A friend of mine is like me, a devotee of historic homes, AND an avid traveler. She’s heading to Washington, D.C. in a few weeks and she asked me if there were any historic homes she should to see there.
What a great question! I’d never thought of looking at taking my obsession on the road before so I got busy and put together these suggestions — and a way to find this kind of information for anywhere you are going.
I started with the website for The National Trust for Historic Preservation. I’m a member of this nonprofit, a $20 yearly cost. There, I checked out their list of Historic Sites, and Distinctive Destinations, which helped me create a list for the Washington, D.C., area.
Several of the sites give a discount to NTHP members.
Then I found the mother lode of information on historical sites — and itineraries for traveling history divas — the site for the National Park Services, of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Yes, this is the organization that manages the National Register of Historic Places. But no need to check out the downloadable list of the Historic Places.
The link above will take you to an itinerary of historic places in D.C. developed by National Parks, U.S. Department of Interior, which administers the National Register of Historic Places.
BUT — you can find itineraries for other places this way:
Start at the nps.gov website, then go to Discovery History, then For Travelers and finally, you’ll see “Travel Itineraries.” You can search for itineraries by region, name or even via the interactive map. There I found an itinerary of Washington, D.C., and like all of the itineraries, it went well beyond the usual monuments and addresses. The itinerary included essays and other information to give the sites and sights context.
So what did I find for my friend? The list is below and I’d love to hear from you about how you’ve found historic homes on your jaunts, trips and rambles.
Here’s the list I created from the The National Trust for Historic Preservation site:
President Lincoln’s Cottage
Intersection of Upshur St., NW and Rock Creek Church Rd., NW
Washington, District of Columbia 20011
Here’s what The National Trust for Historic Preservation said about this site: “President Lincoln’s Cottage is the most significant historic site directly associated with Lincoln’s presidency aside from the White House. During the Civil War, President Lincoln and his family resided here from June to November of 1862, 1863, and 1864. He made major decisions and developed the Emancipation Proclamation during the months spent at the Cottage.”
The President Woodrow Wilson House
2340 S Street, NW
Washington, District of Columbia 20008
Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10:00 am-4:00 pm
Here’s what The National Trust for Historic Preservation said about this site:The President Woodrow Wilson House is a national historic landmark and house museum that focuses on President Woodrow Wilson’s “Washington Years.” In 1921, after leading the nation through the first World War, President Woodrow Wilson moved to this elegant Washington home.”
1610 H St., NW
Washington, District of Columbia 20006
Here’s what The National Trust for Historic Preservation said about this site: “Decatur House is one of the oldest surviving homes in Washington, D.C., and one of only three remaining houses in the country designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe, the father of American architecture.Decatur House is owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and operated by the White House Historical Association. The White House Historical Association | P.O. Box 27624 | Washington, D.C. 20038-7624 | (202) 737-8292 .”
National Building Museum
401 F Street NW
Washington, District of Columbia 20001
OK, it’s not a house, but it is a font of information about homes so I included it in the list.
Here’s what The National Trust for Historic Preservation said about this site: “The National Building Museum is America’s leading cultural institution devoted to the history and impact of the built environment. We do this by telling the stories of architecture, engineering, and design. As one of the most family-friendly, awe-inspiring spots in Washington, D.C., we welcome visitors from around the world to our exhibitions, public programs, and festivals. Located just four blocks from the National Mall, the Museum occupies a magnificent building with a soaring Great Hall, colossal 75-foot-tall Corinthian columns, and a 1,200-foot terra cotta frieze.”
This museum also offers a long list of events, including an exhibit entitled, Palaces for the People: Guastavino and America’s Great Public Spaces, which showcases the accomplishments of the Rafael Guastavino family. His tile vaulting techniques define many iconic structures, including New York’s Grand Central Terminal to the Nebraska State Capitol.
Another tour is “House & Home,” described by the museum as “a kaleidoscopic array of photographs, objects, models, and films that takes visitors on a tour of houses both familiar and surprising, through past and present, exploring American domestic life and residential architecture.”
9000 Richmond Highway
Alexandria, Virginia 22309
Here’s what The National Trust for Historic Preservation said about this site: “Built in 1805, this grand house overlooking the Potomac River was a gift from George Washington to his nephew, Major Lawrence Lewis, and his wife, Eleanor “Nelly” Custis. It sits on the same estate as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pope-Leighey House, also a Site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Woodlawn is owned and operated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.”
Here’s what The National Trust for Historic Preservation said about this site: “This “Usonian” house was developed by Frank Lloyd Wright as a means of providing affordable housing for people of moderate means. Many innovative concepts, including spacious interiors, corner windows, and a cantilevered roof, began here and were quickly adapted across America. Today, the house can be viewed as an origin of ideas that have influenced modern American homes.”
Lee-Fendall House Museum & Garden
614 Oronoco Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Here’s what The National Trust for Historic Preservation said about this site: “One of only a few surviving examples of Maryland Telescopic architecture, the Lee-Fendall House Museum was home to several generations of the prominent Lee Family of Virginia from 1785-1903. During the Civil War, it served as a hospital for the Union Army. It is believed that the first successful blood transfusion in America was performed here in 1864. Modern mechanical systems were installed by the Downham family, resident between 1903-37. The prominent labor leader John L. Lewis was the final resident of the home, 1937-69. The present garden was renovated by the Garden Clubs of Virginia in 1974.”