Welcome back! Here is Part Two of my Historic Homes Obsession blog. To quickly recap:
Almost every place we have traveled it seems we managed to locate a historic home, and toured it. We are always fascinated by these snapshots in time, trying to figure out how people lived their everyday lives there. Makes no difference to us if its a one-room log cabin, or a huge mansion, these historic homes call to us, and we must tour them. I tried to think back and remember as many as possible, and came up with eight (not counting the mind-boggling home somewhere in Tuscany).
This is Part Two of Two parts. In no particular order, here is a snapshot of the homes, a wee smidgen of history, and my takeaway.
Built in 1825, purchased by Kit Carson in 1843
There is SO much history in the desert southwest, from prehistoric occupancy by Native Americans to a continuously occupied pueblo since circa 1000, then founded as a trading outpost by the Spanish in 1795! Kit Cason came to the area on the Santa Fe Trail in 1826, and worked multiple jobs for years. He bought this home as a wedding gift for his third wife, and they raised seven kids here. The structure is original, and the interior is basically identical to when they occupied it; the back bedroom was used as his office when he was a Federal Agent for the Ute and Taos Pueblo tribes. He also helped raise several native children who were rescued from slavery.
Bills Takeaway: I love how this home shows traditional territorial style adobe living, with a courtyard ramada and horno (outdoor oven). You can almost see the family sitting in the shade of the ramada while his wife bakes in the oven, and the hordes of kids kicking up dust playing in the courtyard.
Built circa 1000 – 1400 AD
Such an interesting place! Built up to 1,000 years ago, and continuously inhabited since then. These days very few native people live here daily, but the pueblo population swells during their tribal ceremonies. The homes are passed down from generation to generation; some are very well maintained, others need some work. Several of the homes have been re-purposed into native businesses, selling art, jewelry, and foods like fry bread, so you can go inside get a sense of what it’s like to live there. This is in a beautiful setting, with mountains in the background and a stream running through the village. If you visit, remember that this is akin to a sacred place to the inhabitants, so treat it and everyone you meet with great respect. There are specific guidelines to be aware of as you visit. Enter with a sense of awe and curiosity about how much and how little has changed here over the centuries.
Bills takeaway: I became fascinated by Native American culture and history years ago, and especially with the pueblo people. For an amazing sense of who they are, read The Book of the Hopi by Frank Waters, and House of Rain by Craig Childs for an interesting thesis on why so many pueblo cities were abandoned for no apparent reason 700 years ago.
Built in 1885 by Captain George Flavel
Crossing the bar at the Columbia River with old sailing ships resulted in dozens of shipwrecks and loss of life. Even today it commands respect – and maybe a bit of fear – for those who enter. So Captain George Flavel became an expert at guiding ships through these treacherous waters, and was very successful. He became a bit of a real estate mogul, and was able to retire at age 62, and built this 11,600 square foot mansion as his retirement home. It has been meticulously restored to its former glory. One cool feature is the tower; the Captain would often go up to the top, where he had a 360 degree view of Astoria and the Columbia River so he could keep an eye on all the ship traffic.
Bills takeaway: Somehow I lost all my photos of this amazing structure, so we are going to have to go back! The website talks about the ornate fireplaces built with exotic woods; this might be the place where one fireplace was built with over 100 types of rare woods from around the world. The grounds take up an entire city block, and are beautiful in their own right. While in Astoria, don’t miss the Astor Column, (now called the Astoria Column); you too can climb all 164 steps to the top of this 125 foot tall column for your own 360 degree view of Astoria and surrounds.
Original Structure Built in 1894 by William Meier, emigrated from Germany
I have to admit the prospect of going to the “Western White House,” as LBJ’s Texas ranch was known, did not thrill me. I have vivid memories of the national turmoil caused by his support for the VietNam war, and it had left a bitter taste in my mouth. But this visit was actually one of the most rewarding trips to a historic home I’ve done. Note no photos – they aren’t allowed! And the home is closed to tours right now due to structural issues. One area was closed when we were there, looks like very poor engineering was done to ensure the house wouldn’t collapse! Anyhow, one of the best parts was the history. Yes the VietNam war was horrific and pointless, but it really overshadowed the great things he did accomplish in his life, both in the Senate and as President. The grounds are a National Historic Park; they also include his birthplace and the first school he went to.
Bills takeaway: “Mid-Century” home design seems to be all the rage right now. The inside of this home embodies it all! I especially enjoyed seeing his office, and the jets parked in his hanger near the house.
I hope maybe this inspires a few of you to take a look at a bit of American history that is preserved in old homes across this great land. If you have some favorites, please let me know in the comments section of this blog! And look for Part Three later this summer…