The Week In Review: A Date With Julia, Washington DC and Finding A Lost Bird

Like the thrill and excitement of watching those horses speed around the track during the Kentucky Derby two Saturdays ago so was my trip racing around Washington D.C.. To follow-up from the post before this one, we did make it to D.C. just in time (with about 3 minutes to spare!) to meet up with friends, watch the Derby AND drink a mint julep. Perfect timing!

Always Dreaming! Photo courtesy of thedailybeast.com

If you missed the race Always Dreaming was the big Derby winner, leading the whole entire way from start to finish on a very muddy track. It was definitely a well deserved victory although I was really rooting for Patch the whole way, who wound up coming in 14th.  It appears as if no one else was dreaming about Always Dreaming as the first-to-line finisher in our blog contest either so the festivities continue on through the Preakness (this Saturday!) and into the Belmont (on June 10th).  Stay tuned this weekend to see if Always Dreaming wins part two of the Triple Crown!

Meanwhile, back in Washington the week fell in three parts…art, Julia and Virginia. The last time I spent more than a day in Washington D.C. I was 10 years old and visiting my oldest sister who lived and worked right in the heart of downtown. This time around I was staying on the Maryland side of the metro D.C. area.

With a view that began and ended each day like this…

Morning on the Potomac!

 

Evening on the Potomac!

it was hard to go wrong from the beginning. Add in the welcome committee…

quaking their way through news of the D.C. day… and it was lovely from day one.

Staying in such close proximity to the Capitol, I had mighty plans to see about 10 different sites throughout the city on this visit which included five museums, the Botanical Gardens, the Library of Congress, the Franciscan Monastery, the National Archives and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.  I realize now on my return that this was totally ambitious, but I thought in my pre-trip planning days that if I was fast on my feet and spent only an hour or two at each place I might be able to fit it all in during a three day stretch. After all Charles Dickens did nickname this metropolis the City of Magnificent Intentions. Technically I was right on track.

Of course once I stepped through my first museum and saw all the intriguing things that lay ahead of me I realized that I would never be able to keep up with such a strict and rigorous time schedule. It only took me one museum to realize that Washington D.C. is best digested slow.

There is no room for frenzied pace setting or shy glances in this historic environment. From street to sky, everything in D.C. is fascinating whether you are walking on centuries old cobblestone in Alexandria or admiring architecture on Pennsylvania Avenue time is what you need plenty of in order to ingest the experiences of our past presidents.

This is the house where Lincoln died. It’s located right across the street from Ford Theater.

So that’s exactly what I did. I took some time. I abandoned my wish list of seeing everything fast, and focused on seeing a few things slowly. Highlights from the three museums I managed to get through are as follows…

At the National Portrait Gallery…

This famous portrait of Benjamin Franklin painted in 1785 hangs in the National Portrait Gallery. Because I had seen this picture a zillion times in books and all over the internet I thought I’d pop by, say hi and be on my way. But Ben had other plans. He was a wise 79 years old when he sat for this painting. And you can tell Ben’s got things to say from the second you see him.

The artist, Joseph-Siffred Duplessis translated an expression in Ben’s face that reads “Hey there, I have some interesting stories for you. Stay for a minute and I’ll explain.” And so I did, lured in by a magic painting spell.  All the achievements he accomplished, the foresight he had, the contributions he made to the forming of our country, swirled around in those eyes and that smile, ready to break at any moment. He was captivating in all the right ways.

That experience with Benjamin Franklin reinforced the fact that I couldn’t zoom past everything and expect anything to have an impact. There was so much significance in the air around me that I was going to have to slow down in order to appreciate it all.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery are both connected in the same building so you can cross over long hallways from the art museum to the portrait gallery in just a few steps. On the art museum side I found these favorites in the painting department…golden framed beauties covering two centuries  including a large scale John James Audubon bird painting from 1836…

Clockwise from top left: Angel by Abbott Handerson Thayer, 1875; Washington Sea Eagle by John James Audubon 1836-1839; Round Hill Road by John Henry Twachtman 1890-1900; Our Lady of Guadalupe by Pedro Antonio Fresquis 1780-1830

Downstairs on the ground floor I discovered colorful cafeteria art of the 1940’s…

which was from a series by Gertrude Goodrich titled Scenes from American Life (Beach) and which originally hung in the cafeteria of the city’s Social Security Building. I loved the bright colors and all the commotion going on – each figure in the painting has their own personality. Here are some up close snippets..

