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24 U.S. house museums and gardens to visit this summer

24 U.S. house museums and gardens to visit this summer

Chicago, Il

  1. Emil Bach House
  2. Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio
  3. Richard H. Driehaus Museum
  4. Chicago Botanic Gardens

Emil Bach House  The Emil Bach House was designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright and is an example of his late prairie-style houses. Built in 1915, this masterpiece of architecture places an emphasis on geometry, cantilevered flat roofs, open living spaces, and natural materials. The house also features a Japanese tea house and gardens. Wanting more beyond a self-guided tour? Guests can also book an overnight stay.

Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio Located in Oak Park, Il, and completed in 1889, the Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio is where Wright crafted his unique prairie style and other design concepts. Guided tours are led by experts from the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust, who offer insights into the architect’s life and work.

Richard H. Driehaus Museum For travelers wanting to experience homes from the Gilded Age, the Richard H. Driehaus Museum is a great place to start. Complete with lofty staircases, ornate marble floors, and dazzling antiques, the home is known as the “Marble Palace.” Inside the museum, an exhibit titled A Tale of Today: Theodora Allen Saturnine explores the planet Saturn’s historical association with melancholy, referred to as “the curse of artists.” 

Chicago Botanic Gardens The Chicago Horticultural Society founded the gardens in 1890, but the Chicago Botanic Gardens didn’t open to the public until 1972, when the society located a permanent site. This space affords 385 acres and holds more than 2.6 million plants. Guests can take a narrated tram tour of the McDonald Woods, Elizabeth Hubert Malott Japanese Garden, and the garden’s more than 80 acres of water views. The popular Sensory Garden, where visitors are encouraged to touch and smell the sweetbriar roses and dark red “chocolate cosmos,” is another highlight of the gardens. 

Savannah, Ga. 

  1. The Mercer-Williams House
  2. Andrew Low House Museum
  3. Davenport House Museum

The Mercer-Williams House Construction on The Mercer-Williams House began in 1860, but was subsequently interrupted by the Civil War, and completed in 1868. Built of rose-colored bricks called “Philadelphia Reds,” the house is a glamorous take on the Renaissance Revival-style, with its fusion of Greek and Italianate elements. The 60-foot entrance hall, with original ceramic tile, anchors the house, which also maintains original moldings, windows, doorways, flooring and more. In 1969, James A. Williams, one of the city’s early preservationists, restored the home over the course of two years, making it his personal residence. Today, it’s home to his collection of 18th and 19th century Regency and Empire furniture and portraiture, Chines porcelain, and other objects. 

Andrew Low House Museum This three-story house with massive, studded double doors is named after its first owner, Andrew Low II, a Scottish immigrant to the United States. Built in the mid-1800s by architect John Norris for the Low family, the Andrew Low House Museum blends elements of Italianate, Greek Revival, and Gothic Revival. Don’t miss the elegant cast iron balconies, fluted columns, and formal French-inspired gardens.   

Davenport House Museum  Built in the early 19th century in the American Federal style, the home’s traditional red brick belies the bright interiors. Gold wallpaper and bright toile patterned wallpaper give the house a surprisingly modern feel, like a Jane Austen novel reimagined by Wes Anderson. Visit the Davenport House Museum for a colorful take on early 19th-century design, and for the museum’s springtime tea events.

Palm Springs, Calif.

  1. Palm Springs Art Museum
  2. Moorten Botanical Garden
  3. The McCallum Adobe
  4. Faye Sarkowsky Sculpture Garden

Palm Springs Art Museum Midcentury modern art and design enthusiasts won’t want to miss the fabulous Palm Springs Art Museum, with its sprawling collection of 12,000 objects from both modern and contemporary art movements. The recently added Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center, located in downtown Palm Springs, houses an expanding design collection. Visitors will enjoy the Frey House II, an untouched and daring residence of Midcentury design by architect Albert Frey. 

Moorten Botanical Garden Since 1938, guests of the Moorten Botanical Garden have enjoyed its collection of more than 3,000 varieties of desert trees, cacti, and succulents. Curated by the Moorten family, all desert-plant specialists, they transformed their private estate into a living museum. Cactus Castle, the family home, is not open to visitors but can be spotted near the entrance of the grounds. 

The McCallum Adobe Built in 1884, the McCallum Adobe  pays homage to the desert city’s pre-modern history and more. Aficionados of the wild west will want to check out the “Notables Wall” to learn about the lives of pioneer men and women who settled in the region, like Nellie Coffman. Other displays show how Palm Springs became a celebrated watering hole and weekend getaway for A-list Hollywood actors and musicians.

Faye Sarkowsky Sculpture Garden Established in 2012, the Faye Sarkowsky Sculpture Garden is a relatively recent addition to the Palm Springs Art Museum. The garden features 14 sculptures by contemporary artists, including Donald Judd, Jesús Bautista Moroles, and others. The four acres of landscaped gardens feature 60 varieties of desert plants. Don’t forget to check out the stunning work, Morning, a steel sculpture painted bright red by artist Yehiel Shemi. 

Miami/Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

  1. Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
  2. The Historic Stranahan House Museum
  3. Bonnet House Museum and Gardens

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens Industrialist James Deering built this home between 1914 and 1922 in the Coconut Grove area of Miami. The Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is a true testament to the glitz of the era. Conceived as a subtropical interpretation of an 18th-century Italian villa, Vizcaya is surrounded by cultivated European-style lawns adapted to the city on Biscayne Bay. The home’s lavish interiors include collections of artifacts acquired in Italy. Devotees of design are encouraged to participate in the Designing the Dream House Tour, which explores how the Vizcaya home was built. 

