Monday, April 09, 2007

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston

U.S. National Register of Historic Places

Isabella Stewart Gardner first welcomed visitors to her museum on New Year's Day, 1903. On that evening guests listened to the music of Bach, Mozart, and Schumann, gazed in wonder at the courtyard full of flowers, and viewed one of the nation's finest collections of art. Today, visitors experience much the same thing.

In 1898, Mrs. Gardner began work on her museum. Completed in 1903, the museum was named "Fenway Court" and constructed in the reclaimed swamplands of Boston's Fenway area. Modeled on the Renaissance palaces of Venice, Italy, it was designed by Willard T. Sears, with much direct involvement from Mrs. Gardner, to accommodate the art and architectural artifacts Mrs. Gardner had collected with her husband over many years. The building completely surrounds a glass-covered garden courtyard. The first through third floors were designed to be galleries. The fourth floor of the building was used as living quarters by Isabella Gardner until 1924, and is now used for offices. Mrs. Gardner insisted that the galleries be designed as a palatial home, not a museum, and in the early years after the building was completed she used those floors as such, opening them to the public just 20 days a year.


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