It really is a lively improvement from the food diagrams and nutrition charts found in most cafeterias today, don’t you think?

At the National Portrait Gallery – 

Just like my time spent with Ben, I was equally captivated by an exhibit called The Face of Battle: Americans at War from 9/11 to Now which featured intimate glimpses into soldier’s lives… black and white leisure portraits taken in camp, paintings of wounded soldiers in full uniform, photographs of deceased soldiers home-based bedrooms, a creative video piece of a casket returning stateside. As you can imagine it was really moving and very sad. One of the exhibits inside the exhibit was a 5,000+ piece collection of small wallet sized pencil drawings of American servicemen and women who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. This installation was completely hand-drawn by the American artist, Emily Prince. It took up three walls of one gallery and from a distance looked like a big Scrabble board. This is a snippet of one wall…

And upon color inspection…

And an even closer view below. This is just one example of the thousands Emily has hand-drawn. The exhibit is titled American servicemen and women who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, but not including the wounded, nor the Iraqis, nor the Afghans.  Read more about Emily and the project here.

We were visiting D.C. during the start of Police Week so uniformed men and women from all over the world were everywhere. At the airport, teams of officers six or eight to a group met flights as they came in containing passengers whose family had died protecting the country. The officers stood across from each other with arms raised in salute as people walked off each flight.  The officers recognized the families they were meeting either by Hero t-shirts or by camera phones recording the walk from the plane to the gate. It was bittersweet. Sad that people had died but wonderful that the military and our protective services were still honoring their contributions.

On a cheerier note…

at the Museum of American History…

a very special face was also on display. I was definitely determined not to leave Washington until I saw this lady and her famous kitchen…

Julia Child!

In an exhibit detailing the transformation of American food from the 1950’s to the 2000’s, Julia Child’s kitchen from her house in Cambridge, Massachusetts sat front and center.

It’s a little tricky to get good photos of it because the whole kitchen itself is sealed in. Small cut-outs covered in plexi-glass serve as viewing stations, so there is a little battle to be fought with glare from the plexi-glass and the fellow visitors who squish in to see. But you can get the idea of a 360 view (in parts!) from the following…

Everything in the kitchen is as Julia left it when she donated the entire room and all its contents to the Museum in 2001. It was full of surprising  little details including lots of cat art, a fridge full of magnets (she was was a fan of the King Arthur flour brand!), family photographs, a rubix cube tucked behind a telephone and all the little odds and ends that you can find in anybody’s kitchen famous or not. She had a junk drawer. She labeled things with masking tape and handwriting. She hung onto favorite pieces of equipment outdated or not.

As revered as Julia had become it is easy to see in this exhibit how normal and ordinary a person she actually was.  Her kitchen reflected that. It wasn’t photo-shoot ready. It wasn’t glamorous. Not everything had a place. Her cookbooks were used. Her counter tops were messy. But it was functional for the way she liked to cook. It was a fun play space for her and in turn it was a fun exhibit for me.  I think that is what still makes Julia Child so admired. She was an unpretentious lover of food and of cooking and her kitchen reiterates all that. The manner in which it is displayed there at the Smithsonian you can easily imagine that she just popped over into another room of the house, perhaps to fetch something for her husband Paul and that in any second she was going to come right back and get to cooking.  Aided by video monitors playing clips from her cooking shows around the exhibit, your imagination does not have to stretch far to picture her standing at the sink peeling potatoes or at the stove flipping omelettes.

There is a fun 5 minute video on youtube that explains how the museum staff takes care of her kitchen. It also gives you some up close behind-the-scenes info on specific items within the display.

Also in the History Museum was an interesting exhibit on the clothing worn by the First Ladies (mostly during inaugural balls or welcome receptions) and the china patterns that each selected for their White House term. The oldest in the collection of both dress and dish belongs, of course, to Martha Washington…

Clockwise from top: The entire display of china starting with Martha Washington and ending with Hilary Clinton. Bottom left: A dress Martha Washington wore from the 1780’s,  and the  banquet china pieces she and George used in their presidential mansions in  New York and Philadelphia.

Most of the china patterns were variations on a theme… gold bands/eagles/jewel tone colors, etc. but Lucy Webb Hayes, wife of President Rutherford B. Hayes commissioned an artist in the 1870’s to design a set of china that incorporated the flora and fauna of the United States. To this day, Lucy’s china pattern still remains the most creative of all the administrations.

