Take a Peek at History
Thanks to technological advances, it’s now easier than ever to travel the world from the comfort of your own home. Video tours and 3-D virtual technology let you tour beautiful historic homes throughout the world, exploring every nook and cranny. Escape the confines of your four walls to delight in interiors that are steeped in history and only a click away.
The Pittock Mansion in Portland, Oregon, was once home to Henry Pittock, who became publisher of The Oregonian newspaper in 1860 and went on to found a financial empire. The French Renaissance-style mansion, completed in 1914, was designed by Edward T. Foulkes, an architect who trained at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. At Pittock's insistence, the home was packed with the latest technology, including thermostat-controlled central heating, indirect electric lighting, and a central vacuum system. Today, the 16,000-square-foot mansion serves as a museum and gallery space. While the museum is closed, visitors are welcome to explore the interior and grounds via an impressive virtual tour.
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Wikimedia Commons via Tiptoety
Mount Vernon Estate
The Mount Vernon Estate, the former home of George Washington, is one of the most popular historical attractions in Virginia. While the current state of the world makes it impossible for you to wander in the footsteps of our first president, you can easily check out his estate online. The virtual tour of Mount Vernon offers panoramic views of the gardens and 360-degree views of the mansion's interiors. Visitors can click on points of interest to learn more about the history, architecture, and decor of this national treasure.
Anne Frank House
A variety of virtual exhibits are available for those who want to learn more about Anne Frank, her diary, and the secret annex in Amsterdam that sheltered her family, along with five other individuals, for more than two years during World War II. Online resources include YouTube video diaries, virtual tours of the secret annex, a 360-degree tour of the home where the Franks lived before they went into hiding, and more.
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Mark Twain House
If you’re itching for a bit of literary history, check out the Mark Twain House and Museum online. Explore the interior of the High Victorian Gothic home through room-by-room photos or via an immersive, richly annotated 360-degree tour. Whichever approach you choose, you'll gain an appreciation of the great American writer and the beloved home where he spent his happiest years.
Frank Lloyd Wright Houses
Architecture aficionados can now enjoy unusual virtual access to a number of the renowned architect’s masterpieces. In response to pandemic lockdown measures, a social media project dubbed #WrightVirtualVisits launched at the beginning of April. Organizations participating in the initiative have been posting short tour videos of Wright-designed houses—12 homes in total.
While the grounds of this Gothic Revival mansion in Tarrytown, New York, are open for socially distant visits, those who wish to see the interior can do so only virtually. Built in 1838 and expanded by its second owner, Lyndhurst had a number of occupants, including railroad magnate Jay Gould. Because the property was often used as a summer home, the estate's collection of art and antiques has remained largely intact and is in excellent condition. Available virtual tours include an aerial view of Lyndhurst, a traditional 360-degree walk-through, a festive tour of the interiors dressed up for the holidays, and—certainly the creepiest tour on this list—a peek at the mansion during the Halloween season, complete with ghoulish inhabitants.
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Soon after Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius accepted an appointment to Harvard in 1937, he decided to build a home for his family in nearby Lincoln, Massachusetts. That home, Lincoln House, was designed according to Bauhaus principles and is now filled with furniture and decorative items from the era. Beautiful photography and abundant text let virtual visitors explore the house and learn about the influential architect and his social milieu.
flickr.com via Ken Schwarz
This historic home in Knoxville, Tennessee, built in 1858, sheltered three generations of the same family. Today, it is filled to the brim with original furniture and mementos—more than 2,000 artifacts in all. Because of recent closures, the museum is now offering video field trips that let visitors get up close and personal with various objects and historical documents housed within the museum's walls.
Related: Take a Peek Inside 11 Charming Carriage Houses
Wikimedia Commons via Brian Stansberry
Lexington Historical Society
The Lexington Historical Society offers virtual tours of three properties, including Buckman Tavern, the Hancock-Clarke House, and Munroe Tavern. The tours are accessible via almost any platform. The taverns, built in 1710 and 1735, respectively, were important meeting places for locals and travelers, and played important roles in the Battle of Lexington and Concord. The Hancock-Clarke house, home to Reverend Jonas Clarke, played host to both John Hancock and Samuel Adams in the days before the battle.
flickr.com via Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism
Whitehern House & Garden
Head to Hamilton, Ontario (virtually, of course), to take a 3-D tour of this walled Georgian-style estate, built around 1850, which housed three generations of the McQuesten family. Each stage of the tour is accompanied by informative narration that provides a deeper learning experience. You can even choose to exit the house and explore the enclosed garden and terrace.
flickr.com via Can Pac Swire
Winchester Mystery House
For a nominal rental fee (or a purchase price of $13.99), you can get access to a video tour of the famous Winchester Mystery House. Those interested in a deeper exploration can also access an immersive 360-degree tour for $8.99. This San Jose, California, landmark is known for its weird and wacky architecture. The sprawling structure boasts 2,000 doors, 160 rooms, and a whopping 17 chimneys! In 2008, Time Magazine included the house in a list of top 10 haunted places.
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