Local Travel Tip: The Gardner Museum in Boston

On Presidents’ Day, my wife and I met friends in Boston to visit the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in the Fenway, which is a case study in museum revitalization. The venerable, distinctive museum building dates from the early 1900s. Inside is the extraordinary and eclectic collection of an amazing woman, who turned her private passion for art into a public gem. The recent expansion of the museum has given the place a new vitality and appeal—I remembered it as a sleepy, quirky, side attraction dwarfed by the nearby Museum of Fine Arts. Museum Director Anne Hawley, appointed in 1989, has led the transformation. A visit to the Gardner is always special. Seeing the four-story atrium with its exotic plants and trees in late winter is not exactly like walking up the ramp from the dim innards of Fenway Park and gazing upon the bright green outfield, but there is some of that. The artworks make a catalog of art history. After touring the museum we enjoyed a fine lunch in the new cafe that offers everything from trout and oxtail to flat-bread pizza and quiche.  Of note, Isabella married John Lowell “Jack” Gardner of Boston in 1860. Jack’s father’s mother, Rebecca Russell Lowell, was related to Percival Lowell, who arrived on Cape Ann in 1639. Jack’s shipping and railroad businesses were the source of wealth for the philanthropy for which Isabella and he are best known.