That’s Lucy on the far left!

I may not have made it to the Botanical Gardens on this trip but to serious surprise and complete excitement equal to that of seeing Julia Child’s kitchen,  I stumbled into this big beauty in the gardens of the Natural History museum next door…

the passenger pigeon sculpture by Todd McGrain from the Lost Bird Project that we wrote about in 2013! She’s tucked inside a walled garden just off the street so I almost walked right by her. In the busy world of modern day urban life, she sits surrounded in the museum’s Bird Garden by flowers and real-life bird flocks flapping their wings here and there so she’s in a great spot. If you missed the post about the Lost Bird project and Todd’s mission to memorialize extinct birds catch up here.

Moving on from museums and spending time waterside in the fresh spring air, the charmer on top of our whole trip was spending half a day in Alexandria, Virginia. We had lunch on the wharf…

and then spent the afternoon walking around town in George Washington’s footsteps.

The first tenement house George and Martha built in 1797 for investment purposes.

Every street was cuter than the last. I definitely could have picked any one of those houses to live in. I even found my ideal car…

This is where George liked to eat!

We stopped into a local pub and met a local (imagine that!) who gave us a little verbal history tour through his town.

Murphy’s Pub

and we found the house where they filmed scenes from the PBS show Mercy Street…

So pretty! You can access Alexandria by car or ferry – both just a quick trip from D.C.. Like easily imagining Julia in her kitchen it is very easy to picture George and Martha Washington or Ben Franklin or any other early colonials walking down the historic streets. Everything is all brick and cobblestone, clapboard and flower boxes. History plaques make a self guided walking tour easy and your camera won’t stop clicking for all the pretty photo opportunities.

Since I didn’t make it to all the places on my original list that still leaves so much to do on future trips back to the D.C. area. I think you could live in this section of our country for two dozen years and still not see everything! But that’s what’s marvelous about Washington – it’s a never-ending series of new (old) places to discover upon every return.

Cheers to that! Or huzzah as our noble men Ben and George liked to say!

Cooking While Under Construction: This Old House {Part One)

An artistic rendering of Michael and Renee's vintage house!

An artistic rendering of Michael and Renee’s vintage house on the outskirts of New York City.

Today we are announcing a very exciting multiple part series here on the blog based on real-life history-making circumstances that are facing two of our readers. You’ll remember these familiar faces, Michael and Renee as winners from our Sparta giveaway last November.  In communicating during their prize winnings and exchange of recipes they shared exciting but daunting news that they would soon be undergoing a kitchen renovation in their 1940’s New York colonial. Not new to the reconstruction game (these two have been updating their house for the past several years) this kitchen project in particular kept getting put off because it was going to take three months. Three long months for two people who are crazy about cooking.

The thought of 90 days of food preparation among tarps and tape and sawdust and drills and hammers and workbenches during cold, wet winter sounded anything but appealing. But alas with a firm “Let’s begin,” from their contractor, the project could be put off no longer. The time had come for Michael and Renee to embrace the chaos that is a historic house kitchen renovation.

In submitting finally to this process a challenge has been posed.  Can these two epicureans figure out what and how to cook when a fully functional kitchen will not be accessible for the next 270 meals? Can their sanity keep up with their ideal determination not to eat out or order in during the entire phase of construction? What will these two gourmet cooks and farmers market foodies make during this three month stretch that will keep their hearts happy and their stomachs satisfied? Can they stay true to themselves and approach food in their normal, healthy, excited-to-cook-for-you kind of way? Or will they succumb to the frustrations and inabilities of not having continuous access to the proper prep space, cooking equipment, storage facilities or clean-up stations?

Will they slip out to Starbucks for breakfast on the go? Will they develop reasons for in-city lunch meetings or after work “networking” cocktails?  Will friends and family take pity on them and invite them over to enjoy someone else’s home cooked meal? How will their enthusiasm towards healthy eating be affected? How will their culinary creativity be tested?  And most importantly, of all the challenge questions, what happens if the construction plans take longer than 12 weeks?

Over the next several months, Michael and Renee, will share in their own words how things are going. They’ll report on what they are making and how they are feeling. They’ll talk about how the construction is evolving and about how their initial hopes and aspirations have been received by the physical parameters of the construction process itself. And if everything goes south (no pun intended!) and they find themselves without the ability or the desire or the space to properly cook they’ll share those thoughts as well. It’s a food lover’s journey trekking across a bumpy pumpernickel road that stretches out over a quarter of a year. Will it sprout new innovations or will it turn their minds into toast for a dozen weeks? Let’s jump right in and see!

