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.)


Monticello Charlottesville
(Model by Studios Eichbaum + Arnold, 2008. Photo by Museum staff.)
Thomas Jefferson designed Monticello, his home outside of Charlottesville, Virginia, to incorporate classical architectural features, such as columns and a dome. “He was using the forms of classical Greek and Rome to make a very strong statement about America—that we were going to inherit the democratic traditions of Greece and the republican traditions of Rome, and that this was going to be the classical world born anew on this continent,” says Mellins.

But Americans were not as enamored with the Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio as Jefferson was, and they did not clamor to build villas in Monticello’s likeness. “It was a highly idiosyncratic house,” says Mellins. Jefferson used its rotunda as a kind of museum of the New World, displaying artifacts Lewis and Clark collected on their expedition. “It so powerfully expresses his ideas that I am not sure it was something that people could so easily accommodate to express their own personalities,” adds Mellins.

Nevertheless, certain elements of the historic home have become widely used. The exhibition’s curators cite the Amos Patterson House, a home in Union, New York, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as an example. Built in 1800, the home has a temple-fronted portico and Palladian windows reminiscent of Monticello.

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