Recently, I started to think back to the summer family vacations where every other year my parents would take us on historical trips to see famous landmarks throughout the U.S.
We would visit monuments and museums and other sights that laid the foundation of our country’s vast history. As I scanned the memory vault for those trips, I found a common denominator that truly made me smile – whether it was in Pennsylvania or New York, California or Florida there was always a famous person’s house that was the focal point of the stop and many a photo were taken of the renowned bed that so-and-so slept in that always caught my attention.
So on the eve of this Independence weekend I thought I would share some of America’s most historic homes and mansions of presidents, heroes, industrialists, entrepreneurs, and yes, even those all too wealthy business tycoons who helped shape our country’s landscape into what we have today.
Some are the rags to riches stories of the American dream while others were born with the silver spoon. Regardless of their heritage, each took their independence and sliced out their spot in history.
10. The Ringling Mansion, Sarasota, FL
Built in 1925 at a cost of $1.5M, this was the home of John and Mable Ringling of the Ringling Brothers/Barnum & Bailey Circus fame. John was the 13th richest man in America at the time and his home shows it both inside the expansive rooms as well as the outside dock from which boats would carry people from Sarasota across the Tampa Bay.
9. The Betsy Ross House, Philadephia, PA
This landmark colonial style home, built around 1740, is the alleged site in which the famous seamstress and flagmaker Betsy Ross lived and sewed the first American Flag in 1776. The distinctive feature of the Ross flag was that it had 13 stars to represent the original 13 colonies arranged in a circle.
8. Monticello, Charlottesville, VA
Thomas Jefferson, the 3rd President of the United States, designed this planation as his own Virginia homestead and it was a home of “firsts” – the first home to have installed indoor toilets, a domed ceiling, and the predecessor of what we know today as the “Murphy Bed” that raised and lowered into the wall.
7. Hearst Castle, San Simeon, CA
Home to William Randolph Hearst, whose claim to fame started with ownership in the San Francisco Examiner and from there built a newspaper empire. The castle was home to world famous art and artifacts collectibles and took 28 years to complete the over 90,000 square feet of living space, which includes 56 bedrooms and 61 bathrooms.
6. Boldt Castle, Thousand Islands, NY
George Boldt, general manager of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City and manager of the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia, launched an ambitious construction campaign to build a six-story "castle" as a present to his wife. The construction of Boldt Castle ceased abruptly in early 1904 after the death of Boldt's wife, Louise Kehrer Boldt. For 73 years, the castle and other stone structures were left exposed to the harsh winter weather and occasional vandals until the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority acquired Heart Island in 1977 with the goal of restoring Heart Island to what it was when construction was halted.
5. Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, PA
This is a true tragic story. Completed in 1900 for industrialist Peter Widener, the mansion estate consists of 55 bedrooms, a large art gallery, a ballroom, swimming pool, wine cellars, a farm and its own electrical power plant. Widener lived in the home for 15 years before his death in 1915 at age 80. Family members remained in the home until 1952 when the home was left to a caretaker. Since then, the home has slowly been picked apart and mantles, interior trim and other unique architectural elements have been sold off to keep the enormous building running. Derelict and falling apart, the home has been left to rot.
4. The Breakers, Newport, RI
Perhaps one of the most famous of the gilded age mansions is this home constructed for Cornelius Vanderbilt II as a summer getaway. Host to some of the most famous parties of that era, the Breakers is a true testament to the wealth of the Vanderbilts. Completed in 1895 with 65,000 square feet and 70 rooms, the footprint of the house covers approximately one acre of the 13-acre estate on the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
3. Fallingwater, Mill Run, PA
Designed in 1935 by one of America’s most famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, for the owners of Kaufmann department stores, Fallingwater captured everyone’s attention when it graced the cover of Time magazine in 1938 appearing to not be standing on solid ground but instead stretching out over a 30’ waterfall that is built into its design.
2. The Biltmore Estate, Ashville, NC
At nearly 120 years old, the Biltmore Mansion remains as the largest privately owned home in the US. With 175,000 square feet of floor space and 135,280 square feet of living space, the mansion houses 250 rooms including an indoor swimming pool, gymnasium and bowling alley. This 8,000-acre Blue Ridge Mountain backyard manor is still owned by one of George Washington Vanderbilt II's descendants.
1. The White House, Washington, DC
Although President Washington oversaw the construction of the house, he never lived in it. It was not until 1800 when the White House was nearly completed, that its first residents, President John Adams and his wife Abigail, moved in. Since that time, each President has made his own changes and additions to the place at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue that they call home.
Even though you may not be celebrating the 4th of July in homes of these magnitudes, the freedom that Independence Day represents allows everyone to be the king of their own castles and the masters of their own mansions.
Happy July 4th !!
Kay Conageski is a professional Realtor® with The Keyes Company based in Plantation, Florida. Check out her RESAAS profile ›
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by Kay Conageski