We begin this series with an introduction from Michael and Renee and a special, sentimental send-off  recipe from their soon-to-be-old kitchen marking the start of their culinary construction adventure…

When we moved out of the West Village and bought our house in our “micro-urban” town in southern Westchester County, NY we did so with a firm and well-defined 5-year plan.  Nine years later, we are about to embark on what should’ve been our year two project.  To quote the sage Mike Tyson, “everybody has a plan until you get punched in the face.”  Thanks, life.  

Joking aside, we really like living here and we really love our home.  We have a better commute than most people that live in the confines of the Five Boroughs, and we get all the perks of the ‘burbs…the car, the trees, the backyard, the nosy neighbors…well, maybe not everything is a perk.  So, when we recently decided that it was time to either trade-up or up-grade we came to a fairly quick decision that we would do some serious renovating and stay put.  When we say “serious renovating” we’re not kidding – we’re talking new kitchen, extension off the back of the house, new siding, new family room, and a new deck.  We got the ball rolling back in October and quickly found a contractor, got the plans in order and started looking for appliances and materials.  We figured that by late February we’d be done.  As of today, the anticipated start date on the project is February 15, with a 12-week estimated duration.  Given that we started out 7 years behind schedule, that’s not so bad.

One of the key sacrifices we’re going to have to make is being without a kitchen for a few months.  We are the type of people that have almost every single meal we eat come from our kitchen.  Breakfast at home every day.  We take lunch to work every day.  We cook dinner at home almost every night (gone are the days of restaurant hopping in the West Village, but we still get out sometimes).   

We are honored that our good and great friend Ms. Jeannie has asked us to chronicle this process for you, Dear Reader, on her amazing blog.  We hope that we can do justice to her gracious request, and we hope that we don’t scare too many of you away from the joys of home improvement.

For this first blog post, we are paying homage to the first meal we cooked in our home almost nine years ago – Roast Chicken and Risotto.  Our palates and our influences (and, for one of us, our cholesterol levels) have changed considerably since those bygone days, so our “updated” chicken dish is a little Israeli, a little Moroccan, a little Spanish, and a little local Farmer’s Market.  

In subsequent blog posts, I expect that our recipes will reflect the state of (or complete lack of) our kitchen, but for now happy cooking!  We encourage comments, requests, suggestions and commiserations from other renovation survivors.  

israeli

Israeli Inspired Chicken

Based on Israeli Inspired Chicken from Frankie Cooks

Ingredients:

3 – 3 ½ lb. organic free-range chicken (preferably from a farmer you know)

2 tbsp. each of za-atar, paprika and turmeric

¼ tsp. saffron

1 cinnamon stick

Salt and black pepper

2 Tbs. Olive Oil

1 cup of jasmati rice

½ bulb of fennel, sliced thin

4 cloves of garlic, smashed

1 leek, thinly sliced

2 cups of chicken stock (homemade is best)

1 small orange, sliced

Zest from one lemon (reserve the juice for serving)

Pomegranate arils (optional – we did not use, but felt that it would have added a freshness and zing at the end to the dish) and fresh chopped parsley or cilantro, for serving

mr1

For the brine:

1/3 cup kosher salt

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1/3 raw cane or coconut sugar

4 cups of filtered water

Up to two days before, spatchcock your chicken.  Combine the first three ingredients of the brine in a large bowl and whisk well.  Add the 4 cups of water and whisk until fully combined.  Add the chicken to the bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight.

mr2

The next morning, remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry.  Discard the brine.  Transfer the chicken to a rack breast side up.  Season the skin with kosher salt and black pepper and return the refrigerator, uncovered for 8 – 24 hours.

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and sprinkle both sides with the za-atar, paprika and turmeric.  Set aside.

Place a rack in the center of your oven and preheat to 325 degrees.

Heat a wide dutch oven or large sauté pan with a tightly fitting top on medium-high heat.  Heat the olive oil and add the chicken, skin side down, and brown for about 4-5 minutes without moving.

Meanwhile, warm the chicken stock in a saucepan on low, or in a microwave, and add the saffron and cinnamon stick to bloom.

Remove the chicken and reduce heat to medium low.  Add the fennel, garlic and leek and sauté until soft and translucent, about 5-8 minutes.

