beacon Hill and Back Bay neighborhoods. Any visitors to Boston should include the Public Garden on their list.
Gibson House Museum
I am a big fan of historic houses and in Boston’s Back Bay (just a couple blocks from the Public Garden) is the Gibson House Museum, which sits discretely among a row of brownstones.
The house was designed by Edward Clarke Cabot with construction completed in 1860. Hourly tours, which occur in the afternoons Wednesday to Sunday (be prompt for tour times), tell the history of the Gibson family, which is fascinating.
The house was purchased by Catherine Gibson, as she was trying to find a suitable wife for her son, Charles Hammond Gibson. Mr. Gibson eventually married and had three heirs: Mary Ethel, Charles Jr. and Rosamond. Charles Jr. was the last occupant of the home (passing away in 1954) and his eccentricity meant that the home was kept as it was in Victorian times. Charles Jr. did not feel the need to modernize and wanted things to remain as they were when he was a child.
Visitors to the home will first be stunned by the entry way, as the Victorian wallpaper is original. Before electricity, the gold prints in the wall coverings were meant to reflect the light from candles. The décor in the entry is kind of gaudy which is what Victorians liked. Be sure to also notice the beautiful antique grandfather clock in the entry which still chimes on the hour.
The tour begins on the first floor which includes a dining room, with the table set for dinner like what would have been acceptable in the late 1800s. I enjoyed hearing about the worn carpeting as visitors to the house can see where the servants stood as parts of the carpet are worn. Lace curtains also cover the windows as in the Victorian age, deliveries to the houses were from the back alleys. The residents did not want to watch the “comings and goings” of the horses and carts delivering goods.
On the second floor, visitors will see the men’s and women’s parlors as it was customary that the two groups would retire to separate parlors. The two parlors definitely reflect different tastes but include carpets and glassware from Asia. Scattered around the men’s parlor are letters from the White House and Buckingham Palace, as the intent was to show visitors to the home famous connections.
Before heading to the third floor, be sure to look up and see the ventilation shaft as very few of these shafts remain. The tour description about how ventilation was handled is interesting.
On the third floor are two bedrooms—one decorated in a Japanese style while the other bedroom was converted into a study. Charles Jr. was a heavy smoker and be sure to look at the ceiling in the study as the coloration has turned brown from cigar smoke. Visitors should also be on the lookout for a missing portrait. Charles Jr. had a falling out with his sister, Rosamond, and removed her picture from the wall. Visitors are able to see the original coloration of the wallpaper outlined by the previous portrait.
On this floor is also the bathroom that was installed in 1902. This bathroom is very basic and before hot water, servants had to carry water up and down the stairs. This home has a lot of stairs so I can’t imagine would it would be like hauling buckets of hot water up several flights.
The tour ends with visitors experiencing the ground floor where the servants worked. The stove is from the 1880s and the laundry room is…well…antique. I can’t imagine how Mr. Gibson’s servants were still doing his laundry in the 1950s as the facilities are basic at best. For fans of “Downton Abbey”, the servant bells are lined across the wall in the kitchen and I felt a little like being in a movie set.
Admission to the Gibson House Museum is $9.00 and tours leave promptly on the hours of one, two and three. Photos are allowed inside, but only without a flash (which is difficult with the dark Victorian interior). I stumbled onto this house a few years ago and have visited several times since. It’s a step into the Victorian era in the middle of a very busy neighborhood. I love this house and learn something new every time I explore this museum.
Gibson House Museum
137 Beacon Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02116