The Birds of 400

A new exhibit has come to roost in the lobby of Longyear Museum!

When Longyear purchased Mary Baker Eddy’s final residence at 400 Beacon Street in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, the grounds boasted a large birdhouse installed on a pole in the backyard. Historic photos showed that the birdhouse was part of the landscape during Mrs. Eddy’s time, and research revealed one of the most avid birdwatchers in her household was corresponding secretary William Rathvon.

As Longyear embarked on a thorough restoration of 400 Beacon Street, the Museum also had the birdhouse conserved. The large martin house, purchased by Mr. Rathvon in the spring of 1910, is now on display in the Museum’s lobby, along with the secretary’s illustrated copy of Our Common Birds and How to Know Them.

Mr. Rathvon—who would eventually become a Christian Science teacher, lecturer, and member of the Christian Science Board of Directors—joined the Chestnut Hill staff in November 1908. The following year he recorded some 60 species of birds on the property. His list of “permanent residents,” “summer boarders,” and “transient guests” can also be viewed in the lobby.

When the restored 400 Beacon Street reopens to the public in early 2024, the birdhouse will be displayed in Mr. Rathvon’s room.

In the meantime, we hope you’ll stop by to see the birdhouse in the museum lobby.

William Rathvon’s bird book and the list of feathered friends he observed at 400 Beacon Street in 1909, and (above) the 1910 martin house