An upcoming walking tour sponsored by the Nichols House Museum will transport guests back to the turn of the 20th century when Beacon Hill was considered Boston’s most bohemian neighborhood.
The Brahmins and Bohemians Beacon Hill Walking Tour kicks off on Wednesday, June 21, at the Nichols House Museum at 55 Mt. Vernon St. at 5:30 p.m., before visiting various sites in the neighborhood that were noteworthy between 1885 and around 1930, including making stops chronologically on Mt. Vernon, Pinckney and Joy streets and on Cedar Lane Way.
Camille Arbogast, the museum’s new Public Engagement Manager who has developed, and is leading the tour, said, “[It] was inspired by a desire to explore what Beacon Hill was like around the turn of the 20th century, when the Nichols family was living at 55 Mount Vernon Street. We’ll talk about writers, artists, and actors, and highlight some of the really bohemian locations on Beacon Hill.”
Added Arbogast, “Beacon Hill was known then as the most bohemian place in Boston, which was often described as Boston’s Greenwich Village. There was really a fascinating mix of people living on Beacon Hill at that time.”
Among the neighborhood’s residents then were Charles and Maurice Prendergast, two brothers and post-Impressionist painters who had their studios in the Swan House Stables on Mt. Vernon Street.
Other notable residents of the neighborhood at this time who will be highlighted on the tour include Timothee Adamowski, the first conductor of the Boston Pops who lived on Chestnut Street; along with several one-time denizens of Pinckney Street – then the epicenter of the neighborhood’s bohemian arts community – such as photographer Fred Holland Day, writer Louise Guiney, and architect Ralph Adams Cram.
“In the 1920s, another avant-garde group developed along Joy Street around the Barn Theatre,” said Arbogast. “By that time, Beacon Hill was well known as a hot spot of Boston’s alternative culture with bookstores, galleries, artistic clothing shops, and a number of cafes, some of which may or may not have been speakeasies. Researching this tour, I enjoyed the opportunity to dig a little deeper and really try to flesh out fuller stories of these people and places, and the connections between them.”
For the tour, Arbogast has budgeted about an hour and a half to allow attendees to ask questions and really delve into the stories being told.
“I think that people sometimes have an idea of who lived on Beacon Hill [during this time], and this may present a more complex picture of who was living here then. We’ll try to bring to light this time period on Beacon Hill and what it was like to live and visit here at that time,” she said.
The tours will be offered a couple of more times over the summer, said Arbogast, so check the museum’s website (nicholshousemuseum.org) in the coming weeks to learn about additional dates.
Admission for the tour is $20 per Nichols House Museum member, or $25 for non-members. Space is limited, and the tour will traverse the neighborhood’s sidewalks so guests can expect to encounter hilly terrain and uneven pavement.
Visit https://www.nicholshousemuseum.org/events/brahmins-and-bohemians/ to reserve your spot and for more information on the event.