The U.S. is blessed with some incredible mansion houses that have been transformed into museums and luxury hotels. Put these stunning American historic homes on your bucket list!
American Historic Homes
From the birthplaces of former Presidents to the country retreats of industry tycoons, these historic houses are very diverse in style. What these old homes have in common is striking architecture and a well-thought out visitor experience.
Why not take a road trip and visit a few of these historic properties in one go. The unique features of these old houses are an important part of American history.
15. Lincoln Home National Historic Site
The home of former president Abraham Lincoln and family from 1844 to 1861, this is one of the top attractions in Springfield, Illinois. Abraham and Mary Lincoln bought the Greek Revival style house for $1,200.
The only home that Lincoln ever owned, it has twelve rooms spread over 2 floors. It’s actually free to visit Lincoln’s home, although donations are encouraged.
You should arrive as early as possible at the Visitor Center front desk and groups of 15 or more should book 6 months in advance.
We were fortunate to visit this historic house museum before and loved the four block neighborhood, which is also part of the site. There are sometimes costumed volunteers playing traditional games here, and it’s fun to join in with them.
Address: 413 S 8th St, Springfield, IL 62701
One of the most famous houses designed by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Fallingwater is located in Laurel Highlands, Pennsylvania. Built as a vacation home for the Kaufmann family who were department store owners, Fallingwater is a perfect fusion of architecture and nature.
The house stands over a waterfall and the architect created the house to resemble a diving board. Floor to ceiling glass windows bring the outside in.
Local sandstone was used in the construction, which was completed in 1939. This historic gem is one of the rare Frank Lloyd Wright designs in the public domain with its original furnishings, artworks and setting all intact.
Donated to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy by Edgar Kaufmann Jr., Fallingwater is now a museum and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Since public tours began in 1964, over 6 million visitors have come to admire the house and grounds. There are 5,100 acres surrounding the house, known as the Bear Run Nature Reserve.
You can see another fine Frank Lloyd Wright designed home in Springfield Illinois: Dana-Thomas House.
Address: 1491 Mill Run Rd, Mill Run, PA 15464
13. Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
The former home of American writer Ernest Hemingway in the 1930s is a Spanish Colonial style house in the Florida Keys, built in 1851. When the writer and his then wife Pauline purchased the home in 1931, it was in a bad state.
They renovated the property and lived there until 1939, and it is now a National Historic Landmark. Hemingway wrote the novel To Have and To Hold here, as well as The Snows of Kilimanjaro, a selection of short stories.
Now the most popular tourist attraction in Key West, Hemingway House is famous for its six-toed cats. There are around 60 of them living on the grounds – descendants of Hemingway’s own polydactyl cat, named Snow White.
Address: 907 Whitehead St, Key West, FL 33040
12. Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
Situated on Biscayne Bay in what is now the Coconut Grove area of Miami, Villa Vizcaya was the home of James Deering. The Deering family made their fortune in agricultural machinery, and James was the Vice President of International Harvester Company.
The Deering Estate in South Dade was owned by James’s brother Charles and is another interesting Florida visitor attraction. Vizcaya Museum & Gardens is a National Historic Landmark built between 1914 and 1922.
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James Deering’s friend, the designer Paul Chalfin was actively involved in the project. Inspired by the country estates of the Veneto region of Italy, Vizcaya features many Mediterranean architectural elements. It is one of the most beautiful historical homes in Florida.
The house had quite a few design innovations, being built of reinforced concrete. A modern water filtration system was integrated, as well as a central vacuum system and an automated telephone switch board. In the grounds you’ll find a Secret Garden, maze, Fountain Garden, mangrove shore and iconic gondola dock.
Address: 3251 S Miami Ave, Miami, FL 33129
11. The Breakers
With an unbeatable location overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, this is one of the most spectacular mansions in Newport, Rhode Island. The Breakers was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1994.
Commissioned by Cornelius Vanderbilt II in 1893, the house was designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt. Built in an Italian Renaissance style at a cost of 7 million dollars, this Vanderbilt mansion was inspired by the 16th century palaces of Genoa and Turin.
Inside the 70 room palazzo, visitors will be amazed by the Morning Room with its platinum-leaf walls and ceiling. Originally thought to be silver-leaf, it was found after analysis by the Winterthur Museum laboratory in Delaware to be platinum. This explains why the surface never tarnished.
Address: 44 Ochre Point Ave, Newport, RI 02840
10. Ca’ d’Zan
One of the highlights of The Ringling in Sarasota, Ca’ d’Zan is a Venetian Gothic style residence. Completed in 1926 as the home of John and Mable Ringling, it’s now a popular Florida tourist attraction.
Ca’ d’Zan means the House of John in Venetian dialect. The well-known circus owner and his wife spent Winter seasons here.
Highlights of the property include the glazed exterior tiles, the Mable Ringling Rose Garden, the 82 foot high Belvedere tower and an Aeolian organ with 2,289 pipes.
Address: 5401 Bay Shore Rd, Sarasota, FL 34243
The former home of President Thomas Jefferson, Monticello is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. Located close to Jefferson’s birthplace, on land that he inherited when he was 26, Monticello was designed and rebuilt over more than 40 years.
This Albemarle County landmark was also a 5,000 acre plantation where more than 400 enslaved individuals worked. Among them was Sally Hemings, with whom it is thought that Jefferson had several children.
Jefferson called Monticello his essay in architecture. The name Monticello means little mountain in Italian and the house is built on top of a mound. The views of the Blue Mountains from the house are spectacular.
Guided tours of Monticello are available daily throughout the year. Tours of the outdoor gardens are offered from April to October.
