Welcome to “Travel Tuesdays,” a resource for those whose plans have been deferred and a distraction for people who enjoy armchair travel. Each week we’ll suggest a virtual destination for you to visit.
All of these ideas are curated and brought to you by Lorraine Rubinacci!
To read Lorraine's archived posts, visit this page.
If you are tired of being stuck in the house, why not visit someone else’s place . . . virtually, that is. You could tour John Adams’s home, for example. The National Park Service has paired up with Google Arts & Culture to create a 3D tour of the four major buildings that comprise the Adams National Historic Park in Quincy. Here’s a screenshot of the Old House at Peacefield, the home of John, Abigail, John Quincy and their descendents.
Long Room of the Old House, Adams National Historic Park
Credit: National Park Service
The virtual tour allows visitors to see each room with its original furnishings, books, art, and personal belongings. Google’s presentation is easy to navigate with a mouse or touchpad: select a floor, click and swipe to move through space, use the “+” sign for close up views. After your tour, return to the park’s website where you will find photo galleries and a wealth of information about the family, their culture, and their impact on the nation.
Or, perhaps you’d like to visit Isabella Stewart Gardner’s place. Boston’s extraordinary collector and patron of the arts built a museum for her treasures, moved into the fourth floor, and subsequently left it all “for the education and enjoyment of the public forever.”
The Gothic Room
Credit: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
The building, which is modeled after a 15th century Venetian palace, houses an extensive collection of European, Asian, and American art in a series of rooms that feel like a private home, that is, the private home of a wealthy person who really loves art. Of course, it’s an illusion. Gardner intended the museum’s lower three floors to be visited, but the types of art--furniture, textiles, and ceramics, along with paintings and sculptures--and their arrangement immerse the visitor in the space. Well-loved for the atmosphere of its galleries and for its dazzling courtyard gardens, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is still impressive in virtual form. Explore the virtual tour as prep for your next in-person visit.
If you are interested in house architecture, and I suspect you are, it’s time to visit Historic NewEngland.org. This nonprofit organization preserves dozens of structures throughout New England along with a huge collection of objects and extensive archives. It operates over twenty house museums in Massachusetts in buildings that date from the 17th to the 20th centuries.
If Garrison, Georgian, and Gothic Revival are all gibberish to you, spend a little time perusing HNE’s website. Its illustrated list of properties can be filtered by state and, most helpfully, by style. Then, each building is described in detail with biographies of the former inhabitants, descriptions of the architecture and craftsmanship, and a section on restoration. Contemporary and historic photos illustrate each property’s story. Let’s take a look at two very different homes.
Built in 1878, the Eustis Estate in Milton is a stone and brick building with colorful accents, Romanesque arches, and prominent gables. Undoubtedly, this large, fanciful building is quite striking, but what impressed me the most when I visited the estate is the exquisite craftsmanship of the interior: its carved woodwork, fireplaces, stained glass, tile, and more. In an article about Eustis, The National Trust for Historic Preservation says, “The house is a testament to the Aesthetic Movement’s belief in beauty for beauty’s sake.” This image of the dining room illustrates my point. Even the paint is special. To see the rest of the house, take this 360° tour.
Dining Room, Eustis Estate
Credit: Historic New England
While quite different in appearance, the Gropius House in Lincoln, Massachusetts is an outstanding example of another architectural style: modernism. Designed by Walter Gropius in 1938 as his family’s home, the founder of the Bauhaus design school adapted its principles to a New England setting. The home and its furnishings emphasize functionality, incorporate non-traditional materials, and exhibit little ornamentation. Take a walk through this elegant, influential building on the Gropius House virtual tour. Where (and when) have you seen houses that incorporate these features?
The original uploader was Daderot at English Wikipedia., CC BY-SA 3.0
Virtual tours are most commonly offered through large, well-established organizations like the National Park Service, but some local preservation groups have also tried their hand at this. One of these is the Fairbanks House in Dedham, “the oldest timber frame house in America.” Built circa 1637 (and dated through dendrochronology), the house retains many of its original features and is, therefore, an important key to understanding 17th century construction methods. To get a closer look, you can purchase a ticket for the Fairbanks virtual tour. The modest purchase price helps support this National Historic Landmark which is owned and operated by the Fairbanks Family in America, a member-based non-profit organization.
Magicpiano, CC BY-SA 4.0
One final note: Some of these museums now offer online tickets with timed entry. Please check each website for details regarding reservations and visitor guidelines.
Wishing you well from my own sweet home.