Humble Humans

Philanthropic Preservations

Hidden amongst a row of regal brownstone facades is one of the most preserved homes in the United States. Untouched since 1954, the Gibson House in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood is a special time-traveler’s delight back to the city’s golden era—thanks to a forward-thinking family member.

In the mid-19th Century, the city of Boston undertook a massive public works project, filling in the swamps and shallow waters west of the city’s peninsula to form a completely new neighborhood, Back Bay. Quickly becoming a posh locale for the city’s elite to relocate, widow Catherine Hammond Gibson would appoint Edward Clarke Cabot to design her family home on Beacon St. Completed in 1860, the multi-leveled complex was one of the first abodes to be built amongst the lush parkways and avenues of the new neighborhood. For almost 100 years, seven Gibson family members and several staff members would live and breathe amongst its comfortable walls.

Featuring all the desirable fashions and machinations of the age, the home carries five levels of rooms with no detail left unturned. The first floor features “Japanese leather” wallpaper, embossed with gold and intricate patterns. A tall case clock from an early 19th century Boston clockmaker stands by the window. Paintings, sculptures, and exquisite sconces fill each hallway and cozy corridor, fit for city royalty.

Though the Gibson’s were known to be among Boston’s elite for many decades, it is due to Charlie Gibson Jr., Catherine’s grandson, that the name remains acclaimed in “Beantown.” An established poet, traveler, and horticulturist, Charlie would become inspired after visiting his friend Henry du Pont who was in the process of turning his family’s estate into a cultural institution. A gay man who never married, Gibson Jr. saw an opportunity to save his family’s estate and memory by turning the house at 137 Beacon St. into a museum. Preserving the house and its antique interiors, Charlie’s wishes would come to fruition three years after his death in 1957, saving it from any guttings or remodelings in the name of modernity.

Due to its original furnishings, the abode has been featured in various period productions including Greta Gerwig’s Little Women in 2018. The museum also hosts regular LGBTQ+ events in the name of its late founder, honoring stories and memories beyond the priceless paintings and furniture. As Back Bay has transformed back into a desirable neighborhood, the Gibson House remains a unique and authentic mainstay in the ever-changing neighborhood. Now that’s a poetic ending.

Written By: Seamus McMahon

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