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Nichols House Museum June 15, 2011

Posted by flashbuzzer in History.
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I recently visited the Nichols House Museum in Boston. This museum is dedicated to telling the story of the Nichols family and providing visitors some insights on life on Beacon Hill during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Here are three nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. Rose Standish Nichols was one of the most fascinating women of her time. As a noted landscape architect, she somehow found the time to write extensively on gardening. She also played a prominent role in the women’s suffrage movement and never married. In addition, she enjoyed wearing gaudy hats and high heels – making her six feet tall – which embellished her (highly) opinionated personality. Before she passed away in 1960, she decided to leave the Nichols House in the hands of a trust fund – angering her relatives.

2. The Nichols House was actually designed by Charles Bulfinch. It was originally owned by Jonathan Mason as one of a set of four houses in the Beacon Hill neighborhood that he wanted to rent out. Low demand led him to have each of his four daughters live in one of those houses. Eventually the Nichols House was sold to Arthur Nichols, a physician who completed his medical training in Vienna due to American restrictions on the dissection of cadavers by medical students.

3. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, Beacon Hill families tended to live rather “frugally.” On one hand, they did not believe in splurging on decorating the private rooms of their homes, including the kitchen, the bedrooms and the bathrooms; this may have derived from the Puritan values held by the early settlers of Massachusetts. On the other hand, they made a point of designing rather opulent dining rooms and parlors with the aim of impressing their guests. Thus, the typical Beacon Hill home of that time period was a study in contrasts.

The museum contained several interesting items, including a tapestry that would have been worth one million dollars today – had it not been dry-cleaned sometime after Rose Nichols’ passing. The tour guide was friendly and extremely informative; she shared some interesting tidbits regarding Rose Nichols’ improper manner of speaking French and the surviving Nichols family members, which was neat.

I don’t have any quibbles at this time.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would definitely recommend it to history buffs who happen to be in the Beacon Hill neighborhood.

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