More Than Engagement Rings

Tiffany box

The name Tiffany makes me think of robin’s-egg blue jewelry boxes and stained, leaded glass lamps.  I got another think in Boston at the Ayer Mansion, the only surviving residence built and decorated by the master himself, Louis Comfort Tiffany. The house includes exterior mosaics as did Tiffany’s personal residence, lampLaurelton Hall, sadly destroyed in a fire in the 1950s.


Tiffany was one of the pioneers in the field of interior design. The house, on Commonwealth Avenue, was built from 1899-1902 for entrepreneur Frederick Ayer and his second wife, Ellen Banning Ayer. Together with his brother, Dr. James Cook Ayer, Mr. A. made his fortune in patent medicines including a little wonder for “chest complaint” that was popular and no surprise– turns out this cure- all was 3% heroin.

Boston Brahmins were appalled by the Ayer house that defied conventional norms, built as it was of limestone and granite amidst other houses of more classic red brick. Ayer went all out for Tiffany’s stained glass windows and a wonderful central light fixture that runs up all five floors. light fixtureThe house had an elevator so that Mr. Ayer, many years his wife’s senior, could be transported to the top floor where he reveled in the sanctuary that was his smoking room. Mrs. Ayer fancied herself an actress; accordingly, the entranceway is shaped like a stage with a proscenium arch and an inlay of a Romanesque temple that gives the illusion of depth.


After Mr. Ayer’s death in 1918, the house was taken over and almost wrecked by various businesses until it was purchased by an organization connected to the Catholic Church.  There have been numerous renovations with many ongoing. I was a little surprised that visitors were allowed to touch as we went through but the preservation expert leading the tour seemed non-plussed. If you’re in the area, check out the house; tours  of this National Historic Landmark are available on certain Saturdays and Wednesdays for a $10 donation. To find out about a tour or to rent the mansion for your next shindig, contact

Frederick Ayer and his muttonchop whiskers

Frederick Ayer and his muttonchop whiskers


It’s far too hot for Boston Baked Beans and I never liked Boston Cream Pie so here’s a recipe for Lobster Roll from Martha Stewart.  Lobster Rolls are a summer classic and less expensive to make than to buy. Go for it.

 lobster roll

Lobster Roll a la Martha

1 1/2 pounds cooked, shelled lobster meat (about four 1 1/2-pound lobsters), chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh chives (optional)

1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh tarragon or chervil (optional) (I’d omit chives and tarragon but that’s personal)

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (or to taste)

Coarse or sea salt

Freshly ground pepper

8 top-split hot-dog buns

1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, for rolls

Stir together lobster and mayonnaise. Stir in chives and tarragon (if using), and lemon juice; season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate, covered, while preparing rolls, or up to 2 hours.

Heat a large heavy skillet or griddle over medium heat until hot. Lightly brush outside of buns with butter; transfer to skillet. Cook, turning once, until golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. (Heat got to you; skip this step and just brush inside of buns with a little melted butter. Or not.)

Spoon about 1/2 cup lobster mixture into each bun. Serve immediately with a side of crunchy potato chips.

To drink, hoist a tankard of Sam Adams beer.

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