Thursday, May 6, 2010

My House(s) of Dreams

by D'Ann Mateer

My husband and I love old houses. We love touring them. We dream of living in them. Big or small, city or country, doesn’t matter much to us—as long as they have a history.

Of course we are destined never to live in any of our dream houses. For one thing, we are not handy. At. All. Nada. Zilch. My husband I both wield words. We work with our heads. So that means in order for us to actually live in a historic home, it would either have to be already restored (read: expensive) or we’d have to pay someone to restore it (read: expensive.) See what I mean?

So we content ourselves with tours. Just in case you share our penchant for old homes, here are some of our favorites:

The Bishop’s Palace,  Galveston, TX

Amazing house. It even survived the devastating hurricane of 1900.

The Beauregard Keyes House, New Orleans, LA

Ok, so not only did this house have cool Civil War history, it also housed a writer, Frances Parkinson Keyes, in later years. After touring the house, I read one of her books. Now I’ve read many and I’m a huge fan! You can’t beat finding a house and an author in one trip!

Like many presidential homes, this is run by the National Park Service. Not only is it the house, but they also have a “museum” that not only tells about the life of Teddy Roosevelt and has some cool memorabilia.

Yes, presidential homes are among our favorites!

Madewood Plantation, Napoleonville, LA

This house is also a B&B. What we love about this house is that it not only has a great history, it is not maintained as a “showpiece.” Staying there is truly the experience of living in such a house in days gone by.

And then there is the very most favorite house I’ve ever been in: Blenheim Palace, Oxforshire, England

Need I say more? Of course I didn’t get to tour Buckingham Palace, and Windsor Palace was pretty awesome, too, but they herded us out before we saw the whole thing due to a fire alarm going off! No can ever say I dream too small!

Of course these are just the ones I can remember. There are still so many more—like The Hermitage and Mount Vernon and Oak Alley and Laura Plantation and the numerous local historic homes whose occupants didn’t go one to live in the White House. I have yet to tour the old plantation homes of the deep South. That’s on my list of things to do eventually.

When our kids are grown, we’d really love to live in an old house—or at least a new one made to look old! For now, we’ll be content in our very ordinary home. But whenever we travel, even to some small place, we look for other homes to tour, to add those of our dreams.

So what about you? Do you enjoy looking at houses? Old ones or new ones? Do you live in your dream house or is your dream house one that will remain forever in your dreams?


  1. I have a confession.

    I love the idea of old houses, and even the beauty of them, but I don't like old houses. I'm very allergic to dust and mold spores, both found with abundance in older homes.

    As soon as I enter an older building or most churches (extremely dusty places, new, old or in between) my nose starts tingling and my eyes start running.

    At one stay at my then future in-laws I was given the small "back room" that didn't get much airing. I woke Christmas morning with one side of my face swollen to three times it's normal size and my eye completely swollen shut. Not the impression I wanted to make!

    But perhaps Blenheim or Windsor or Buckingham palace have enough cleaners to banish dust and obliterate musty corners. Maybe I haven't been aiming high enough!

    Great post D'Ann.

  2. Oh my gosh. I actually got goosebumps here. How geeky is that? The Adams home in Braintree? Be still my heart!

    Well, D'Ann. You know how much I've touted Savannah, so you two definitely have to get there. There are a few square miles of beautiful homes and many are open for tours. You'll never forget it.

    I love big old homes too but alas, the cost of upkeep.
    I love the BBC series Monarch of the Glen. The 'ancestral' home in it is amazing and is actually a place to go and visit and experience the highlands. But the idea of cleaning it and heating it is daunting.

    Thanks for a little tour of homes this morning! I loved it.

  3. D'Ann,
    what a post! I'll be thinking of this all day. I could tour old homes and mansions and castles all day long. One of my favorites is the in Ashville, N.C. I just want to move right in there, go horseback riding on the grounds, write in the library. Money, if only I had some. :)

    And then there's Stowe House. Harriet Beecher Stowe right here in Cincinnati.

    And then there's England's Lake District which I pray I will get to visit with my hubby someday. Home of Wordsworth and others, who could resist? Not me.

  4. I love looking at old houses! I find so much inspiration touring lovely old homes. I imagine my characters at rest in the parlors or chatting on the porches, or looking out the windows.

    Like Wenda, I'm not necessarily good at living in older houses -- mold, decades of dust bunnies, bad heating systems and poor wiring tend to get to me. We lived in one place where the phone stopped working one day, and we couldn't figure out the problem. Turned out I'd put towels too far back in the linen closet. Yeah, it didn't make sense to us, either, but the phone wiring had been done on the cheap ages before, running the line through the back of the linen closet.

    We also had rats in that house. I still shudder thinking about them climbing on my kitchen table.

    So I guess the bottom line is, I like well-kept lovely older homes, not the sort of places I can afford. ;)

  5. Wenda! That would be awful to be that allergic! I don't blame you for not doing old houses much! Of course at places like Blenheim, there are always the gardens when the house gets a bit musty! Of course, they have gardener for that. I'm thinking I like the idea of a staff as much as the idea of an old house!

    Deb--I'm so glad to know I have such wonderful soul mates around here! I love Monarch of the Glen! And yes, I'm itching for Savannah. Charleston, too. One of these days. . .

    I'm with you, Jillian, on the Lake District. And I'd love to get to your other suggestions--especially the Biltmore. I've heard it's great.

    Oh the quirks of old houses, Susanne! In our post WWII house we discovered when we went to replace the dishwasher that they had rigged one of those old "portable" dishwashers into that spot. Installing a real dishwasher cost so much more than we imagined going into it!

  6. Count me with the, "I love to look, but wouldn't want to live there myself" crowd. But I have been to the Hermitage in Moscow. Incredible. And to Versailles. A masterpiece. But neither one is very comfortable if you know what I mean. There's so much going on in every room that there's just no where for the eye to rest. But I guess as expressions of a ruler's power and wealth they were definitely effective!

  7. D'Ann, you need to visit the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina. I've been on the grounds and seen the outside, but I haven't toured it yet. I have toured Versailles, though. Pretty amazing.


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