Greater Light: A House History

Greater Light, the summer home and art studio created in the early 1930s by Gertrude and Hanna Monaghan, is a small but intriguing paragraph in the continuing saga of the history of Nantucket Island. Between the two World Wars, Nantucket was a place of quiet beauty and simple living that appealed to a group of artists who made it their place of inspiration and camaraderie during the summer season. The Monaghan sisters were part of that group, first arriving on the island in 1923 to rent a small studio near the harbor. The Nantucket they encountered was dilapidated and old-fashioned, supporting a population of about 3,000 year-round residents who were generally not inclined to embrace anything considered eccentric or frivolous. The days of Nantucket’s leading role in the international whaling industry, which once brought great wealth and prestige to the island, were long gone. Economic necessity forced the island to reinvent itself, and it became a destination for summer visitors, with a seasonal economy built upon their needs. Greater Light is a manifestation of that era in Nantucket’s past when artists from the mainland found inspiration on the island; Gertrude and Hanna Monaghan’s unique sensibilities created a lasting monument to the artistic life.

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The Nantucket Historical Association preserves and interprets the history of Nantucket through its programs, collections, and properties, in order to promote the island’s significance and foster an appreciation of it among all audiences.

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