When a house is not a home, but a museum
Some of the most beloved museums in the world started out as places where people lived: the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.; the Frick Collection in New York; Sir John Soane’s Museum in London; and, of course, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. It’s easy to forget that the Gardner was originally Fenway Court. Mrs. Gardner didn’t just put her art there. She put herself there, too.
There’s only one Gardner Museum, and as house museums go it’s truly in a category of its own. But Massachusetts has an abundance of house museums of the more traditional sort. There are more than 160. Some are the birthplace of a famous person. Some were the home of a famous person. Some are examples of period architecture or daily life in a historical era.
Here’s a Commonwealth-wide sampling, listed by location: from A, Adams’s Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum, to Y, Yarmouth Port’s Edward Gorey House.
Descriptions are taken from each museum’s website. Some museums are open only in the summer or on weekends, so visitors should always check the website or call before making plans.
Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum “[D]edicated to preserving the birthplace and raising public awareness of the wide-ranging legacy of the great social reformer.” 67 East Road, 413-743-7121, www.susanbanthonybirthplace.com
Emily Dickinson Museum “The [museum’s] mission is to spark the imagination by amplifying Emily Dickinson’s revolutionary poetic voice from the place she called home.” 280 Main St., 413-542-8161, www.emilydickinsonmuseum.org
Otis House “Discover where Beacon Hill began.” 141 Cambridge St., 617-994-5920, www.historicnewengland.org/property/otis-house
Nichols House Museum “The [museum] occupies an impressive four-story town house, one of the earliest Beacon Hill structures, constructed in 1804.” 55 Mt. Vernon St., 617-227-6993, www.nicholshousemuseum.org
William Hickling Prescott House “The American historian William Hickling Prescott lived at number 55 Beacon Street from 1845-1859. Prescott was one of the first English-speaking historians to write about the Spanish Empire.” 55 Beacon St., 617-742-3190, nscdama.org/william-hickling-prescott-house
Shirley-Eustis House “Often regarded as ‘Shirley Place,’ the original summer home is one of the few remaining Royal Colonial Governors’ mansions in the country.” 33 Shirley St., 617-442-2275, www.shirleyeustishouse.org
John F. Kennedy National Historic Site “As a boy, JFK’s parents never expected he would grow up to be president. Yet in his birthplace home he learned values that inspired a life in public service.” 83 Beals St., 617-566-7937, www.nps.gov/jofi/index.htm
Lousia May Alcott’s Orchard House “Experience the historic home of the extraordinary Alcott family, where Louisa May Alcott wrote and set ‘Little Women.’ ” 399 Lexington Road, 978-369-4118, www.louisamayalcott.org
Ralph Waldo Emerson House “In July 1835 . . . Emerson purchased his Concord home, proclaiming it was ‘the only good cellar that had been built in Concord.’ ” 28 Cambridge Turnpike, 978-369-2236, www.ralphwaldoemersonhouse.org
The Old Manse “The first shots of the Revolutionary War were fired nearby — and, less than a century later, Emerson, Hawthorne, and Thoreau spawned a revolution in American philosophy from here.” 269 Monument St. 978-369-3909, www.thetrustees.org/places-to-visit/greater-boston/old-manse.html
Benjamin Nye Homestead and Farm “[B]uilt in 1678 by one of the earliest settlers of Sandwich. . . . Located in a rural setting with marsh views and mill stream . . . a fine example of a timber frame home in colonial America.” 85 Old County Road, 508-888-4213, www.nyefamily.org
Sargent House Museum “A fine example of high-style Georgian domestic architecture . . . built in 1782 for Judith Sargent Murray (1751-1820), a philosopher, writer and an early advocate of women’s equality.” 49 Middle St., 978-281-2432, www.sargenthouse.org
Fitz Henry Lane House The celebrated painter “designed and built this austere but romantic granite house in 1848-49 with Gothic vaulted chambers, stone details, and an almost arbitrary interior room plan.” 25 Harbor Loop, 978-224-2036, essexheritage.org/attractions/fitz-henry-lane-house
Fruitlands Farmhouse, part of Fruitlands Museum “[T]he site of the experiment in communal living led by [Bronson] Alcott and [Charles] Lane in 1843.” 102 Prospect Hill Road, 978-456.3924, fruitlands.thetrustees.org
The Mount/Edith Wharton’s Home “[D]esigned and built by Edith Wharton in 1902,” it “celebrates [her] intellectual, artistic and humanitarian legacy.” 2 Plunkett St., 413-551-5111, www.edithwharton.org
Gropius House Walter Gropius designed “his family home when he came to teach architecture at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. Modest in scale, the house was revolutionary in impact.” 68 Baker Bridge Road, 781-259-8098, www.historicnewengland.org/property/gropius-house
Jeremiah Lee Mansion “[A] magnificent colonial Georgian home built by American craftsmen in 1768 when Lee was the wealthiest merchant and ship owner in Massachusetts.” 170 Washington St. 781-631-1768, www.marbleheadmuseum.org/properties/lee-mansion
Royall House and Slave Quarters “In the eighteenth century, [this] was home to the largest slaveholding family in Massachusetts and the enslaved Africans who made their lavish way of life possible.” 15 George St., 781-396-9032, www.royallhouse.org
Eustis Estate Museum “Explore a rare surviving example of late nineteenth-century architecture and design.” 1424 Canton Ave., 617-994-6600, www.historicnewengland.org/property/eustis-estate-museum-study-center
Durant-Kenrick House and Grounds “A 1734 farmhouse, restored and renovated in 2013 with the addition of a large, modern educational space.” 286 Waverley Ave., 617-641-9142, www.newtonma.gov/gov/historic/visit/durant_kenrick_house_and_grounds
Martin House Farm “[A] rare example of an 18th and early 19th century farm which still retains the character of its original setting.” 22 Stoney Hill Road at Route 6, 617-742-3190, nscdama.org/martin-house-farm
Arrowhead Museum “In September 1850 . . . the house, barns, and 160 acres [were sold] to Herman Melville. . . . Melville named the farm ‘Arrowhead’ due to the native artifacts found in the fields.” 780 Holmes Road, 413-442-1793, berkshirehistory.org
Adams National Historical Park From the sweet little farm at the foot of Penn’s Hill to the gentleman’s country estate at Peace field, [the park] is the story of ‘heroes, statesman, philosophers . . . and learned women’ whose ideas and actions helped to transform thirteen disparate colonies into one united nation.” 135 Adams St., 617-770-1175, www.nps.gov/adam/index.htm
Lyman Estate “[O]ne of the finest US examples of a country estate following the principles of eighteenth-century English naturalistic design.” 185 Lyman St., 617-994-5912, www.historicnewengland.org/property/lyman-estate
Edward Gorey House “[D]edicated to [the author-illustrator’s] life and work and his devotion to animal welfare. The house and its annual Gorey exhibits are open to the public from April through December.” 8 Strawberry Lane, 508-362-3909, www.edwardgoreyhouse.org