Add the rice and toast until fragrant, about 3-5 minutes.

Add the chicken stock and saffron mixture and citrus to the pan. Increase heat to high, and bring to a boil.  Then reduce to a simmer, add the chicken and cover.

mr7

Move the pan to the oven and cook for approximately 35 – 40 minutes, or until the rice is cooked and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast reads 165 degrees.

Remove chicken from the pan to rest.  Fluff the rice and plate, garnishing with pomegranate arils, herbs and a fresh lemon juice.

mr4

Carve the chicken and plate on top of the rice.  

mr5

Such a fitting farewell meal to all the fun times Michael and Renee have enjoyed in their vintage kitchen. Cheers to another 70 years of good times to come when all the renovations are complete!

Next time we catch up with these two bravehearts we’ll learn about the specifics of their construction project and see how this whole fresh food situation is faring. In the meantime, if you missed Renee and Michael’s other recipes featuring Greek olive oil and oregano find them here. And if you have any words of advice or helpful suggestions as these two get-going, please post a comment below!

Photo credit: All photos for this post are courtesy of Michael and Renee.

Where Are They Now? 29 Historic Houses 60 Years Later…

historichouse_collage2

Coming home for the holidays in this 1950’s era post means coming home to some of the finest examples of American architecture ever presented in the United States. Richard Platt, the architecture and garden editor of Ladies Home Journal from the 1930’s- 1960’s, spent his entire 30+ year career studying the anatomy of our country’s great homes from the modest barn beginnings of 1600’s New England to the Gatsby worthy mansions of late 19th century Rhode Island.

He and his wife Dorothy compiled the most noteworthy examples in their 1956 coffee table travel book A Guide to Early American Homes and invited readers to see for themselves, in person, the true majesty and ingenuity of  American home design. Over 900 houses appeared in the guide in total, and while many were museums already open to the public, a great number were private residences in which Richard and Dorothy managed to secure appointments for readers to tour on their own schedule.

In today’s picture post, we are catching up with a few dozen of these old houses to see what has been going on with them since 1956. With our tricky economy, the recent trend towards downsizing and deep budget cuts slicing through the hearts of our cultural resources how have these century old houses fared over the past six decades?  Let’s look…

(The black and white photos are Richard and Dorothy’s taken in the mid-1950’s, the color photographs are recent present day images). 

1. 1704 House

1704 House

Built in 1704. Located in West Chester, PA. In 1956 it was house museum available to tour for $0.50. Today it is still a museum although admission prices have increased to $5.00.

2. Longfellow House

Longfellow House

Longfellow House – Built in 1759. Located in  Cambridge, MA. Previously managed by the Longfellow Memorial Trust, this house has recently been renamed renamed Longfellow House – Washington Headquarter’s and  is now owned and operated by the National Park Service. It used cost $0.30 to tour the house in the 1950’s. Today it is free!

3. Col. Jeremiah Lee Mansion

Jeremiah Lee

The Jeremiah Lee Mansion – Built in 1768. Located in Marblehead, MA. Continued to be operated by the Marblehead Museum since the 1950’s (previously known as the Marblehead Historical Society) the mansion is still open for tours in warm weather months. Admission prices changed from $0.50 in the 1950’s to $10 today.

4. Josiah Coffin House

house3_josiah

The Josiah Coffin House – Built in 1723. Located in Nantucket, MA.  In the 1950’s it was a private residence. Still owned by the same family, today it is available for weekly vacation rentals priced between $5,500-$6,000/per week.

5. Sanford House

Sanford House

Sanford House – Built in 1847. Located in Grand Rapids, MI .  In the 1950’s it was a private residence most noted for its exterior Doric columns and fine Greek Revival craftsmanship. Today the house is helping people internally as a drug and alcohol treatment center for women.

6. Headley Inn

headleyinn

Headley Inn – Built in 1802. Located in Zanesville, OH. Originally this house served as a tavern and inn in the early 1800’s. By the 1950’s it operated as a seasonal 9-5 restaurant. Today it is back in business, newly opened as a bed & breakfast.

