New Book Shows Nichols’ Family Ahead of its Time

January 24, 2012
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The Nichols House Museum at 55 Mount Vernon St.

June Hutchinson’s “At Home on Beacon Hill:  Rose Standish Nichols and Her Family” tells the story of a typical upper class family living on Beacon Hill during the Gilded Age, but the family is anything but ordinary.

“What is so fascinating is how forward-leaning the Nichols parents were,” Hutchinson said. “They gave their daughters the freedom to do what they wanted with their lives within the strictures of society. They wanted their girls to be educated and find their own life paths.”

Hutchinson, past president and former board member of the Nichols House Museum, painstakingly tracked down and read hundreds of letters and documents concerning Dr. Arthur Nichols, his wife and three daughters. What emerges from Hutchinson’s research is the first comprehensive biography of the family, including eldest daughter Rose Standish Nichols – a renowned landscape architect and author.

“All of Rose’s business records were somehow thrown away,” said Hutchinson, who also has a background in garden design. “She’s someone we need to know more about.”

The book was published by the Board of Governors of the Nichols House Museum, thanks largely to a grant from former board member Julie Linsdell and her daughter Georgia Linsdell-Enders.

“To have the life of Rose Standish Nichols and her family documented in one place is just amazing,” Linsdell said. “It’s important to keep the stories of the Nichols family alive.”

Linsdell also praised her former next-door neighbor Hutchinson for her tireless dedication to the book.

“The end result is absolutely impressive,” Linsdell said.  “June feels so passionate about Rose Standish Nichols that she dedicated two years of her life to writing the book.”

Besides honoring the Nichols family, Hutchinson said the book is dedicated to Flavia Cigliano, who has served as executive director of the Nichols House Museum for more than a decade.

“Flavia has not only elevated the professional standards of the museum, but has raised the money to get the work done,” Hutchinson said. “What she’s done is totally remarkable, although I don’t want to denigrate the early board members who shepherded the museum and kept it intact.”

Cigliano said, “I’ve very much enjoyed my time here and have been blessed with very enthusiastic board members who have made every moment of my time productive towards the advancement of the professional development of the institution.”

Meanwhile, Cigliano said Hutchinson has managed to “flesh out” the story of the Nichols family by collecting anecdotes from a variety of sources.

“Certainly having this book rounds out the Nichols family story and gives us extended insights that we can share with our visitors,” Cigliano said.

To purchase “At Home on Beacon Hill: Rose Standish Nichols and Her Family,” call 617-277-6993 or e-mail info@nicholshousemuseum.org.

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