The Entry Way
In the late nineteenth century, if you were a visitor of the Gibson House, you would have been greeted at the door by a female servant, who would have taken your calling card and delivered it to the desired family member. While waiting, you would have time to observe the impressive surroundings (maybe as you are right now), including the dark walnut furniture and woodwork—a classic feature of Renaissance Revival style from the mid-1800s. The embossed gold wallpaper which you see in the entryway and up along the staircase, called “Japanese Leather Wallpaper,” was added in about 1890—making it around 130 years old—and reflects the “Japanesque” style, which drew inspiration from East Asia.
Although the size and layout of the Gibson House are similar to other row houses in the Back Bay, the center entrance is unusual, with its grand, sweeping staircase and large, ornate reception area leading to the formal dining room.
The Dining Room
The dining room would have been a gathering place for the family in the house, eating most of their meals together in this room while being waited on by their in-house servants. When this house was first built, the American Civil War was on the horizon and likely would have been a hot topic at meal time, especially because Charles Gibson Sr. (son of Catherine Gibson, who built the home) made his living as a cotton broker.
On the dining table you will find a variety of ceramic and porcelain dinnerware, including the unique green plates which date from between 1864 and 1873. Although some of the items on display were manufactured in England, the serving pieces are part of a dinner service imported to Boston from China for Nathaniel Russell (1779-1848) in 1830 and was later gifted to the Gibsons. Chinese export porcelain was extremely popular throughout the 18th and 19th centuries; most families would have owned some pieces.
Before leaving the room, don't forget to talk a peek out of the back window. This window looks out onto the back alley, where the private working parts of the home would have been taking place (think grocery deliveries and trash pick up). It might be hard to catch a glimpse through the lace curtains, but that was intentional! If you were dining with family, this window would be obscured by the curtains to hide the servant's work from view.
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