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2012 museums special

Eleven house museums around New England

Paul Revere’s house in Boston’s North End.Christopher Klein for The Boston Globe/file/Boston Globe

Throughout New England, dozens of house museums allow visitors to step back into another era in American history. Many of them close down for the winter, but there are plenty that brave the harsher months. Here are 11 that will remind you to appreciate the comforts that get us through winter today.

Built in 1680, this house is the oldest building in downtown Boston. It was also one of the first places to be designated a historical house museum. Paul Revere moved in in 1770, and five years later, began his famous midnight ride there. The museum now has a small collection of silver made by the man himself, and several pieces of furniture owned by his family. Also on the property is the Pierce/Hichborn house, one of the oldest brick buildings in the city (dating to 1711) and home to one of Revere’s cousins. The museum tries to portray not just a spot of great historical significance, but also a slice of daily life in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Open daily 9:30 a.m.-5:15 p.m. until Oct. 31., 9:30 a.m.-4:15 p.m. Nov. 1 through April. $3.50 adults, $3 seniors and students, $1 children ages 5-17. 19 North St., Boston. 617-523-2338, www.paulreverehouse



Located on the border of Beacon Hill and the West End, this Federal-style mansion offers a sense of both. Charles Bulfinch, one of America’s earliest professional architects, designed the building, which has been used as a one-family home, a boarding house, and an infirmary for women. Guided tours through the museum track its unusual timeline, and give visitors a fuller idea of Beacon Hill.

11 a.m.-5 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. Tours every half-hour until 4:30 p.m. $8 adults, $7 seniors, $4 students. 141 Cambridge St., Boston. 617-994-5920, www.historic

The Nichols House. Mark Shanahan

In contrast to the hodgepodge of history at the Otis House, the Nichols House Museum allows visitors to revel in the traditional image of a high-society Beacon Hill home. The family of Rose Standish Nichols owned everything that’s now in the house, which, like the Otis, was designed by Charles Bulfinch. The collection includes sculpture by Nichols’s uncle Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and a relief portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson. On the night of Dec. 4, the museum will hold a “Traditional Beacon Hill Eggnog Party,” featuring a recipe by Mary King, one of Nichols’s housekeepers.


11 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday until Oct. 31, Thursday through Saturday beginning Nov. 1. $8 adults, under 12 free. 55 Mount Vernon St., Boston. 617-227-6993, www.nicholshouse

The Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst.Carol Lollis/AP/FILE


The Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst features two houses associated with the acclaimed poet, The Homestead and The Evergreens. The Homestead was the Dickinson family home for decades, and inside visitors will find the main draw to the grounds: Emily Dickinson’s room, where she began to write seriously and lived until her death in 1886. The room is decorated only with furnishings owned by the family. Next door is the Evergreens, which was the estate of Dickinson’s brother Austin. Executive director Jane Walt describes it as a 19th-century time capsule.

11 a.m.-4 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday, until Dec. 30, then closed until March 1. Full tour: $10 adults, $9 seniors and college students, $5 ages 6-17, free under 6 and students of Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. 280 Main St., Amherst. 413-542-8161, www.emilydickin



For those who like their house museums a little less old-fashioned, the Gropius House invites visitors to tour the first American building by Walter Gropius, founder of the radical early-20th-century architectural mode Bauhaus. Gropius came to Massachusetts to teach at Harvard Graduate School of Design in 1937, and lived in this house from 1938 until he died in 1969. In addition to his family’s belongings, the house features a collection of furniture designed by modernist Marcel Breuer.

Tours 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on the hour, Saturday and Sunday. Last tour at 4 p.m. $10 adults, $9 seniors, $5 students, free for Lincoln residents and children under 5. 68 Baker Bridge Road, Lincoln. 781-259-8098, www


This Milton mansion has two specialties: the 19th-century China Trade and the Civil War. Captain Robert Bennet Forbes and John Murray Forbes, merchants in the China Trade, ordered the house built for their mother in 1833 and it remained a residence for the family until 1962. It now houses several artifacts from Captain Forbes’s journeys. Mary Bowditch Forbes, the house’s last permanent resident, was a enthusiast of President Lincoln, and commissioned a replica of Lincoln’s birthplace, which remains one of the estate’s major draws. The house’s grounds on Milton Hill are open to the public from dawn to dusk.

Guided tours at 1 and 3 p.m., Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. $8 adults, $5 seniors and students, free under 5. 215 Adams St., Milton. 617-696-1815, www.forbeshousemuse



The House of the Seven Gables is actually five house museums gathered in Salem. The one that gives the compound its name, also called the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion, was owned by a cousin of Nathaniel Hawthorne, and inspired the author’s classic novel. But that’s not all the estate has to offer Hawthorneheads: The writer’s birthplace was also relocated here in 1958. To celebrate Halloween, the houses will hold performances on Oct. 26, 27, and 31. “Legacy of the Hanging Judge” in the Nathaniel Hawthorne House delves into the Salem Witch Trials, while “Spirit of the Gables” brings Hawthorne’s book to life.

10 a.m.-7 p.m. until Oct. 31,

10 a.m.-5 p.m. after Oct. 31, closed the first two weeks of January. $12.50 adults, $11.50 seniors and AAA members, $7.50 ages 5-12, free under 5. 115 Derby St., Salem. 978-744-0991,


This 37-acre estate, a summer home for the merchant Theodore Lyman, has been through several renovations in several architectural styles. Because the space is often rented out for events, the furnishings are limited — the real draw is the Lyman greenhouses, which vary by season, from citruses to camellias.

Tours of the mansion 10 a.m.-1 p.m., the third Saturday of every month. $5 adults, $4 seniors, free for Waltham residents. 617-994-5912, www.his
Greenhouses open 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday until Dec. 14, Wednesday-Sunday after Dec. 14. Free. 185 Lyman St., Waltham. 781-891-1985,


Merchants love their mansions. This one was constructed in 1772, and served as both the Salisburys’ home and store. The house has been restored to simulate the experience of living wealthily in 1830s Worcester, when Elizabeth Tuckerman Salisbury resided in it with her orphaned niece.


1 p.m.-4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. $5 adults, $4 seniors and students, free under 18. Also grants admission to Worcester Historical Museum. 40 Highland St., Worcester. 508-753-8278, www.worcesterhistory .org

Mark Twain’s home in Hartford.Jim Jermanok/file/Boston Globe


Samuel Clemens lived in this gothic-style Hartford house for 17 years in the late 19th century. It seems to be an inspiring spot, as the author wrote “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” “The Prince and the Pauper,” and “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” while residing here.

9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and noon-

5:30 p.m. Sunday. Closed Tuesdays January through March. Admission to the house by guided tour only. $16 adults, $14 seniors, $10 6-16, free under 6. Includes admission to Mark Twain museum center, 351 Farmington Ave., Hartford, Conn. 860-247-0998,


The summer house of Robert Todd Lincoln, son of Abraham Lincoln, remained in his family until 1975. Now you can explore the property’s many gardens, expansive meadows, and miles of walking trails. Or check out the 1,000-pipe organ that Robert Todd Lincoln bought for his wife in 1908. Last summer, Hildene added a 1903 Sunbeam Palace Car to its collection. The train car was made by the Pullman Company, which Lincoln ran, and used by President McKinley.

9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily, $16 adults, $5 youth, free under 6. Guided tours available for an additional fee through reservation beginning in November. 1005 Hildene Road, Manchester, Vt. 802-362-1788,

Andrew Doerfler can be reached at