by Esther Kwon
Photography courtesy of Esther Kwon
The Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline is a three-story mansion that preserves cars as old as the 1899 Winton Horseless Carriage. The fantasy of late 19th century France and cobblestone streets continues to live through a handful of Anderson’s antique vehicles. On the other hand, sleek designs of supercars also steal the floor with unprecedented speed performance and design for their time.
Affluent residents of Brookline, Massachusetts—Larz and Isabel Anderson—began their car collection in 1899. The Andersons showcased their American and European vehicles to the public every Sunday afternoon. The couple grew their selection by adding another car almost every year, leading to a grand sum of 32 new cars until Isabel Anderson’s death in 1948. Fourteen of these original cars remain in the Auto Museum today and commemorate the fantastic and large collection of cars the Andersons used to show off to their friends and family.
“I worked here for ten years and I love this place. The whole building is gorgeous. The collection changes once a year; in the middle of April, we close down for three weeks and change it over,” said Susan Dennehy, an employee of Visitor Services.
The first floor features the supercar series with rare vehicles like the 1908 Stanley Steamer- Model K. The steamer brags a polished red body, an open-roof carriage structure and oversized, pastel yellow wheels. This vehicle is the only one of three left today.
Walking past the Stanley Steamer on your left and the 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing on your right, you hum to the slow jazz playing in the background and enter the next showroom. The Carriage collection is lined in a row with cars from midnight black to pastel green, with competing horsepower, distance and wheelbase models. You will encounter Anderson’s most famous, expensive car, the 1906 Charron-Girodet et Voight, which Larz Anderson used to ride to New Hampshire.
“I would check out the museum because Boston, particularly Commonwealth Avenue, used to be filled with dealerships. This area of Boston in general has so much industrial history, especially Allston, where many factory workers resided,” said Candice Lim (COM ’19).
The museum also unveils Boston University’s close connection to auto development history. Commonwealth Avenue was originally known as Boston’s “Auto Mile”: the thread of car dealership beginning with Alvan T. Fuller’s business on Packard’s Corner. Among the row of bustling sales, Boston University’s College of Fine Arts used to be the home of Noyes Buick during the roaring twenties.
Anderson’s vehicles offer 19th and 20th century time travel, for only $5 student admission. Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day except Monday, and only a twelve minute drive from Boston University, a wide-eyed reaction is practically guaranteed. You will need to restrain yourself from jumping onto the 1908 Stanley Steamer.