Address: 931 Thomas Jefferson Pkwy, Charlottesville, VA 22902
8. Nemours Estate
The 300 acre estate of Alfred I. duPont, Nemours has a distinctly French appearance. This neoclassical mansion in Wilmington has 105 rooms spread over 5 floors.
Intended as a gift for Alfred’s second wife, Alicia, the estate was completed in 1907. It is named after the French town that Alfred’s great-great-grandfather represented in the French Estates General.
The interior of the Nemours Mansion is impressive, and includes many of Alfred’s inventions. The Chauffeur’s Garage with its collection of vintage cars is another highlight, and the grounds are thought to be the largest formal French garden in North America.
The Long Walk features two impressive elk sculptures and a fountain with 157 jets of water. The mansion and gardens are open to the public from Spring 2021 onwards. Visitors must pre-book their ticket.
Address: 1600 Rockland Rd, Wilmington, DE 19803
7. Longwood Mansion
Not to be confused with Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, the Longwood Estate in Mississipi is a unique octagonal shaped house topped with an onion dome. Also known as Nutt’s Folly, the mansion is a National Historic Landmark.
Designed by the architect Samuel Sloan in 1859 for Dr. Haller Nutt and and his wife Julia, the home’s upper levels were unfinished. Work stopped during the Civil War and Dr. Nutt passed with pneumonia in 1864.
The contrast between the completed basement level and the unfinished upper floors is striking. Daily tours are available via Natchez Pilgrimage Tours.
Address: 140 Lower Woodville Rd, Natchez, MS 39120
6. Oheka Castle
This luxurious hotel in the Hamptons was originally the home of banker and philanthropist Otto Hermann Kahn. The name Oheka comes from the first letters of his names, O-He-Ka.
Built in 1919 on top of an artificial hill, the French style chateau has 127 rooms and ornate formal gardens. In fact, Oheka Castle was the second-largest private residence in the United States.
The building appeared as Xanadu in the opening sequence of the movie Citizen Kane with Orson Welles. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Oheka Castle is a member of Historic Hotels of America®. This is one of the most popular Long Island wedding venues.
Address: 135 W Gate Dr, Huntington, NY 11743
5. Mount Vernon
The former estate of George Washington, first President of the United States and his wife Martha, Mount Vernon is located in Fairfax County, Virginia. Washington and Martha are buried in the family vault here.
The most visited historic estate in America, Mount Vernon is located on the banks of the river Potomac. As well as the 18th century house, there are over a dozen historic outbuildings including a blacksmith and stables.
George Washington personally oversaw the garden landscaping. He favored a naturalistic English style.
Address: 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Hwy, Mt Vernon, VA 22121
The former home of Elvis Presley in Tennessee, Graceland is an elegant mansion in the Classic Revival style. Set in 13 acres of grounds, Graceland Mansion is now owned by Elvis’ daughter Lisa Marie Presley.
Discover Elvis’ living quarters, the Jungle Room tiki bar, Trophy Building, Racquetball Building and Meditation Garden on an interactive iPad tour. Separate exhibits include Elvis’ custom jets and the Memphis Entertainment Complex.
There are several places to eat in Graceland, such as Vernon’s Smokehouse and Gladys’ Diner. And if you can’t tear yourself away, stay at The Guest House at Graceland.
Address: Elvis Presley Blvd, Memphis, TN 38116
3. Oak Alley
This former plantation in Louisiana takes its name from the canopied path of oak trees planted in the early 18th century, before the house was built. Enslaved labor constructed the property, which was owned by Jacques Roman.
One of these slaves was Antoine, a skilled gardener who mastered grafting techniques. He created an award-winning type of pecan that you could crack open with your hands, named Paper Shell.
Oak Alley Plantation was designed in the Greek Revival style, featuring 28 Doric columns. These correspond to the 28 oak trees in front of the house.
Address: 3645 LA-18, Vacherie, LA 70090
2. Hearst Castle
One of the most iconic American historic homes, Hearst Castle is the former home of publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst. This National Historic Landmark is also known as La Casa Grande or The Big House.
One of the finest examples of Mediterranean Revival architecture, Hearst Castle overlooks the Pacific Coast in San Simeon, California. Designed by architect Julia Morgan, this historic American mansion was built between 1919 and 1947.
The indoor Roman Pool and exterior Neptune Pool are two highlights of this American stately home. In the Stanley Kubrick movie Spartacus, the Neptune Pool is used as the entrance of Crassus’ villa.
Temporarily closed to the public, Hearst Castle will require advance reservations to visit when it reopens.
Address: 750 Hearst Castle Rd, San Simeon, CA 93452
1. Biltmore Estate
The largest home in America, the Biltmore Estate is now a popular North Carolina museum. Spread over 178,926 square feet, this Gilded Age mansion is still owned by the descendants of George Vanderbilt.
George commissioned the architect Richard Morris Hunt and landscape artist Frederick Law Olmsted to build the house in 1889. Completed in 1895, Biltmore House is a French Renaissance chateau with 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces.
Set in 8,000 acres, the grounds include 75 acres of formal and informal gardens. Daytime visitors to the Biltmore Estate receive a complimentary wine tasting at Biltmore Winery. George Vanderbilt’s grandson, William A.V. Cecil, planted vines in the 1970s and the winery itself was established in 1985.
There are several places to stay in Biltmore Village, including The Residences at Biltmore. This all-suite aparthotel features an outdoor pool, hot tub and fitness center just 900 yards from the Biltmore Estate.
Address: 1 Lodge St, Asheville, NC 28803
- To recap, these are some of the most famous American historic homes:
- Biltmore Estate
- Hearst Castle
- Oak Alley
- Mount Vernon
- Oheka Castle
- Longwood Mansion
- Nemours Estate
- Ca’ d’Zan
- The Breakers
- Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
- Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
- Lincoln Home National Historic Site
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