The Historic Stranahan House Museum Celebrated as Fort Lauderdale’s oldest home, The Historic Stranahan House Museum was built in 1901 for Frank Stranahan, the city’s founding father, and his family. The simple, two-story home was restored by the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society and the Fort Lauderdale Board of Realtors and opened in 1984 as a museum. Walking through the home, guests can explore several historical exhibits showcasing the area’s rich history. 

Bonnet House Museum and Gardens Interior design lovers will appreciate the eclectic charm of the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens. A striped room with marble floors, for example, brims with mahogany furniture and modern armchairs. Perhaps this is because the home was owned by two artists, Frederic Clay Bartlett and his wife, Helen. Guests to the home and gardens can peruse the art gallery as well as the grounds, which contain some of the state’s remaining examples of a native barrier island habitat. Some focal points of the garden include the hibiscus garden and the orchid display house.

Taos, NM

  1. Blumenschein Home and Museum
  2. Kit Carson House and Museum
  3. Couse-Sharp Historic site  

Blumenschein Home and Museum In 1898, artist Ernest L. Blumenschein found himself stranded in Taos, New Mexico, after a wheel on his carriage slipped into a rut and broke. Blumenschein, who remained in the area for two months, became so enamored of the Taos Valley landscape that he decided to settle there and build a house. By 1915, many artists had followed him and Blumenschein became a founder of the Taos Art Colony. Visit the Blumenschein Home and Museum today and discover many of Blumenschein’s paintings, celebrated for their depictions of Native Americans, New Mexico, and the American Southwest. 

Kit Carson House and Museum The oldest museum in Taos, the Kit Carson House and Museum offers guests a journey through time to the mid-1800s. The home features two-feet thick adobe walls and interiors that have been restored to the time when Carson, a legendary frontiersman and U.S. Army officer, and his family lived there. Exhibits feature artifacts from fur pelts to period rifles and clothes from Caron’s time on The Oregon Trail.

Couse-Sharp Historic Site This two-acre site features the home and studio spaces of E.I. Couse and J.H. Sharp, two of the founding members of the Taos Society of Artists. The Couse-Sharp Historic Site showcases the artists’ work, belongings, as well early New Mexico furniture and decorative objects, including Native American pottery and beadwork used in paintings. In a corner of The Artist’s Studio, an unfinished painting awaits an artist’s return. 

New Orleans, La. 

  1. Gallier Historic House
  2. Hermann-Grima Historic House
  3. New Orleans Botanical Gardens
  4. Longue Vue House and Gardens

Gallier Historic House Built by James Gallier, Jr. in 1861 as his private residence, the Gallier Historic House is noteworthy for its architectural details unique to the city and the era, including the iconic Paris Green gate. This French Quarter townhome features a Rococo Revival double parlor, skylight, running hot and cold water, and intact quarters used to house enslaved people. The lives of enslaved people, and later domestic servants, are recounted on the guided home tours.  

Hermann-Grima Historic House The Hermann-Grima Historic House, built in 1831, features a Federalist architectural façade, a beautiful courtyard, and one of the few remaining open-hearth kitchens in existence in Louisiana. Cooking demonstrations are offered twice a month, October through May. Guests can also explore the stable, the home’s original book collection, and one of the largest courtyards in the French Quarter. 

New Orleans Botanical Garden Featuring more than 2,000 plants from around the world, the garden is also home to the largest stand of mature oak trees in the United States. Highlights of the New Orleans Botanical Garden’s ten acres is the the Yakumo Nihon Teien Japanese Garden, the Conservatory of Two Sisters, and the New Orleans Historic Train Garden, among others.

Longue Vue House and Gardens Edgar and Edith Stern met in 1920, married in 1921, and began developing their property on the outskirts of New Orleans that same year. The Longue Vue House and Gardens is the second Stern family home built on the site. The first was moved about 100 years away. Inspired by their travels to Europe and Africa in the 1930s, the couple returned home and decided to build the second home with an indoor-outdoor design created by famed landscape architect Ellen Biddle Shipman and architects William and Geoffrey Platt. 

St. Augustine, Fla.

  1. Ximenez-Fatio House
  2. González-Alvarez House 
  3. The Villa Zorayda Museum

Ximenez-Fatio House Originally built in 1798 for Don Andrés Ximenez and his new bride, Juana Pellicer Ximenez, guests of the Ximenez-Fatio House experience the three-story home and warehouse as it appeared in the 18th century. Throughout the decades, the property changed hands several times and in 1852, Louisa Fatio became the last in a line of single women to own or manage the house. In 1939, The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in Florida bought the house and refurbished it, presenting it to the public in 1940 as an example of historic home restoration.  

González-Alvarez House The oldest documented First Spanish Period Colonial house in Florida, González-Alvarez House was built of coquina stone (native shell stone) around the year 1720. The house was subsequently enlarged by British and America owners, and restored in the 1950s to its early 19th century configuration. Known as the Oldest House, it anchors the Historical Society’s Oldest House Museum Complex and interprets four periods of St. Augustine history. 

The Villa Zorayda Museum Inspired by the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain, Franklin W. Smith set out to build The Villa Zorayda Museum in 1883 in the Moorish Spanish Revival style of architecture. Smith’s winter residence brought a part of Spain to Spanish St. Augustine, and served to educate his visitors about different cultures from around the world. In addition to the gorgeous stained glass, colorful tiled floor, and rounded Moorish archways, a highlight of the museum is the “Sacred Cat Rug,” a 2,400-year-old rug made from the fur of ancient Egyptian cats. 

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