You don’t have to be an architect or a history buff to appreciate the beauty of America’s cities. You just have to be capable of looking up and saying, “Yep, that’s a pretty damn cool building.”
In this post we’ll walk you through some of America’s most stunning historic neighborhoods. From Antebellum mansions to adobe palaces to glass skyscrapers, this is the stuff Instagram dreams are made of.
There aren’t many cities in the US, even in the American Southwest, where you can find true Southwestern-style adobe architecture. Sante Fe, however, is full of it―starting with the Palace of the Governors, which was built in 1610 and remains the oldest continuously used public building in the country.
The San Miguel Mission was also built in the 1600s and is believed to be the oldest church in the United States, while the Santuario de Guadalupe (built in 1777) is considered the country’s oldest church. Santa Fe really is like a museum, a centuries-old town that’s been meticulously preserved under strikingly blue mountain skies.
In a city that was central to some of the most significant events of the American Revolution―from the Boston Tea Party to the Battle of Bunker Hill―it makes sense that history would be prominently reflected in the city’s architecture.
From Back Bay’s row houses and the cobblestone streets of Beacon Hill to the Beaux-Arts Boston Public Library and the Classical Georgian Old State House (one of the oldest public buildings in the United States), Boston’s buildings exemplify America’s earliest colonial history.
But it’s a modern city, too, with structures like Frank Gehry’s Stata Center at MIT, the equally loved and hated Institute of Contemporary Art in the Seaport, and the cable-stayed steel Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge over the Charles River, which echoes the Bunker Hill Monument. Although, admittedly, Boston should probably lose points for its city hall. Awful.
Charleston is a city that takes its historic preservation very seriously―the expansive collection of historic homes includes architectural styles of the Classic Georgian, Federal, Adamesque, Greek Revival, Italianate, and Victorian eras. Yeah, the works! Not only has Charleston been nicknamed the “Holy City” for all of its steepled churches, but it also maintains a ton of well-preserved Civil War sites and rocks Rainbow Row, an aptly named line of pastel-colored, 18th-century Georgian townhouses. Basically, if you’re an American history or preservationist nerd, Charleston is your jam.
Galveston sits on a barrier island two miles offshore surrounded by 32 miles of sandy beaches, numerous attractions, and one of the largest and best-preserved concentrations of Victorian architecture in the U.S.
Must-see historical attractions include the 1859 Ashton Villa, 1861 Custom House, 1885 Moody Mansion, 1892 Bishop’s Palace, 1877 Tall Ship Elissa, and Strand Historic District. The first of Galveston’s great Broadway “palaces”, 1859 Ashton Villa set the standard for the magnificent homes that followed.
Galveston’s grandest and best-known building, the Bishop’s Palace is an ornate delight of colored stone, intricately carved ornaments, rare woods such as rosewood and white mahogany, stained-glass windows, and impressive fireplaces from around the world—including one lined with pure silver.
I am part of all that I have met
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro
Gleams that untravell’d world, whose margin fades
Forever and forever when I move.
—Alfred Lord Tennyson