Nichols House, Beacon Hill

Yesterday, I visited the Beacon Hill house of a famous woman I’d never heard of:  Rose Standish Nichols.  According to Judith B. Tankard, Nichols was one of the first professional garden designers as well as many other things:

“Outspoken advocate of social reform, tireless promoter of international peace, intrepid traveler, connoisseur of antiques, and all-round enthusiast of the arts, Rose Standish Nichols (1872-1960) was for many decades a familiar institution to the denizens of Boston’s Beacon Hill. But she was also one of the country’s earliest professional garden designers and an accomplished writer of garden history and criticism. Her three books on historical gardens in England, Italy, and Spam, together with dozens of articles about gardens around the world, earned her a considerable  reputation in her own lifetime.”  (See Tankard article for more information about Nichols.)

To be honest, I went on the tour of the Nichols house so that I could see the inside of a classic Beacon Street home.  I enjoy seeing older homes, furnishings and designs, and this tour was not a disappointment.  For more information about the house, click here.   I think what I liked most was the window seat surrounded by books.  Had I lived in this house, I think I would have spent most of my time curled up in this nook, looking down on the view of the street, the view of which I tried to capture below.

Mostly, though, I was impressed by the life story of this prominent Bostonian I had never heard of.  I plan to learn more about her in the future.   Do you know about Rose Standish Nicols?


Author: DebraB

I am a Professor of English at Concordia University-St. Paul. I have a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. My research interests include American literature, contemporary literature, Middle Eastern literature, African literature and feminist theory.

10 thoughts on “Nichols House, Beacon Hill”

  1. People really went crazy for these landscape designers in England back in the Regency Period. Of course these were the people with the big estates. I remember reading about Capability Brown maybe in reference to something about Dowton Abbey. But my dear fellow book lover Jane Austen talks about these gardeners and I remembered one she referred to so I looked him up one time. His name was Humphry Repton. They used to like follies in the old days. Like adding a classic Greek looking structure to the garden. I wonder what type of designs Ms. Nichols would have done in America. I don’t know if we would go in for follies but maybe we did? Again probably on the big estates.

    1. I don’t know what she would have liked. Her gardens are pretty much gone now. She did write some books on gardening, though, based on European gardens.

    1. Savannah is a great place to visit. We stayed in one of the many bed and breakfast inns. Very walkable city in the historic district. Great food as well as entertainment. If you go, email me and I will share some places we liked.

  2. Hello…well, no I didn’t know about her though it is hard to credit that someone born in the late 19th century could be styled “one of the first professional garden designers”. In the US maybe? But what about Olmstead and Central Park and in England, Capability Brown who really made a mark in the er 18th century…and he made that mark because of all those Renaissance gardens in Italy and later the French style, Versailles for example – they didn’t just get there by accident. Frederick V, Elector Palatine, the Heidelberg dude who married a daughter of James I (of Britain, was James VI of Scotland) had a gardening school…the garden designer was a kind of magus who helped we mere humans to contemplate the divine and and and…

    And Vita Sackville West whose gardening theories had so much impact at the same time as this woman…being just groaning with the readies, Vita didn’t need to work but her influence is vast.

    Howsomeever her middle name also intrigues – Standish? A rellie of MIles perhaps?

    1. Geez, Steve. You sure ask tough questions. All I know is that she is credited as ONE of THE COUNTRY’S (meaning the United States’ first professional landscape designers.) Everything came later to the U.S….

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