The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden

You enter the Boston Public Library from Dartmouth Street. You pass under a sculpture by Augustus Saint Gaudens, past one by Frederick MacMonnies, through bronze relief doors sculpted by Daniel Chester French. These open into a lobby with arched ceilings covered in mosaics. You ascend a staircase fitted with yellow and amber marble from a defunct quarry that was reopened especially for this contract. You then turn left, or right, before the closed and locked set of oak doors at the head of this flight of stairs. You pass by one of the two magnificent stone lions carved by Louis Saint Gaudens, and continue to ascend, underneath a series of murals by Puvis de Chevannes.

Oh, right. The oak doors?

Yes. Locked. Always locked. Just past it is a public balcony above the courtyard. But the doors are locked. Always. Been coming here twenty years. Never seen anyone on that balcony, ever. Except in a photo from 1896.

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…Until Monday.

…When there was a tourist up there talking on his cellphone.

…Because somebody screwed up and left them unlocked.

There are very few parts of the library where I haven’t been, at this point. We’re down to “the parts for staffmembers” and “the board of trustees room” and “parts that are always closed.”

I have a plan to visit the Trustees room. It involves becoming a Trustee. I have already put the wheels in motion. Success is assured.

As to the last one…I mean, the building’s 1888 designers didn’t intend for me to visit the offices. They did intend for me to stand on that balcony. Look, I’m just saying, I know I’m not entitled to be there but I don’t feel as though I’m forbidden to be up there and if the door’s unlocked, I ain’t stopping to ask why!

I stood there and enjoyed the view and took photos until apparently someone with a radio saw me and used it to radio someone else, and shortly thereafter I was quite politely asked if Sir would mind very much not being there.

I left, immediately and courteously, with dozens of new photos in my phone and the sole regret that I didn’t have my good camera with me.

Which isn’t to say that the Nexus 5X didn’t serve me well. I took both of the above photos with it. As well as a photosphere, which you can view on Google Photos. Though (grr) it’s slightly janked-up.

3 thoughts on “The Secret Garden

  1. Rebecca

    Andy, it just occurred to me to ask, have you ever tried to open those doors before? And if yes, how often and when was the last time?

    Of course, now that you’ve been asked to leave once, you may feel slightly more guilty trying to get out on that balcony again. But I’m just wondering how many more times those doors might have been unlocked in the past and might be again in the future.

    Also, (I know, I’m being such a busybody. But my curiosity runs rampant if I stop to think about stuff like this for just a minute.) did you by any chance ask *why* those doors are kept locked? It’s such a small exterior space, it seems like a wonderful place to just catch a little fresh air if you’re spending an extended amount of time in the library.

    Which actually brings another question to mind. Is the courtyard open to the public?

    Ok, I think that does it. Except for, congratulations on your coup, lol.

  2. Ihnatko Post author

    If I’ve ever tried the doors, it was eons ago. I only used them on Monday because I saw someone up there and I put two and two together.

    The courtyard is indeed open to the public (and it’s a highlight of any walk through the library). I imagine that the doors are kept locked to keep the weather outside. The staircase is lined with magnificent murals and there’s wonderful plasterwork on the ceiling. Even on “nice” days, the moisture in the air could do some damage.

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