Design Architecture

16 American Towns Every Old-House Lover Needs to See

For old house enthusiasts, the historic charm of a vintage home can outweigh even the most tempting of today's modern amenities.

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Hunting for an Old House?

Whether you’re on the lookout for an old home to buy or you simply want to gaze at stately, well-preserved residences of yesteryear, these 18 towns and cities are rife with lovely old homes that have become only more beautiful with time.

Lawrence, Kansas

Flickr via kansasphoto

When a large swath of this Midwestern town was burned to the ground in Quantrill’s Raid in 1863, it lost many of its historic homes. With a few notable exceptions, the old houses in Lawrence were built after the raid, from 1870 to 1920. Visitors will enjoy the city’s collection of Folk-Victorian, Queen Anne, English Cottage, Craftsman, and Colonial Revival homes, especially in the 12-block expanse known as Old West Lawrence Historic District. Surrounding this throwback glamour is a colorful college town known for its vibrant arts and music scene.

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Belmont, North Carolina

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Dubbed “beautiful mountain” because of its proximity to Crowders Mountain, Belmont appeals to architectural aficionados as much as it does to nature lovers. The Downtown Belmont Historic District is home to 264 buildings dating from 1850 to 1949, among them stellar examples of Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival, and Craftsman bungalow architectural styles.

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Indianapolis, Indiana

Wikimedia Commons via Momoneymoproblemz

Ask Hoosiers where to explore the history of Indianapolis, and they might point you to Lockerbie Square. Here, architectural sightseers can wander the oldest neighborhood in the city and admire Federal, Italianate, and Queen Anne-style homes dating from 1855 to 1930. After the history lesson, entertain yourself at the theaters, art galleries, and eateries in one of Indianapolis’s six cultural districts.

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Washington, D.C.

Nestled in the northwest of our nation’s capital is Dupont Circle, a cosmopolitan neighborhood lined with shops, restaurants, and stunning turn-of-the-century architecture. The Queen Anne and Richardsonian Romanesque row houses that grace the area were built from the 1880s to 1910 and can claim many famous politicians and dignitaries as former residents.

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Knoxville, Tennessee

Flickr via GPA Photo Archive

The National Register homes in this Tennessee town trace its evolution from frontier settlement to streetcar suburb. Old North Knoxville, a prominent historic neighborhood, features Queen Anne, Craftsman, American Foursquare, Colonial Revival, and Neoclassical-style homes dating from 1880 to 1920. Plus, plentiful sidewalks lined with shady trees make it an easy walk from this venerable neighborhood to the lively restaurants and shops downtown.

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Galena, Illinois

Wikimedia Commons via IvoShandor

Galena may be small, but it offers a lot for historic home lovers to appreciate. The Galena Historic District, which comprises 85 percent of the town, is home to residences in the Federalist, Greek Revival, Second Empire, Queen Anne, and Italianate styles, all constructed before 1900. The most famous of these may be the Italianate brick home of Ulysses S. Grant.

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Eureka, California

A self-guided tour of this former Gold Rush town offers a scenic trek back to the turn of the century. Wander down Hillside Street to find Queen Anne and Eastlake-style homes dating from 1880 to 1920. Or, stop by the Carson Mansion in Old Town to get a glimpse of one of the most photographed Victorian homes in America.

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Providence, Rhode Island

Perhaps better known for its historic lighthouses, Providence is also home to some of the oldest houses in Colonial America. Old house buffs should seek out the fine specimens from the late 1600s to the late 1800s that span the Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, Second Empire, and Queen Anne styles, and lend the city a centuries-old charm.

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Hartford, Connecticut

This pleasant Connecticut community was once home to legendary writers Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Though these famous Hartford denizens are long gone, a wonderful collection of historic homes remains. Built from the early 1700s to the mid-20th century, and in styles as diverse as classical Georgian and eclectic Colonial Revival, the old residences give Hartford its unique New England charm.

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New Hope, Pennsylvania

Venture to this Bucks County borough on the Delaware River to soak up the vibrant theater scene and steal glances at historic homes with waterfront views. The New Hope Village District is home to 202 National Register houses in Georgian, Federal, and late Victorian styles. Constructed in the mid-18th through late 19th century, these old buildings are no less striking today.

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Georgetown, Texas

While “Keep Austin Weird” is the moniker of its southerly neighbor, Georgetown’s plan seems to be to keep its city historic. Local ordinances that prevent commercial developments from encroaching on historic residences have allowed visitors to continue to revel in the striking Gothic Revival, Second Empire, and Queen Anne-style homes built in the region between 1860 and 1915.

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Boulder, Colorado

The largest of 10 historic districts in Boulder, Mapleton Hill also boasts the most ornate historic properties, more than half of which were built before 1910. These include Queen Anne, Richardsonian Romanesque, Shingle Style, and Colonial Revival homes.

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Cheyenne, Wyoming

Zillow Digs home in Cheyenne, WY

Locals may joke that there are more cattle than people in Cheyenne, but this jewel in the former Wild West also has an abundance of historic homes and other buildings. The Lakeview Historic District encompasses homes built between 1880 and 1930. Pre-1900 constructions include Queen Anne and Italianate-style homes, while bungalows and American Foursquare-style homes dominate the early 20th century constructions.

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Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Wikimedia Commons via Daderot

It’s easy to see why so many people flock to Portsmouth, named one of the best places to live by Money magazine. The city boasts four colleges, acres of gardens and parks, and charming homes from yesteryear. You’ll find some of the most interesting homes, including Colonial Revival cottages and Cape Cods, in the Atlantic Heights neighborhood, developed from 1918 to 1920, near the Piscataqua River.

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Bisbee, Arizona

This former copper mining town in the Southwest continues to prove its mettle as a heritage site through a collection of historic homes steeped in tradition. The meandering streets of the Bisbee Residential Historic District are filled with Queen Anne and Craftsman-style homes built between the 1880s and late 1920s, though visitors can also enjoy a small sampling of bungalows and American Foursquare-style homes.

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Reno, Nevada

Zillow Digs home in Reno, NV

Far from the glitter and glitz of Las Vegas, southwest Reno offers scenic views of vintage homes along the Truckee River. In Newland Heights, one of the oldest land developments in the city, Colonial Revival and French chateau-style homes coexist with Spanish Colonial Revival and Craftsman bungalows built primarily between the 1920s and 1940s. If you’re looking to buy, there are deals to be had in the current buyer’s market.

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