How to Explore New England’s Most Magnificent Historic Homes

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If Walls Could Talk: Open marriages, the fortunes (and follies) of powerful men, and great works of literature are embedded in the historic homes that dot New England.

This summer, many well-known and lesser-known (but nonetheless important) mansions are open for visitors to visit – and even to sleep in.

Novelist Edith Wharton (of “The Age of Innocence” fame) built her magnificent home, the Mount, among the wealthy Gilded Age elite in Lenox, amid the beautiful Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts.

It is notably one of the few houses designed and paid for at the time by a woman who earned her own money.

No wonder then that the independent Wharton met her husband’s infidelities with a little panky of her own.

Take a guided tour from 1902 stunner for juicy inside story! (Open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., $20).

Slip into the Gilded Age via novelist Edith Wharton’s wealthy home, the Mount, in Lenox, Massachusetts.
Dani Fine Photography
Exterior of people dining at Mount Lenox.
You can dine at the Massachusetts Estate’s Terrace Café.
Sarah Edwards

Another liberated woman was behind another of New England’s finest dwellings. In the 1890s, privileged but financially deprived Florence Griswold turned her parents’ large farmhouse in Old Lyme, Connecticut into a boarding house that housed artists at low cost.

Exterior of the Griswold house in Connecticut.
Stop at the historic Griswold House in Old Lyme, Connecticut, the center of a turn-of-the-century Impressionist colony.
Connecticut Office of Tourism

Dubbed the patron saint of American Impressionism, the Griswold estate became the center of the former colony of Lyme, the nation’s largest and best-known center of Impressionist art.

Now the Florence Griswold Museumit includes an impressive art museum in the beautiful grounds next to the original house where the boarders of Florence painted on the walls, doors, etc. (open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., $10).

Exterior of the Crane Estate.
In Ipswich, Massachusetts, a plumbing magnate was in on it when he designed the Crane Estate.
©Les Syndics des Reservations 2

It’s no big surprise that Chicago industrialist Richard T. Crane, Jr., head of a wildly successful plumbing company, built the Crane family’s summer home overlooking Ipswich Bay on the North Shore of Massachusetts to include many bathrooms with high end. Crane plumbing fixtures.

In fact, Crane built the house twice because Mrs. Crane didn’t like the first attempt!

Finally completed in 1928, perched atop Castle Hill, the undulating half-mile Grand Alley leads from the house to the bluff, past a hidden casino complex where parties raged in the ballroom.

Exterior of the Crane Estate.
The Crane Estate spans over 2,100 acres.
©Les Syndics des Reservations 2

The rooftop terrace offers views of the amber-pink sand Crane Beach.

The Crane Estate now includes the Hostel in Castle Hilloriginally Castle Hill Farm, a bed and breakfast at the foot of the hill (Great House open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-4pm, $10. Rooms from $280).

Well named, castle in the cloudsa 1913 mountaintop estate in Moultonborough, New Hampshire offers the most beautiful views of ethereal lakes and misty mountains.

Aerial of Castle in the Sky in New Hampshire.
Bostonian Thomas Plant retired to his own “Castle in the Clouds” in Moultonborough, New Hampshire.
New Hampshire Travel Department

Obviously, Boston shoemaker Thomas Plant loved the view, because after making a mint he retired young and devoted himself to creating a true English-style estate for his family, right in the New Hampshire Lake District, overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee.

Visitors can tour the property and enjoy the miles of hiking trails.

Unfortunately, Mr. Plant went bankrupt while building his Xanadu. His wife left him and his dream home was sold in the 1920s. (Open Thursday-Monday 10am-4pm, $20).

Exterior of Naulakha.
England’s most English author, Rudyard Kipling, has built Naulakha, a cozy retreat in the mountains of Vermont for his American wife. It was there that he wrote “The Jungle Book“.
Photography Kelly Fletcher

Located in Vermont’s Green Mountains in Dummerston, near the artsy town of Brattleboro, Naulakha was built by one of the world’s most famous authors: Rudyard Kipling.

A product of the British Raj in India, Kipling married a girl from Vermont and designed Naulakha as a home for himself and his new wife.

They only lived in the house from 1893 to 1896, and it was here that Kipling wrote his beloved “Jungle Book” and “Captains Courageous” series, set in Gloucester, Massachusetts.

A National Historic Landmark, the house retains much of Kipling’s original furnishings, including his desk. The house and expansive grounds, which include Kipling’s original clay tennis court (the first tennis court built in Vermont), are only open for tours on certain days of the year. The rest of the time, the house and the shed are each rented out as second homes.

Book lovers from around the world flock to Orchard House, where author Louisa May Alcott and her family lived, providing the setting for her groundbreaking novel, ‘Little Women’. Remarkably preserved, this Federal-style clapboard home on the outskirts of Concord, Massachusetts features the original furnishings used by the Alcott family – among them the simple shelving desk where Louisa wrote her well-known novel. like.

Nearby, off the Minuteman Trail, minutes from the pretty colonial center of Concord, the old presbytery has more literary connections.

Owned by the Reverend William Emerson, it’s where his grandson, poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, referred to the “gunshot heard all over the world” in “Concord Hymn” and said: “Lose sight of nature , is to lose sight of God” in his acclaimed book “Nature” (1836). Later author Nathaniel Hawthorne (“The Scarlett Letter”) rented the house built in 1770 from Emerson and wrote about it in “Mosses from an Old Manse”.

Hawthorne and his wife Sophia weren’t the best tenants and etched messages still visible on a window pane (open Wednesday-Monday 11am-5pm, $12).

American graffiti, indeed.

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