7. Field House

Field House

Field House – Built in 1807. Located in Belfast, ME. Originally a private residence, this house contains over 7,000 sqf. It has changed physical house numbers on High Street since the 1950’s and for a time between then and now operated as a hotel. It was recently on the market for $395,000.00

8. The Mansion of Eleazar Arnold

Arnold House

Now known as the Arnold House – Built in 1687. Located in Lincoln, RI. This rare example of early Rhode Island architecture featuring a massive wall fireplace once served as a tavern. In the 1950’s it was available to tour for $0.25. Now it is managed by Historic New England and is open year round with an $8.00 admission fee.

9. Dell House

Dell House

Dell House- Built 1800. Located in Nantucket, MA. This sea captain’s house was a private residence in the 1950’s painted yellow with white trim. In the 2000’s this house, still private, underwent extensive renovation and remodeling.

10. Harlow-Holmes House

Harlow Holmes

Harlow-Holmes House – Built in 1649.  Located in Plymouth, MA. In the 1950’s the ninth generation of the Holmes family lived here surrounded by antiques that dated back centuries in the family’s heirloom collection, including the original Captain’s table from the Mayflower. At some point between the 1950’s and now the house was added onto in the back. See more photos here. 

11. Callendar House

Callendar House

Callendar House – Built in 1794. Located in Tivoli, NY. A private residence in the 1950’s, this  grand house including 35 acres, outbuildings and river views, just sold recently, continuing the grand tradition of private ownership. For more pictures click here.

12. Moffatt-Ladd House

Moffatt Ladd

Moffatt-Ladd House – Built in 1763. Located in Portsmouth, NH. Since 1912, this Georgian – style house museum has been open to the public during seasonal hours. Once the home of William Whipple, a signer of the Declaration of Independence it used to be $0.50 to tour the house, now it is $7.00.

13. Ocean Born Mary House

Ocean Born Mary House

Ocean Born Mary House – Built in 1760. Located in Henniker, NH. Part of pirate folklore this house has been associated with a colorful heritage that still captivates sea storytellers to this day. Always a private residence, it was open for tours by the owner for $0.25  a person in the 1950’s.  Today it remains private with no tour options, however people caught up in the legend of Ocean Born Mary still drive by the house. Read more about the legend here…

14. Lady Pepperrell Mansion

Lady Pepperrell

Lady Pepperrell – Built in 1760. Located in Kittery Point, ME. In the 1950’s, this elegant Georgian house was open for tours by The Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities. Now it is a private home, still retaining all the original features (at least on the front facade!)

15. Dutton House

Dutton House

Dutton House – Built in 1782 . Located in Shelburne Village, VT. Throughout its colorful life, this house has been an inn, a tavern, a museum and mixed use office space. Since the 1950’s it has been part of a museum collection of historic buildings comprising a typical Vermont village of the 19th century. In 1956 admission was $1.75, today it is $24.00.

16. General Nathanael Greene House

Nathanael Greene house

Nathanael Greene House – Built in 1770.  Located in Coventry RI. In the hands of the Sons of the American Revolution and the Nathanael Greene Homestead Association since the 1920’s, this house was built and designed by Nathanel – one of George Washington’s most trusted general’s. Recently the Association held a fundraiser to build a replica barn on the property that was torn down in the 19th century. The house is open for tours and special events.

17. Bonnet Hill Farm

Bonnet Hill

Bonnet Hill Farm – Built in 1670. Located in Darien, CT. Originally built in Stamford, CT this stately farmhouse house was moved in the 1940’s to Darien after private owners rescued it from its then shabby circumstance serving as a glue factory.  In the 1950’s it was painted pumpkin with white trim and was available for tour by appointment only. Today it has again undergone extensive renovation and remodel including additions and expansions and is now a private residence.

18. Webb House

Webb House

Webb House – Built in 1752. Located in Wethersfield, CT. Operating as a museum since the 1950’s, the Webb House recently got an exterior makeover in the form of a fresh coat of paint – in red – which brings the house back to it’s original color.

19. Thompson House

Thompson House

Thompson House – Built in 1709. Located in East Setauket, NY. By the 1950’s Thompson House had been faithfully restored by its owners and then passed on to the care of a Trust ensuring that everyone has the chance to see and appreciate the splendid salt box style architecture of this 300 year old structure.

20. Dey Mansion

Dey Mansion

Dey Mansion – Built in 1740. Located in Wayne, NJ. Property owner Dirck Dey worked alongside his slaves and various craftsmen  in the mid-18th century to erect this eight room manor house. In the 1950’s, it was renovated to serve as  a house museum with utmost attention being paid to each historic detail to make it as authentic as possible. Tours were available then for $0.35, today they are $5.00.

