The best automotive museum you’ve likely never been to, the Boston area’s Larz Anderson Auto Museum, is home to one of the most unique private collections in the Western Hemisphere.
It’s the oldest auto museum in America, but it isn’t very large. Of the 50 cars on display at any given time, only a few are what you might consider dream cars. In fact, says Curator Sheldon Steele, the 14 historic vehicles that form the backbone of the collection are all around 100 years old and completely un-restored.
“Isabelle Anderson was considered one of the richest women in the world before she met and married Larz Anderson, a United States diplomat,” says curator Sheldon Steele. “Together, the Andersons had a kind of love affair with the automobile and, from 1899 to 1948, purchased one new car every year, retiring each to the carriage house where they were preserved.”
By 1927, the Andersons opened their carriage house for public tours of their “ancient” vehicles. When Isabel Anderson passed away in 1948, she bequeathed her entire estate—including the mansion, 64 acres of land and automobiles—to the Town of Brookline, Massachusetts. She stipulated in her will that the motorcar collection be known as the “Larz Anderson Collection.”
“Now fourteen of the original thirty-two vehicles remain in the collection,” says Steele. “What makes the museum so significant is not just the collection, which is a sight to behold, but the total historic package.”
According to Steele, the immaculately kept Larz Anderson Park is spacious and grassy with a tranquil duck pond, walking paths and a skyline view of Boston. At the center of it all is the museum itself, a castle-like carriage house that suggests the Anderson’s horses lived better than most people of the day.
Cars currently in the Anderson collection include an eight foot tall C.G.V. limousine, which was the Anderson’s favorite for long-range travel. The passenger seat converted to a bed and even had a functional toilet under one of the jump seats. There’s the first automobile the Andersons ever purchased—a 1899 Winton Runabout—and other rare autos including a 1924 Renault Torpedo, 1905 Electromobile, a 1907 Fiat and 1959 Rolls-Royce Shooting Brake by Radford. Complimenting the display is a collection of lamps, horns and period accessories.
“We have twenty to thirty thousand visitors every year,” says Steele, who credits the incredible attendance to a dynamic and constantly changing events calendar featuring lectures, children’s programs, walking tours of the Anderson Park and an ever-changing series of special exhibits on the Andersons, the automobile, and the overall impact of the automobile on our society and culture.”
“Right now our big exhibit is called “Dream, Obsession, Expression—The Art of The Automobile,” says Steele. “It features milestone vehicles like the Jaguar E-type and the Ferrari 275. Along with concept art ranging from gallery-size pieces to 6’ x 20’ original works from artist such as Carl Renner, the exhibit tells the story of the automobile as an element of cultural expression and a piece of art.”
For more information, go to www.larzanderson.org.