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Greater Light

Greater Light

Learn about how the Monaghan sisters transformed a pig barn into an art studio and summer oasis. The house and grounds are the perfect setting to continue artistic pursuits that are in keeping with the Monaghan tradition.

Greater Light was the summer home and studio of Gertrude and Hanna Monaghan, two independent, highly educated, unmarried Quaker sisters from Philadelphia. Gertrude (1887–1962), a professional artist, and Hanna (1889–1972), an actress and author, first came to the island in 1923, renting a small studio near the harbor.

In the early twentieth century, Nantucket was a place of quiet beauty and simple living that appealed to a small group of artists who gathered on the island during the summer season. The Monaghan sisters were part of what is now referred to as the Nantucket Art Colony, which thrived on Nantucket in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s.

Originally built around 1790 as a livestock barn, the sisters discovered Greater Light in 1929 when they followed a herd of cattle up Main Street. Enthralled, they purchased the dilapidated building and set about transforming it into their own summer oasis, adorning it with cast-off architectural elements, decorative objects, and eclectic furniture. Their personal aesthetic blended art and whimsy with an appreciation of unique handcrafted works—woven, carved, forged, or painted—that coalesced in an environment that is a monument to their spirit.

The garden, once a barren barnyard, was a key feature of the sisters’ v

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LOCATION

Greater Light

8 Howard Str, Nantucket, MA 02554

Accessibility Information

The public part of the house is wheelchair-accessible. The gardens are not wheelchair-accessible and are reached via a short gravel path and three stone steps with a secure handrail.

Service animals are welcome to visit Greater Light. We follow the Federal government’s guidelines on service animals. The NHA welcomes dogs that are individually trained to perform a task or work for a person with a disability, but please leave pets at home.

A wheelchair-accessible restroom is located on the first floor of the house for Historic Site visitors.

PUBLIC HOURS

All Historic Property grounds and gardens are open to the public and accessible during daylight hours. Historic Properties may close occasionally due to weather, special events, or maintenance.

PUBLIC ADMISSION FEES

Free to the general public during daylight hours.

Private Events Manager: 508-228-1894 ext. 115

rentals@nha.org

VIDEOS

  • The Nantucket Historical Association presents a short film by Nantucket photographer Beverly Hall honoring the creative legacy of Gertrude and Hannah Monaghan, the Quaker sisters who in the 1920s transformed an 18th century livestock barn into an art studio and iconic summer home they called “Greater Light.

Contact information

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