Other Ideas: The Hatch Shell; Old South Meeting House; Boston State House; Old North Church - North End; Bunker Hill Monument
Built in 1859, the Gibson House is a historic house museum in Back Bay. It is unique as an unspoiled single-family residence that retains its kitchen, scullery, butler's pantry, and water closets, as well as formal rooms and private family quarters--filled with the Gibson's original furniture and personal possessions. Visitors enjoy a glimpse of the lives of a well-to-do Boston family and their domestic staff.
Not particularly recommended for young children.
The Gibson House Museum is open Wednesday - Sunday from 5/ 1 through 10/31, and on Saturday and Sunday 11/ 1 through 4/30.
Tours run hourly at 1, 2, and 3 p.m.
137 Beacon Street, Boston, MA, 02116 map
If you like Downton Abbey you'll like visiting Gibson HouseI went today for a tour. The house is at 137 Beacon St, between Arlington and Berkeley. Look for a small sign out front. The tours are on the weekends - check the website for times. Today's tours ran at 1, 2, and 3PM. At precisely 1PM, ring the bell (if you ring earlier, they won't open), and whoever is outside at the time can come in for a tour (it was me and 3 other women who were together). I loved it. The house has all its original furnishings, paintings, books, etc., and you really do feel like you've stepped back in time. The last owner - Charles Gibson - kept everything as it was from around 1936. Everything is very Victorian. The wallpaper on the first floor is hand-embossed and gilded in gold. The lamps were originally set up for gas, but converted to electric (although you will still see the push-buttons instead of switches on the walls). There's a working victrola in the music room. The china on the dining room table is all original and most of it was part wedding gifts to the last owner's parents. There are buzzers and bell-pulls, dumb-waiters, and an old-fashioned 'bath' (alongside a real bathtub, there was a strange circular, large tin, where you sat at the edge and servants poured water over you). It's really fantastic. What's most amazing about the house is a feature right in the center - it looks like a tower of windows rising up in a column in the middle of the house - it was a way to bring light down from above, and heat up from below. Apparently, it's a feature that is unique to the house. You stand on the 2nd floor landing and look up at what looks like a skylight, and can see all the way up another 3 floors to the sky. Our tour guide - the director - was very knowledgeable and friendly. He knows the house inside and out, as well as the history of Boston at the time the house was built (he had lots of interesting facts, like: the house was built at what was then the edge of Boston proper, and the rest of Back Bay - literally a bay - was filled in afterwards for the next 40 years). He knew everything about the family, and had a lot of anecdotes especially about the last owner (somewhat of an 'Improper Bostonian' apparently). We were able to see the first floor (foyer and dining room, plus butler's pantry), 2nd floor (music room and library), and then onto the private family quarters' 3rd floor (a bedroom, bathroom, and private study). We were unable to view the 4th floor (administrative) or 5th floor (originally the servant's bedrooms). However, we were able to see the basement which included a laundry room (complete with an early 'washing machine') and kitchen (with ice box). The kitchen looks much like the one in Downton Abbey, complete with a row of bell pulls, and an old cast-iron stove. I will say that some of the ceilings were cracked and looked like they have sustained a little water damage, and the rugs are worn, but considering the house is untouched since 1936, I think it's in great shape. It's not a place to bring the kids, but if you love history, anything Victorian, want to see a glimpse of what it was like to live as one of Boston's elite - or just want to see inside one of the gorgeous brownstones in the Back Bay, you'll love it. And, as it's only one of about 20 brownstone houses which are still completely intact - the rest have been converted to condos or apartments - then you'll definitely want to see it. Highly recommend it.
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