Our LGBTQ+ History

The Gibson House Museum is the vision of Charles Hammond Gibson, Jr., a writer, a preservationist, and a gay man. Understanding and interpreting Gibson's sexuality within the context of the rest of his lived experience is a key part of the history work we do at the Gibson House. Making the Gibson House Museum a welcoming and affirming place for the contemporary LGBTQ+ community is a key part of the current work we do.

Our Founder: Charles Hammond Gibson, Jr. (Charlie)

1874-1954 

Founder, Gibson House Museum 

Charles Hammond Gibson, Jr., or “Charlie,” as friends called him, was the last resident of 137 Beacon Street. Thanks to his vision, the Gibson House survives as a museum, opening to the public in 1957.

Today, the Gibson House honors Charlie's life and vision by interpreting his family home and neighborhood in the context of the time period of his life, his personal and literary endeavors, and his sexuality. 

 
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Coming of Age
Charlie grew up during the Victorian era in Boston’s Back Bay, one of the city’s trendiest neighborhoods. It was this period of wealth, leisure, and elaborate social decorum that Charlie would always idolize, and eventually work to preserve.
 
In his teens and early twenties, Charlie participated in a “bohemian” subculture, a word used to signal queer communities. Often these communities were formed around artistic endeavors like architecture, writing, or interior design. Such was the case with Charlie and many of his contemporaries, including Ogden Codman and Henry Davis Sleeper.
 
Charlie never married nor had a long-term partner. He did, however, stay in close contact with Maurice Talvande (the Count de Mauny), a man with whom he had a romantic relationship while traveling in France in his twenties. 

The Writerly Life

Charlie was a prolific writer throughout his life. The museum’s archives are filled with his poetry, travel lectures, odes to various dignitaries, a family genealogy, and even song lyrics. After the relative success of his travelogues, Charlie self-published two volumes of poetry, including The Wounded Eros (1908), a collection of sonnets which seems to be largely about unfulfilled love. He offered lectures on travel and history and readings of his poetry in parlors around Boston.

Preserving His Past

Charlie returned to the Gibson House to take care of his ailing mother when he was sixty. It was 1934, and his beloved neighborhood was changing; most of Charlie’s former neighbors were leaving the city to seek more space and modern accommodations in the suburbs. Charlie remained nostalgic for a previous version of Boston—one with a rigid class structure and wealth and power concentrated in the hands of people like his family and Back Bay neighbors.
 
The creation of this museum was Charlie’s way of holding onto the aesthetics and society of his youth. As he preserved his family’s home and story, Charlie overlaid his 1930s-era perspective onto his family’s 1800s-era Victorian possessions. He hoped this museum would be both a testament to his family’s importance and a shrine to his own literary accomplishments. In many ways, this house is less the story of the Gibson family and more the story of Charlie Gibson.

The ways we define same-sex attraction and sexual identity, and the words we use to do so, have changed dramatically over the last 150 years. We have chosen to use modern terms, like "gay" or "queer," to talk about Charlie Gibson and his contemporaries, although these definitions were not yet in regular use.

Our Past

The Gibson House Museum was an LGBTQ+ gathering place during different times throughout its existence as a private home and public museum. We continue to research, collect, and preserve the voices of others in the LGBTQ+ community who have in our history as well as document the times when those stories were overlooked. 

 
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Our First Curator

Gerard Ladd was the Gibson House's first curator, hired by Charlie Gibson himself to help catalog his family's artifacts and present the Gibson House as a museum. In the video below, Ladd's niece, Miriam Davison, shares some of her recollections about Ladd and mid-twentieth-century Boston.

Our Present

 

The Gibson House Museum continues to strive to be a gathering place for the LGBTQ+ community. 

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Charlie Gibson's Queer Boston

Explore the Gibson House and the gay subculture of early-twentieth-century Boston through Charlie Gibson's eyes. The story of the Museum's founder is one of legacy and family history, of the fading grandeur of Victorian-era Boston, and of Boston's LGBTQ history. Read more about Charlie here.

This tour is offered on the first Thursday of every month at 6:00 p.m.

$15 General Admission | $10 Members (Join Here!) | $12 Students and Seniors​​

Register here!