Designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany over 100 years ago, Ayer Mansion is an icon of Boston's Back Bay neighborhood.

The granite-fronted single-family home in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood was designed more than 100 years ago by artist Louis Comfort Tiffany. This unique and beautiful property is today considered the most complete living example of his residential vision.

Its pale facade is striking, with mosaic panels set in limestone and the stained glass window arranged over the copper-clad double doors. This is one of only two exteriors known to have been designed by Tiffany and the only one that remains intact.

The interior, with an oval staircase and a white marble-clad entryway with mosaic risers, is as striking as the property’s gatehouse.

Designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany over 100 years ago, Ayer Mansion is an icon of Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood. The Tiffany Ayer Mansion

An extensive history

For decades, the building, known as Mansión Ayer, was owned by nonprofit organizations linked to the Roman Catholic group Opus Dei. and has functioned as part of a cultural center and residence for women attending nearby universities. During that time, its doors have been periodically opened to the public for tours, conferences and concerts.

All that could change soon

The mansion recently went up for sale along with an adjoining building, with an asking price of $22.5 million. This news worried some people who have worked for years to restore the house, considered by many to be an architectural monument bearing the Tiffany stamp.

There are concerns that a sale could stop access to the mansion for scholars and visitors
There are concerns that a sale could stop access to the mansion for scholars and visitorsThe Tiffany Ayer Mansion

Among them is Jeanne Pelletier, a preservation adviser for the nonprofit group Campaign for the Ayer Mansion, which has raised public and private money and worked with the mansion’s owner to repair and restore some of its original features. Pelletier is concerned that a sale could halt or lower the standards of those efforts and cause the mansion, which is a National Historic Landmark, was inaccessible to scholars and other visitors. “The biggest fear is that the public will never see these iconic interiors again.”

Marie Oates, a spokeswoman for the Trimount Foundation, which owns the mansion and the adjoining building that makes up the residence and cultural center, said she “wants to see what potential buyers might come up. They would be prepared to keep the property if they do not receive an acceptable offer”. Beyond that, Trimount would like to find a buyer who values ​​the mansion’s history, Oates said, and he hopes any new owner will make the facility accessible to the public, though that would be difficult to guarantee. “We would like to prioritize a buyer or offer that has an interest in preserving this national treasure. If, in addition, we find a buyer that allows public access, it would be incredible”, commented Oates.

The Trimount Foundation, which owns the mansion and the adjoining building - now for sale - hopes to find a buyer who is interested in preserving this national treasure.
The Trimount Foundation, which owns the mansion and the adjoining building – now for sale – hopes to find a buyer who is interested in preserving this national treasure. The Tiffany Ayer Mansion

Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen, a Tiffany expert and the Anthony W. and Lulu C. Wang Curator of American Decorative Arts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, said: The remarkable thing about the Ayer Mansion is that almost all the original elements are still preserved to a great extent.

According to Frelinghuysen, the Art Nouveau entrance hall, dramatic staircase, gilt mosaic ceilings, Favrile glass vases, and a trompe l’oeil temple located on a stair landing combine to form a unified decorative ensemble. “Here, everything was conceived as a complete work of art.”

Its name is due to the businessman and art collector Frederick Ayer, who had it built
Its name is due to the businessman and art collector Frederick Ayer, who had it builtThe Tiffany Ayer Mansion

the mansion, which it was built between 1899 and 1902 for businessman and art collector Frederick Ayersince 1964, has been owned at different periods by non-profit organizations associated with Opus Dei, an influential group historically connected to right-wing causes – which was founded on the premise that ordinary life and daily work are pathways to holiness and service to society.

As the story goes, the building has been used by a third nonprofit organization known as the Bayridge Residence and Cultural Center, which also has a connection to Opus Dei and promotes “moral and ethical integrity.”

In the mansion the restorations began in 1997
In the mansion the restorations began in 1997The Tiffany Ayer Mansion

Bayridge began restoration in 1997, first hiring an architecture firm to study the mansion and prepare a preservation plan. Since 1998, the restoration has been organized by the Campaign for the Ayer Mansion and a similarly named predecessor group, which obtained grants from the city of Boston, the Massachusetts Historical Commission, and the federal Save America’s Treasures program, as well as private foundations and donors.

With the cooperation of Trimount and Bayridge, The Mansion Yesterday carried out an interior and exterior restoration valued at about US$3 million. The work served to restore mosaic panels on the façade and repaired the colored glass screen in the mansion’s library sector. It also showcased a twenty-foot-long Tiffany lamp above a set of marble stairs, using existing glass and replacing missing pieces with surviving glass from Tiffany Glass’s Neustadt Collection.

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