Four surprising ways to peek inside historic homes

Getting a look inside a historic home can be a challenge. Few of us are willing to knock on someone’s door and ask for a quick tour. But these four ways can give you a genteel way to see inside historic homes.

But these are only four ways to look inside a historic home. How have you found ways to see inside a historic home that has piqued your interest or is too far away to visit? I’d love to hear your tips on getting a glimpse.

1. Books provide an easy way to getting a look inside some amazing, even luxurious homes.  These four books recent books on historic homes offer lush pictures, interior and exterior views and information on the builders of the homes as well as the present residents. The books and the homes the authors included reveal a wide range of history.

All the books hail from the last six years, giving readers a current view of the wealth of historic homes available to see via the written page or in person on self-proclaimed historic home tour. The books cover the country, ranging from Naples, FL, Jefferson, Texas, Lake Minnetonka, MN to the grand dame of historic homes, New Orleans. By the way, there’s no need to go broke buying the books. Your local library should be able to get them for you on interlibrary loan. That’s what how I obtained them.

Dream houses: Historic Beach Houses and Cottages of Naples with text by Joie Wilson and photos by Penny Taylor describes how Naples began as a wealthy playground on the sea. With images including water colors, photos, old postcards and even a map, you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped inside these beach homes.

Historic Homes of Jefferson, Texas by Cheryl MacLennan is clearly a labor of love. As she states, you can almost hear the clop clop clop of horses in this small town of 2,000, relegated to history when the Corps of Engineers changed the nearby waterway putting an end to the steam boat traffic. The result is a quiet place filled with the sumptuous homes built prior to the loss of steamboat traffic.

Legendary Homes of Lake Minnetonka by architectural journalist Bette Jones Hammel and photographer Karen Melvin gives you a rare, privileged view of these lush homes built by the scions of industry from the past and today. The homes highlighted range from historic homes to more recent modern installations. The book gives you a view of these homes you won’t be able to get in any other way.

Plantations and historic homes of New Orleans by Jan Arrigo. A New Orleans based freelance writer and fine art photographer gives you a view that even a tour of these historic homes won’t give you because she includes the history of the homes and provides the context of history, development, culture and even fire and flood to provide an appreciation of these historic homes.

2. Historic home stays — Books are dandy, but staying in a historic home gives you an even greater opportunity to enjoy historic homes. Jefferson, Texas bills itself as the Bed and Breakfast capital of Texas, and the Visit Jefferson Texas website offers a long list of spots to stay the night in a historic home.

All four books provide interior and exterior shots, but they also include close ups of the surprising features of historic homes. Several of the books include photographs of the gardens as well.

3. These homes talk — Via the books, you can hear the tales of trouble, success and happiness from the shores of Naples to the peace of small-town Jefferson, Texas. The lure of a historic home goes beyond the board and mortar to a desire to touch the past, and these books bring the past alive, and several include comments from the present residents disclosing their belief they’re saving the homes for future generations.

4. Museums preserve and reveal — The Old South is gone, as are the pioneers who founded New Orleans, but their tales and tragedies live on in the museums of the plantations and historic homes of New Orleans. The book Plantations and historic homes of New Orleans take on you a tour of more museums than you could probably take in during a visit to the Big Easy, explains how some places survived the floods of Hurricane Katrina, and more, all without you having to leave your reading spot at home.

If you’ve been bitten by the historic home bug, I’m betting you’ve found a few other ways to get a peek inside a historic home or two. Share your tips and ideas on how to see beyond the outside of a historic home, near or far.

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