Light on Nantucket

Inside the Restoration of Quaker Sisters' Barn

In 1929, two Philadelphia sisters bought a former pig barn on Massachusetts’ Nantucket Island and began converting the 18th-century structure into their summer home and art studio. Hanna and Gertrude Monaghan named the house "Greater Light," after the core Quaker belief that Inner Light, or the divine, exists in everyone. In the barn, the sisters hosted teas, art shows, poetry readings, performances, and other events, helping to establish an arts community on the island that endures today. "The sleepy little town woke up, not with an indifferent yawn, but with a decided jolt," wrote Hanna Monaghan in her memoir about the renovation, Greater Light on Nantucket.

Hanna Monaghan bequeathed the house to the Nantucket Historical Association, and in 1973 the property became a museum. Visitors streamed throughout the barn and garden until the 1990s, when the barn’s deteriorating condition forced the association to close it to the public.

Two years ago, the Nantucket Historical Association began stabilizing and restoring Greater Light. Even the Monaghans' original furnishings, stored by the association, are being conserved. The property is scheduled to reopen to the public in July. In the meantime, these images offer a glimpse of the restoration in progress.

Photos courtesy of the Nantucket Historical Association 

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