Great Public "Private" Homes
The top homes to visit
There have been a lot I have been by, but have not had the opportunity to visit. But these I have actually been in and can recommend them:
1. Hearst Castle, San Simeon, CA
The model for Xanadu in Citizen Kane. Just the guest houses were more lavish than the average McMansion. High above the hoi polloi, no wonder the owner considered himself above everyone else! There are several different tours with different rooms to see. I recommend the ones that include the guest houses and the swimming pools. Absolutely stunning!
2. Biltmore Estate, Asheville, NC
The Biltmore Estate is run by a private foundation and is a bit on the pricey side, but well worth going to. The location of the Richie Rich movie, it's hard to believe that the lovely gardens and woods surrounding this American castle were once barren mountainside! Beautiful views from the back porch of this home. Please take the time to walk the grounds, and also visit the winery that's on the property.
3. Monticello, Charlottesville, VA
Ever since I was in elementary school and read about this house, I had wanted to visit it. So imagine my delight when I moved only 60 miles south of it. It took a couple years, but we finally visited it in 1977. I've been back several times since and I'm always in awe of Mr. Jefferson and his vision. It's a great history lesson just to tour the grounds. Jefferson's grave is on site, too. And if you have the time, go to University of Virginia (which he founded) as well as Michie's Tavern, just around the corner from the entrance.
4. Mt. Vernon, Mt. Vernon, VA
Another living history lesson. Quiet and dignified -- the house of a gentleman farmer. The one item I well remember is the set of glasses sitting on the table next to his bed -- said to be the ones he wore prior to death. Another house with wonderful gardens and outer buildings. Be sure to take some time to sit in the rockers on the porch and enjoy the view of the Potomac River.
5. John Adam’s houses, Quincy, Braintree MA
Far from the pomp of Monticello and Mt. Vernon -- the Quincy home of John Adams, is simple and very plain. Definitely the home of conservative New Englanders. He (or more truthfully, his wife) lived there through most of his early political years. Later, they bought a house in Braintree that is larger with an elegant, yet understated beauty. A small garden is kept there, both flowers and vegetables. The most interesting room was the library, an outbuilding that served as his office upon his retirement from the Presidency. Both homes are on the tour you can find in Quincy.
6. Truman house, Independence, MO
If you want to talk about understated, you have to go to this home. President Truman not only lived there prior to his presidency, but also AFTER his presidency. Simple furniture, simple decorations, a very functional and modest home. You will really get a sense of Truman's down to earth style upon visiting this residence.
7. Edison’s summer home, Ft. Myers, FL
I'd like to visit the Menlo Park home to compare but this home was interesting in and of itself. It claims the first swimming pool in Florida, and the workshop has all sorts of examples of Edison's experiments, both successful and not so successful. The gardens are so interesting -- many plants brought in to help him with his experiments. Not far from this is Henry Ford's summer home. Well worth a trip if you're in the area.
8. The White House, Washington, D.C.
Okay, one of the great places to visit but last on the list because it's such a PAIN to do anymore, if it's allowed at all. You practically have to be invited to get into it. But if you do get the chance, it's a great experience. You will not see the living quarters, but you do see quite a few of the public rooms. My favorites were the Blue Room and the China Closet.
So there you have it. If you have any other suggestions, feel free to post!