Mrs. Gardner was well aware of the curiosity the building of her museum as well as its architect (herself) aroused in the citizens of Boston, and she collected news clippings that described reactions to both. Click on the scan at left to zoom in and read the original story of the museum’s opening celebration.
While a select few were offered the privilege of visiting the museum during its earliest days, its official opening was on New Year’s Eve, lasting into the first wee hours of 1903. Invitations were sent to 200 friends and acquaintances. Arrangements were made for members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra to play under the direction of conductor Wilhelm Gericke accompanied by nine singers from the local Cecilia Society. Mrs. Gardner received her guests in the Music Room (later rearranged to form the Tapestry Room) dressed head to toe in black. After the concert, mirrored doors were pushed aside to reveal the lush courtyard, lit from every balcony by round flame-colored lanterns. Just imagine the reaction of those first visitors as they stepped into the magical, never-before-seen, space – an escape from the wintry cold outside. One of her guests described his reaction nicely, in a letter of thanks:
“Has the music-room dissolved, this morning, in the sunshine? I felt, last night, as though I were in a Hans Anderson Fairy Tale, ready to go on a flying carpet at any moment…”
Kristin Parker enjoys flipping through old newspapers, and much more, here at the Gardner Museum as our archivist. Take a look at another archival document, a concert program for another of Isabella’s renowned soirees, in her post about Isabella’s “Manuscript Club,” here.
We hope to see you in the New Year, too. And a hint: admission is free on January 1st every year, a fitting homage to the museum’s opening over a century ago. Or celebrate at the first After Hours of ’08, on January 17. We’ll see you next year!