At “À la Belle Époque,” the organization’s 26th annual benefit set for Tuesday, April 11, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the St. Botolph Club at 199 Commonwealth Ave., the Gibson House Museum will be honoring the French Library.
The evening will include drinks, a light supper, and entertainment provided by a French music trio, while the Gibson House Museum will also be recognizing the French Library for culturally inspiring the community and for its dedication to preserving Boston’s architectural history with the recent historically sensitive renovation of its 1867 brownstone headquarters located at 53 Marlborough St. in the Back Bay.
“Every year, we have an honoree, and this year we decided to honor the French Library,” said Jackie Blombach, Benefit Committee co-chair and a longtime museum board member. “The Gibson House wanted to recognize someone else who is preserving an important, very beautiful Back Bay building.
They’ve finished a long preservation, and we wanted to honor the library’s work to preserve the building as they update it and make it more modern, yet they were also very sensitive to balancing future needs with the building’s charm and character.”
The French Library building was built seven years after the Gibson House as a much-more elegant building, added Blombach. By chance, the family who built the French Library were also friends of the Gibson family, she said, and both families summered together in Nahant.
Moreover, Mrs. Rosamond (nee Warren) Gibson was a Francophile, even before she married Charles Gibson, and they raised their three children in the Gibson House.
“She was a lover of all things French and even decorated the music room at the Gibson House to look like French salon of 19th century,” said Blombach. “She also made sure their cook knew about French recipes so she could have French food in her home, and they traveled to Europe, like a lot of other wealthy Bostonians in late 19th century.”
Added Blombach: “It seemed like a good match to honor the French Library for their preservation efforts and connection with the Gibson Family and Rosamond’s interest in France.”
The Gibson House also wanted to recognize the French Library this year, said Blombach, because of the high-quality French language instruction and cultural programs that the French Library provides.
This year also marks the 25th anniversary of Barbara Bouquegneauhad’s tenure with the French Library. She worked in a variety of different capacities before assuming her current role as executive director and president of the organization.
“The French Library has been part of the cultural life of the Back Bay for more than 60 years, ever since sculptor Katharine Lane Weems gifted to us her former home in 1961,” wrote Bouquegneauhad. “We take very seriously our obligation to help preserve the Back Bay’s special character. We admire our colleagues at the Gibson House and are very grateful to them for this recognition.”
Regarding the personal recognition she’ll be receiving, Bouquegneauhad added: “It has always struck how the people who join our French Library very quickly fall in love with it, just like I did 25 years ago. Our community is very passionate about France and the Francophone world, but they also feel that we are a special place, where you learn things, get entertained, and form lasting friendships. Going to work in this beautiful Back Bay mansion every day is a privilege and an immense source of joy.”
As for what guests can expect from this year’s benefit, Blombach said: “It’s really a party. We’re going to have hors d’oeuvres and a very light buffet supper that will include quiche and crepe, and French macarons and chocolate mousse [for dessert]. We’re going to have music with a pianist and a singer with an accordionist playing traditional French music. We’re going to create the feeling of French café society.”
The host of this year’s event is Robert B. Dimmick, an etiquette expert referred to as an “etiquetteer.”
Besides food, drink, and live music, another returning highlight of this year’s benefit will be the always popular raffle.
This year’s raffle will have 12 items, some of which are “French-themed,” said Blombach, including French lessons donated by the International School of Boston; a family membership to the French Library, which the organization donated; and tickets to the Boston Ballet’s production of “Sleeping Beauty.” Other raffle prizes include restaurant gift certificates; an “instant French wine cellar”; designer jewelry; and vintage treasures. The creators of BackBayHouses.org are also offering a walking tour for up to eight people.
One particularly enticing raffle offering is the “Green Fairy,” which, said Blombach, comprises “all the fixings to make drinks using absinthe,” included a bottle of absinthe; four glasses specially designed for drinking it; an absinthe spoon; and sugar cubes.
“It’s a really fun raffle item that kind of sums up 19th century French café society,” said Blombach, who pointed out raffle participants can buy tickets (one for $10, or six for $50) in advance and don’t need to be present at the event to win prizes.
Meanwhile, all proceeds from the event will go to preservation of the Gibson House Museum, as well as to support its operations and programs.
“It’s an important event for us,” said Blombach. “The Gibson House is pretty much exactly as it was when it was built in 1860. It’s like a time capsule.”
Tickets are $150 and may be purchased at https://www.thegibsonhouse.org/museum-benefit, or by sending a check with the names of your guests to the Gibson House Museum, 137 Beacon St., Boston, MA 02116.
Visit https://www.thegibsonhouse.org/museum-benefit for more information on the event.