21. Powel House

Powel House

Powel House – Built in 1765. Located in Philadelphia, PA. Under the care of the Philadelphia  Society for the Preservation of Landmarks since the 1930’s, this handsome city house museum welcomes visitors and special events. Other than the tourism plaque out front the exterior is virtually unchanged since the Pratt’s visited in the 1950’s.

22. Upsala

Upsala

Upsala – Built in 1798. Located in Philadelphia, PA. in the 1950’s you could tour this beauty as it evolved through renovation and restoration projects for just $0.10. Today you can buy the whole house for $499,000. That’s right, dear readers Upsala is for sale! Now is your chance to buy a 218 year old architectural  gem. Find more info here. 

23. Keith House

Keith House

Keith House – Built in 1722. Located in Horsham, PA. Now a part of Graeme Park Historic Site, the Keith House in the 1950’s was a private residence, but today it is owned and operated by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and open for tours throughout the year. As the last surviving residence of a Colonial Pennsylvania Governor, it’s historical importance is significant.

24. Thompson Neely

Thompson Neely

Thompson Neely – Built in 1701. Located in Washington Crossing, PA, this pre-revolutionary house was available for tours in the 1950’s and continues to be offered today. Just before crossing the Delaware, George Washington held a meeting here, and reenactments of the event are held each year on Thompson-Neely grounds on Christmas Day.

25. Matthews House

Matthews House

Matthews House – Built in 1829. Located in Painseville, OH.  Rescued and restored by Lake Erie College, this federal style Greek Revival house had just been moved to campus a few years before Richard and Dorothy Pratt visited in the 1950’s. Today it stands proudly among the faculty and administration buildings serving as academic offices and a guest house for visiting alumni.

26. Mead Hall

Mead Hall

Mead Hall – Built in 1833. Located in Madison, NJ. Also in the hands of academic caretakers, Mead Hall is located on the campus of Drew University. In the 1950’s the brick was painted white and the building was used for social functions as well as offices. Tragedy struck in 1989 when a fire destroyed the roof, attic and second story of the house. Now fully renovated and rebuilt, Mead Hall once again stands at the heart of campus and serves as classroom space and faculty offices.

27. Octagon House

Octogon House

Octagon House – Built in 1854. Located in Watertown, WI. In the 1950’s, this house was open daily for $0.40 tours given by the Watertown Historical Society. The narrow exterior balconies were removed in the 1920’s for safety purposes but the Historical Society had always wanted to bring them back to secure the original design aesthetic of the building. In 2006 an anonymous donation made that possible and the balconies were added again. The house, one of only about 3,000 of its shape in the country is open seasonally for tours ($9.00/per person).

28. Varnum House

Varnum House

Varnum House – Built in 1773. Located in East Greenwich, RI. In the late 1930’s the Varnum Continentals, a local non-profit, purchased the Varnum House and restored it as a  museum open to the public. In the 1950’s it was painted white but has since received a fresh colorful makeover of yellow and green shades. Inside, the museum is full of period appropriate furniture and antiques ranging from the 1700’s to the 1900’s and offers tours by appointment.

29. Woodside

Woodside

Woodside – Built in 1838. Located in Rochester, NY. Serving as headquarters for the Rochester Historical Society from 1941 to 2016, this house recently sold to private owners. Over the course of 70 years the Society outgrew the space of this three-story mansion and weren’t able to keep up with structural repairs. New owners are currently renovating and restoring it for use as a private family home.

You’ll notice that other than the fire at Mead Hall, tragedy has eluded these remarkable buildings from our nation’s history. None were torn down or abandoned, burnt to ashes or left to deconstruct on their own. It’s wonderful to know that despite changing economic times and shifting design aesthetics these beautiful old houses are still being cared for by understanding hands. Perhaps with this same level of care and commitment, passion and resourcefulness, fortitude and perseverance they’ll be able to survive another 100, 200 or 300 years. If luck remains on their side they’ll be able to ensure that the story of our country can continue on in a touchable, tangible way for generations to come.

It is said of people that buy old houses, that they are not owners, but instead, stewards.  Not of ships or of planes or of trains as the original definition suggests,  but stewards instead of houses and history and the humble human spirit who built the heart that beat our country. Cheers to old houses and to the humans who love them!

Do you have a favorite among this batch of houses? If so, share your likes in the comment section below. Ms. Jeannie’s favorites are #2, #4, and #13!