The White House

DSC01787President John Adams, the first official resident of the White House, moved into the house in November 1800. The house was still not quite finished after nine years of construction. (It was a government contract, after all.) In 200 years, the house has endured arson (by British soldiers in 1815), one plane crash, numerous redecorations and renovations, far too many mediocre presidents, and the midnight soliloquies of Richard Nixon. The exterior, a significant example of Federal architecture, remains much as it was in 1800. The guided tours of the famous first-floor rooms show off more historic memorabilia than you will ever be able to absorb.

The White House Visitor Center is located at 1450 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, between 14th and 15th Streets on Pennsylvania Avenue. The Visitor Center is inside the north end of the Department of Commerce Building.

Declaration (Graff) House, Pennsylvania

This reconstructed house was originally built in 1775 by Philadelphia bricklayer Jacob Graff, Jr. During the summer of 1776 Thomas Jefferson, a 33-year-old delegate from Virginia to the Continental Congress, rented two second-floor rooms and drafted the Declaration of Independence there. The first floor contains exhibits and a short film on the drafting of the Declaration. On the second floor, the bedroom and parlor that Jefferson occupied have been recreated and contain period furnishings. Also included are reproductions of Jefferson’s swivel chair and the lap desk he used when he wrote the Declaration. Declaration House, as it is now known, is part of Independence National Park in Philadelphia.

Located on the southwest corner of 7th and Market Streets, Philadelphia.

Holy Trinity (Old Swedes’) Church, Delaware

Holy Trinity is the oldest Christian congregation in the Delaware Valley. The first Christian services in the region were led by a priest of the Church of Sweden at Fort Christina in 1640. The church building was dedicated on Holy Trinity Sunday, July 4, 1699. When the last Swedish priest, Lars Girelius, left in 1791, the congregation called Joseph Clarkson, the Anglican assistant to Nils Collin in Philadelphia. In 1795, the charter was amended to allow the calling of one “ordained according to the ordination of the Lutheran or Episcopal Church.” The church graveyard holds the burial sites of many prominent leaders and churchmen of the colonial and revolutionary eras.

Old Swedes’ Church is located at 606 Church Street, in Wilmington, DE 19801.

Monticello

The famous home of Thomas Jefferson was a work-in-progress during most of Jefferson’s lifetime, designed and redesigned, built and rebuilt over more than forty years. Jefferson described the house as his ‘essay in architecture.’ The final product is a monument to Enlightenment rationality and the cultivation of a refined and 5centscontemplative way of life. The home and grounds are now lovingly (that’s not too strong a word) maintained by the private Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation. The waiting line for entrance to the house can be two or even three hours long during the summer. It’s worth it, but even a stroll around the grounds is rewarding if you don’t have the time to wait. The guides are very well informed, so ask lots of questions. Don’t ask about Sally Hemings, though (somebody will bring that up anyway). Ask about the contributions of slave labor to Jefferson’s way of life, and why he (unlike Washington and Madison) did not free all his slaves in his will.

Located in the Virginia Piedmont, Monticello is about two miles southeast of Charlottesville and approximately 125 miles from Washington, D.C.; 110 miles from Williamsburg, Virginia; and 70 miles from Richmond, Virginia. From Interstate 64, take exit 121 (if traveling westbound) or 121 A (eastbound) to Route 20 South (If traveling westbound, turn south, or left, on Route 20). To go to the Monticello Visitors Center, turn right at the first stoplight. To go to Monticello, turn left on Route 53, just after the first stoplight. The entrance to Monticello is located on the left, approximately one and a half miles from Route 20.

Abbott’s Mill, Delaware

Mills were once ubiquitous features of the American countryside. Mills were constructed anywhere possible to grind corn and wheat crops before they were taken to market. Abbott’s Mill, located in rural Delaware southwest of Milford, was in use from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century. The mill is a two-and-a-half-story frame structure. Although the superstructure of the mill has been rebuilt, it retains its original foundations. The original mill, a saw mill, was built on the site in 1795. Beginning in 1808, the mill was transformed into a gristmill, and it operated that way until 1960. A water wheel originally powered the mill, but it was replaced in the late 1800s with a water turbine. The turbine engine was int turn replaced with a diesel engine in the twentieth century. The mill is owned by the state of Delaware, and is currently leased by the state to the Delaware Nature Society, which has built a Nature Center behind the mill buildings. Nature trails run through the undeveloped land to the rear of the property. Workshops, exhibits, walking trails, courses, and other programs are run daily at the Nature Center. Abbott’s Mill is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Location and Directions

Links: Abbott’s Mill

William Faulkner’s Rowan Oak, Mississippi

Rowan Oak, William Faulkner’s beloved antebellum home and refuge, attracts enthusiasts from around the world. He purchased the home in 1930 and named it “Rowan Oak” after Scottish lore that promised good fortune to homeowners who displayed a rowan oak branch on their door. A major figure in American literature, William Faulkner (1897-1962) was inspired by his Oxford surroundings when he created the fictional characters of his Yoknapatawpha County. For his accumulated work he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1950 and the Pulitzer Price in 1955 and posthumously in 1963. Today, Rowan Oak is owned by the University of Mississippi and open to visitors.

Location and Directions

Links: Rowan Oak

B & O Railroad Museum, Baltimore

Take our word for it: the B & O Railroad Museum is one of the most interesting museums you will ever visit. The museum is located in the Mt. Clare neighborhood of Baltimore, where America’s railroad history began. It was at Mt. Clare that the first mile of long distance rail was laid. From there, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad would extend west to the first station stop at Ellicott’s Mills (itself now the site of a fine little railroad museum), and across the Appalachian Mountains, into the Ohio River Valley. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad built the first major railroad yard at Mt. Clare, including the spectacular Roundhouse, which now holds the heart of the museum’s collection, consisting of historic steam diesel, and electric locomotives, as well as rare 19th and 20th century passenger and freight equipment. The museum’s wonderful collection of artifactsB and O Railroad includes textiles, lanterns, dining car china, silver, as well as communication devices, signals, and shop equipment. Also on display are hundreds of models ranging from early patent and prototype models to modern commercial model railroad kits. The museum includes the Hays T. Watkins Research Library, whose holdings include B&O Railroad business records, manuscript collections, maps, mechanical and engineering drawings, trade catalogues, periodicals, microforms, paper ephemera, as well as video tapes and motion picture films. Plan to take your time here, folks. And if you’re a railroad buff, we have to warn you that your loved ones may have trouble tearing you away. For a great day (or better, two days) of railroad history immersion, combine a visit to the B&O Railroad Museum with a trip to the Ellicott City B&O Railroad Station Museum in the nearby suburb of Ellicott City. Also, be sure to consult our information on the Baltimore Museum of Industry.

Location and Directions

Links B & O Railroad Museum