There’s something about an old house that makes you feel like you’re touching the past. These ten homes in Massachusetts are not only incredibly beautiful, but have amazing historical connections. You’ll be able to walk into the bedrooms of famous authors, stroll the gardens of fabulously wealthy socialites and even brush up against the former haunts of royalty. Here are some of the most historic Bay State homes that you’ll definitely want to visit.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life. While we continue to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, please take proper precautions or add them to your bucket list to see at a later date. If you know of a local business that could use some extra support during these times, please nominate them here:
1. The Mount, Lenox
The Mount is one of the most lavish and well preserved historical homes in Massachusetts. Formerly home to the renowned author Edith Wharton, it draws almost 40,000 visitors each year. Wharton actually designed the house and grounds herself, and outdoor performances, music and lectures are frequently offered at the stunning estate. Guests can also partake of the home’s standard guided tours, or (if you’re feeling brave) venture into the mansion at night on one of The Mount’s summer ghost tours. (2 Plunkett Street, Lenox)
2. Ventfort Hall Mansion, Lenox
Once you've finished up at The Mount, hop on over to Ventfort Hall for an even bigger dose of Gilded Age opulence. This place feels like something straight out of a period drama, and indeed the exterior of the building was used as St. Cloud's Orphanage in the Academy Award winning movie, The Cider House Rules. Today, the hall is open to visitors for tours and events. (104 Walker Street, Lenox)
3. Naumkeag, Stockbridge
The name might be a little tricky, but this Gilded Age manor is one of the most enchanting properties in the state. Noted for its immense and marvelously designed gardens, Naumkeag was the former home of wealthy lawyer New York City lawyer Joseph Hodges Choate and his daughter Mabel. Mabel actually helped design must of the property
4. The Willard House and Clock Museum, North Grafton
Tucked away in the hills of Central Massachusetts, this place is one of Grafton’s oldest structures. It was the home of four of America’s preeminent 19th century clockmakers, and the birthplace of some truly iconic timepieces. If that all sounds a bit dry, the house is also one of the most picturesque homes in the region, and offers guided tours to help you understand life in Massachusetts during the 18th and 19th centuries. Admission is $10 for adults and $6 for children. (11 Willard Street, North Grafton)
5. The Emily Dickinson Homestead, Amherst
Emily Dickinson is one of the most prominent and influential poets to come out of the 19th century, and her former home in Amherst pays tribute to her life and art. Dickinson herself lived in seclusion for much of her time here, often speaking to visitors through locked doors or passed notes. After her death, the home passed through a succession of relatives until it was finally turned into a museum in the mid 20th century. Today, you can take guided tours of the home, which has been preserved almost exactly as it was when the famous poet lived there. The grounds and gardens are open to the public without a guided tour. (280 Main Street, Amherst)
6. Arrowhead (Herman Melville House), Pittsfield
This is the home where Herman Melville sat down and wrote some of his most famous works, including Moby-Dick, Pierre (which was actually dedicated to Mount Greylock) and The Confidence-Man. Most of the home has been restored to resemble what it looked like in Melville’s time, and it is open to the public during the warmer months. (780 Holmes Road, Pittsfield)
7. The Lizzie Borden House, Fall River
Of course, no list of historic homes would be complete without this infamous abode. In 1982, popular opinion is that Lizzie Borden killed her parents with an axe in this home. Though Borden was acquitted and stayed in Fall River until her death in 1927, the dark legacy of this famous crime lives on. The home is now a bed & breakfast, as well as a museum. Brave visitors can stay the night and learn all there is to know about the brutal murders. (92 Second Street, Fall River)
8. Yin Yu Tang House, Salem
This is one of the most unique homes on this list. The Yin Yu Tang House was actually first built in China over 300 years ago. Centuries after it was constructed in the Anhui province, it was taken apart and reassembled in Salem. This sixteen-bedroom mansion was relocated to the Peabody Essex Museum, where it stands today complete with its original contents and furnishings. A visit here is truly a special opportunity to get a taste of another culture.
9. The Old Manse, Concord
This historic manse was the home of not just one, but two literary giants. Nathaniel Hawthorne rented the manse for $100 a year in 1842. Ralph Waldo Emerson also boarded in the Manse and wrote the first draft of his famous essay "Nature" within its walls. The home actually stayed in the Emerson family until 1939, when it was transferred to the Trustees of Reservations. Today, the Manse is open seasonally for guided tours. There's also a great bookshop in the old home that sells plenty of historical and transcendentalist literature.
10. Paul Revere House, Boston
Boston is filled with historic homes, but one that is sometimes overlooked is the Paul Revere House in the North End. It was built in 1680, which makes it the oldest house in downtown Boston. Once the home of legendary early American Paul Revere, the home is now operated as a nonprofit museum and is open to the public for tours. (19 North Square, Boston)
11. House of Seven Gables, Salem
This is one of the most enigmatic historic homes in the state. Made famous by Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel The House of the Seven Gables, this old home was built in 1667 for Captain John Turner. Hawthorne's story is dark and supernatural, and this home was once owned by participants in the infamous Salem Witch Trials of 1692. Visitors can tour the grounds and home. (115 Derby Street, Salem)