Find Your Place in History

Author: Alecia Pirulis  

Winchester House

Having a great place to take visitors is only one reason to live near a historic site or in a historic district – living near a place that draws tourists helps keep the local economy strong, it helps keep property values stable, and — let’s face it – you get bragging rights and very cool postcards.

Not all historic sites are drafty old mansions or historic villages. In fact, some can be downright bizarre. Lucy, for example, is a 75-foot-long elephant built of wood and tin. It was constructed in 1881 on the Margate waterfront in Margate, New Jersey.

Pittsfield, Massachusetts contains Arrowhead, the home of Herman Melville – author of Moby Dick. The House is now a museum and a National Historic Site.

Speaking of Massachusetts, the entire state is practically a historic district. There are over 80 historic districts in Essex County alone. In this history-rich area you can choose from Salem, East End Historic District, and Academy Hill Historic District, just to name a few.

Washington, D.C., of course, must be mentioned. Living here puts you near the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian, Constitution Hall, the Georgetown Historic District, the Lafayette Square Historic District, and about 30 other historic districts.

If you are looking for something a little more “out there,” try Thermopolis, Wyoming! Never heard of this historic district? Founded in 1897, this interesting little town contains Hot Springs State Park, home of the world’s largest mineral hot spring. This place has it all, from a 9-hole golf course to fishing to wildlife – including buffalo, antelope, big horn sheep, and elk.

Maybe you prefer the slightly odd. Some very unusual places find their way into history, such as the Monument to a Left Leg. This monument is located in Saratoga Battlefield Park in Saratoga, New York. This marble boot is dedicated to a “military hero” – but the hero’s name isn’t specified. Why? Because he’s the most notorious villain in American History – Benedict Arnold. The monument was ordered by General John Watts de Peyster when Arnold was living in exile in England. Benedict Arnold was wounded in the left leg during the famous battle.

Mystery, ghosts, and legends always make a place more interesting. Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California was built (and rebuilt, and rebuilt) by Sarah Winchester, wife of the rifle maker William W. Winchester. The mansion contains 160 very strange rooms with stairs that lead to nowhere and the number “13” used in some peculiar ways. Legend has it that Sarah Winchester was trying to appease ghosts. Now there’s a place to take friends and family!

Speaking of ghosts, how about an entire ghost town? Bodie State Historic Park is one of the best ghost towns in California, seven miles south of Bridgeport. The buildings in this town are exactly as they were when abandoned, down to bottles left on shelves.

It doesn’t matter if you like the strange and bizarre or the classically beautiful – you can find your place in history. Every state has historic monuments or districts – find one near you and enjoy!