A Place Like Home

From the England of King James I, via Manhattan, to the Fogg

Nettie Naumburg died in 1930 and left to Harvard Rembrandt's Portrait of an Old Man, a Franz Hals, a Rubens, a Holy Family by Murillo, a small El Greco, and about 15 other paintings, as well as sculptures, furniture, pottery, Oriental rugs, Renaissance needlework, carved jade, Chinese bronze bowls, a Flemish tapestry, her Manhattan living room with troubador balcony, her dining room, her several stained glass windows, her entrance hall, $100,000 to build a wing onto the Fogg Art Museum to house these things, and money to look after them.

TREASURE
The great hall as it is today
Photograph by Jim Harrison

Aaron and Nettie Naumburg had one of the great New York apartments—a 14-room, 6,000-square-foot, triplex, custom built for them in 1916 in the Hotel des Artistes at 1 West 67th Street. Its main room was 45 feet long and 16 wide and had an 18-foot ceiling. The paneling and ceilings of all the rooms on the first floor were Jacobean English, brought from England by the Naumburgs, along with Tudor arches and Gothic mantles.

Aaron Naumburg—born in Pittsburgh in 1859, the son of a rabbi—was a producer of hatters' furs and a philanthropist. He died in 1928. The Naumburgs had rejoiced in their New York digs and hated to think of them erased. And so the Aaron and Nettie G. Naumburg Rooms came to Cambridge—contents, paneling, ceilings, and all. The museum could remove items (and it did) or rearrange them as long as the essential character of the rooms was preserved. Mrs. Naumburg meant the rooms to be used for receptions, for musicales, for talks, and as a commons for museum staff. The public may see the objects on display by appointment, and one may engage the rooms for one's own gala after museum hours for a not-insubstantial fee.

At the dedication of the installation, on November 9, 1932, a Naumburg kinsman said with feeling, "This room and all its contents, its very walls, have now, by a magic carpet, been transported to this place—to this shelter from the alarms of a dark and frightened world, this great College, this island of youth."

       

You might also like

Steven Pinker on Apple’s Vision Pro

Professor of psychology on the science and history behind the Vision Pro.

The State of Black America

Harvard African American scholars take stock of a difficult moment. 

Threats Foreign and Domestic

Joseph Nye discusses geopolitics and Harvard’s challenges.

Most popular

Harvard Portrait: Judith Grant Long

The associate professor of urban planning studies sports facilities and their impact.

The Way of The Blockbuster

In entertainment, big bets on likely winners rule.

Picture-book Publisher

Claudia Bedrick ’85 of Enchanted Lion Books offers an international array of stories to young children.

More to explore

Photograph of Winthrop Bell 1910

Winthrop Bell

Brief life of a philosopher and spy: 1884-1965

Illustration of people talking to each other with colorful thought bubbles above their heads

Talking about Talking

Fostering healthy disagreement

Vacationing with a Purpose

New England “summer camps” for adults