10 National Landmarks That Are Actually Privately Owned
Not every historic site in the U.S. is owned and managed by the National Park Service. It may surprise you to learn that these tourist attractions are privately owned.
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Second to the White House, Monticello is one of the most famous homes in America. The home was designed and built by President Thomas Jefferson and is memorialized on the back of U.S. nickels. Today the estate is open for tours, and visitors can learn more about the nation’s third president, from his map collection to his love of fine wines.
Jefferson’s Monticello gets a lot of hype, but Virginia also boasts another presidential estate--the OG presidential estate. Built in 1735 by President George Washington’s father Augustine, Mount Vernon began as a modest country home. After acquiring the estate in 1754, Washington transformed the home into the grand 21-room retreat that still stands today along the Potomac River. Visitors can step back in time and tour the 18th-century mansion and outbuildings perfectly preserved to circa 1799, the year Washington died.
Perhaps the most famous and acclaimed Frank Lloyd Wright home, Fallingwater is a must-see for architecture geeks and regular tourists alike. The Mill Run, Pennsylvania home is a perfect example of Wright’s organic architecture style as the home was built above its famous waterfall. Guided tour programs include a two-hour, in depth architectural tour as well as a sunset tour that photographers will love.
While most urban landmarks such as the Gateway Arch or the Statue of Liberty are managed by the National Park Service, Seattle’s iconic Space Needle is not part of the urban parks program. Standing more than 600-feet tall, the structure was built for the 1962 World’s Fair. The tower recently underwent a $100 million dollar renovation and now features The Loupe, an observation deck with a see-through, rotating glass floor.
Located in Elba, Iowa, the Dibble House inspired artist Grant Wood to paint the iconic American Gothic painting. Today, the home is part of the American Gothic House Center. Museum admission is free and tours include information on Grant Wood and the history of the home. The center also provides costumes to dress up and pose in front of Dibble House for your own American Gothic-inspired portrait.
Empire State Building
Once the world’s tallest building, the Empire State Building is an iconic part of the New York City skyline. The 102-story Art Deco stunner has been featured in hundreds of films and TV shows and was named one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers. While it’s not the tallest building anymore--even in New York City--the view from the observation deck is still breathtaking and one of those NYC must-dos.
Nestled in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, you’ll find the closest thing Americans have to a royal fairytale castle. Known as "America’s largest home," Biltmore was built for George Vanderbilt in 1895. The French Renaissance-style chateau features impressive furnishings such as 16th-century tapestries, art by Renoir and a 10,000-volume library. In December, visitors can attend a special Christmas, candlelight tour through the home.
Paul Revere House
Boston’s oldest building was once the home of American Revolutionary War legend Paul Revere. The 17th century home is still intact and famously sandwiched between other structures in downtown Boston. Today, the house serves as a memorial museum with colonial period furnishings and several pieces from the Revere family.
Newport, Rhode Island is studded with "summer cottages" from the Gilded Age. But don’t let the nickname fool you. These homes are mega estates and the grandest of all is The Breakers. Built by the Vanderbilts, the Italian Renaissance-style estate boasts five floors, 70 rooms and dramatic views of the Atlantic Ocean. Even if you’re not a history buff, you’ll want to this tour for the 'gram.
Ernest Hemingway House
Located in the heart of Old Town Key West, the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum was once the retreat for one of America’s most celebrated authors. And while the 30-minute guided tour is a must-do, the highlight of the house is the six-toed cats that call it home.