A Rose on Beacon Hill

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Over the weekend I found myself once again venturing into the historic neighborhood of Beacon Hill. This time it was to visit the Nichols House Museum located at 55 Mount Vernon Street. As soon as I entered through the doorway, I was greeted by two cheerful and very friendly docents. The house was originally built in 1804 but the rooms have been preserved and kept in the style of its last owner, Rose Standish Nichols, who I learned was quite an extraordinary lady. She lived in the house from 1885 until 1960 and decorated it with her own particular, exquisite taste. Nearly everything in the house belonged to her and it was hard to keep track of all her treasures- everywhere I looked I seemed to find one. But she was not only a remarkable collector, she was also a suffragist, a pacifist (they always seem to go hand in hand) as well as a landscape gardener who produced three books on the subject. As a lover of good conversation, she regularly used her home as a salon and threw countless tea parties as well (she made her own tea, but I was told it wasn't very good-still, I would have gone despite that). She had two sisters who were also somewhat unconventional women for their time: Marian ran for the State Legislature in 1920 and the youngest daughter Margaret taught carpentry (not surprisingly, they shared Rose's passion for social issues). What a pleasure it was to hear the history of such strong, interesting women. 

When I returned home, I read an article Rose had written for House Beautiful in 1910 on "Individuality in Interior Decoration," that was available to read on the Nichols House Museum website. I loved her opening lines:
"Simplicity and sincerity should form the keynote of the interior of our homes. If the inside of a house is pretentiously elaborate or if it does not suggest its owner's individuality, it is an obvious failure. Try to turn your home into a haven for rest and work and recreation, make it a real home..." 


"Comfort and convenience should never be sacrificed for the sake of following worn-out precedents or of exhibiting a forced admiration for 'high art.' Where we live and love and have the best part of our being is no place for any sort of pretense." 

Perhaps my favorite part of the house was the simplest part of all: the butler's pantry, which I photographed above (it is the seventh picture). I wanted it for myself! And I left Beacon Hill wanting it to be my very own neighborhood. I am falling in love with it. 

Special thanks to Emma and Maureen who were so very kind to me on my visit. I cannot wait to return and share the museum's special space with my mother. 


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