What Are America’s Most Iconic Homes?

According to the National Building Museum, these houses, more than most, have impacted the way we live

(Model by Studios Eichbaum + Arnold, 2010. Photo by Museum staff.)

Oak Alley

Oak Alley Louisiana
(Model by Studios Eichbaum + Arnold, 2008. Photo by Museum staff.)
In its newest exhibition, the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., takes on a topic near and dear to us all: home. As its title “House & Home” suggests, the show, which opens April 28, thoughtfully considers the difference between the physical structure and the sentimental idea.

“America is a house-proud nation,” says Thomas Mellins, an architectural historian and guest curator. Almost more so than anywhere else, he adds, in America, people see their homes as reflections of their inner selves.

Running through the center of the exhibition, which includes actual wall frames and a spread of some 200 quintessential household objects, is a fabulous row of 14 celebrated American houses, reproduced as intricate scale models. (Here, we show nine.)

A variety of criteria were used to select the residences. “Sometimes their most powerful association is with an individual,” says Mellins. Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington, is included. “Sometimes it may be a cultural change,” he says. To address urbanization, there is Astor Court, one of the first courtyard-style apartment buildings in New York City. “And, sometimes it has to do with its impact,” he adds. Sea Ranch, a community in northern California, basically defined a way of building vacation homes. “They are all considered high points of architecture as an art,” says Mellins.

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