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Historic Home Tours
There are so many historic homes across the country have been meticulously maintained and offer guided tours so we can get a glimpse of what life was like in a different era. Their architecture, furnishings and histories are fascinating, so you just might want to plan your next camping trip around a tour of a historic home. Here are a few to consider:
Mark Twain House | Hartford, Connecticut
Famous author Samuel Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain) and his wife Olivia had this 11,500-square-foot home built in 1873 and they lived here from 1874 to 1891. He considered the years that he and his family lived in this 25-room home to be the happiest and most productive of his life. National Geographic named the home one of the “10 Best Historic Homes in the World,” and Time magazine nicknamed it “Downton Abbey’s American Cousin.” Guided tours are available, and Living History Tours with costumed members of the Clemens Family or the serving staff are offered weekly.
The Breakers | Newport, Rhode Island
This opulent 70-room estate is a National Historic Landmark. It dates back to 1895 and served as the summer “cottage” for the Vanderbilt Family, heirs to the New York Central Railroad fortune. Cornelius Vanderbilt II commissioned architect Richard Morris Hunt to design this Italian Renaissance-style palazzo which was inspired by the 16th century palaces of Genoa and Turin. Opulent isn’t an overstatement – the estate includes a Great Hall that towers two and a half stories, and the Morning Room is adorned with panels covered in platinum leaf. The Preservation Society of Newport County offers a free app that contains an audio visual tour of the estate and other Newport mansions. To download it, search for “Newport Mansions” in your app store.
Biltmore Estate | Asheville, North Carolina
It’s hard to imagine a more beautiful setting for a 250-room French Renaissance Chateau. After seeing the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, George Vanderbilt decided that this would be the perfect spot to build his country home. He was a bachelor at the time, and construction of the home, which contains over four acres of floor space, 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces, took six years. The estate features acres of formal and informal gardens that were designed by noted landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted. Self-guided tours are included in the price of admission, and a visit to Antler Hill Village and Winery, and a winery tour and tasting, are also included.
Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum | Key West, Florida
While this French Colonial-style home dates back to 1851, it is best known as the place where Ernest Hemingway lived for ten years beginning in 1931 and where he did some of his most prolific writing. The home still contains some of the original artwork and furnishings from when “Papa” Hemingway lived here with his wife Pauline, and the 40-50 six-toed cats that live on the property are descendants of the ones Hemingway owned. A 30-minute guided tour is included in the price of admission, and naturally, there’s a book store onsite that’s stocked with Ernest Hemingway’s novels, poems, short stories and biographies.
Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens | Akron, Ohio
Readers of USA Today named this Tudor Revival mansion the number one historic home tour in America. Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens is a National Historic Landmark, and is also the nation’s sixth largest historic home open to the public. The estate dates back to the early 1900s, and includes five historic buildings and eight historic gardens on 70 acres. The Manor House has 65 rooms, including 18 bedrooms, and all of the collections and furnishings within are original. The home offers special holiday events and admission is free to veterans and military personnel on Veterans Day.
Meadow Brook Hall | Rochester, Michigan
Now a National Historic Landmark, Meadow Brook Hall was built by Matilda Dodge Wilson, widow of auto pioneer John Dodge, and her second husband, Alfred Wilson, in the 1920s. Set on 1,500 acres, the 88,000 square foot estate home was built at a cost of $4 million and is considered to be one of the finest examples of Tudor Revival architecture in the country. Its design was inspired by the country manor homes in England, and the mansion’s 110 rooms are filled with fine and decorative art and are elaborately detailed with carved wood and stone, ornate plaster ceilings and Tiffany stained glass.