Iconic buildings from every state

Written by:
September 10, 2020
Educational Images/Universal Images Group // Getty Images

Iconic buildings from every state

Each state in the country has bragging rights to iconic buildings, many often highlighting its past and present.

From the colonial homesteads of New England to the frontier towns of the West, America's buildings trace the country's history, regional differences, and the enduring influence of the people who made the continent their home long before the arrival of the Europeans.

New York City's skyscrapers celebrated the drive of its commercial heart. The mansions along the Atlantic seaboard, in Newport, Rhode Island and Miami, drew inspiration from French chateaus. Museums gathered collections of art unique to America and became attractions themselves. Other museums in the Midwest honored the region's pioneering settlers and the farms that they created.

A house in Alaska is a reminder that Russia was once a colonial power in North America, while a pueblo in the Southwest remains a living community. A high school in Little Rock, Arkansas, recalls the determined group of African American teenagers willing to put their safety at risk to integrate the building and get an education alongside their white contemporaries.

Stacker compiled this list of iconic buildings from historical and government records and news articles. Some are grand—a statehouse modeled on a Roman temple and a skyscraper reminiscent of the Washington Monument. Others are modest, like a tiny church in the woods, or deserted, like a hotel in a ghost town emptied when the gold rush ended.

You'll find people's homes, national monuments, corporate headquarters, theaters and museums, and government centers in the mix. Some of the buildings are in cities, others in the country. Some represent the levers of power; others, ordinary people. Some serve as memorials, while others are whimsical.

Take a look through the slideshow and find the building that salutes your state.

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Alabama: Ivy Green

Ivy Green, the childhood home of Helen Keller, is on 640 acres in Tuscumbia, Alabama. The main house, a white clapboard, was built by her grandfather in 1820. Nearby there is a birthplace cottage, which is where Helen Keller later lived with her teacher Anne Sullivan. Between the two buildings is the well where Keller, who was deaf and blind, made her breakthrough in communicating with Sullivan.

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Alaska: Russian Bishop's House

The Russian Bishop's House in Sitka, Alaska, is a rare example of Russian colonial architecture in North America. Dating to 1842, toward the end of Russia's colonization of the Pacific Coast, it was the center of a diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church. The National Park Service took over the house in 1973 and restored it.

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Visitor7 // Wikimedia Commons

Arizona: Arizona Biltmore

The Arizona Biltmore, which opened in 1929 in Phoenix, was designed by Albert Chase McArthur, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, who for a short time collaborated on the project. The hotel was built of "Biltmore Block," made from desert sand and inspired by palm tree trunks. Its Catalina Pool is reported to have been a favorite of Marilyn Monroe.

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Adam Jones, PhD // Wikimedia Commons

Arkansas: Little Rock Central High School

Nine African American students desegregated the high school in 1957, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that segregated schools were illegal. The Little Rock Nine, as they became known, had to be escorted by federal troops after they were met by an angry mob and the state's National Guard. Photographs of the students arriving at the high school under heavy guard were seen around the country in Life magazine. This is the only operating high school in the country that has been designated a National Historic Site.

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California: The Getty Center

Designed by architect Richard Meier, the Getty Center looks over Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean from the Santa Monica Mountains. Its 1.2 million square feet of beige-colored travertine stone came from Italy and its central garden changes with the seasons. The center, which opened in 1997, houses the permanent collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, including European paintings, illuminated manuscripts, American and international photographs, and sculpture.

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Colorado: The Brown Palace Hotel

The Brown Palace Hotel, which opened in 1892 in Denver, features 26 stone-carved medallions on its exterior that show Colorado's animals. Commissioned by Henry Cordes Brown, a real estate developer, and designed by architect Frank E. Edbrooke, it was built of red granite from Colorado and sandstone from Arizona in the Italian Renaissance style. Inside there is onyx from Mexico and intricate iron grillwork. It was the second fireproof building in the country.

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Horst P. Horst/Conde Nast Collection // Getty Images

Connecticut: The Glass House

Constructed in 1949 by architect Philip Johnson, overlooking a pond in New Canaan, Connecticut, the Glass House lives up to its name: exterior walls of glass and no interior walls. It brought the International Style and its use of steel, glass and concrete to American houses. Today it is owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is part of a 49-acre campus with 14 other structures.

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Delaware: Nemours Mansion

Alfred I. duPont had the Nemours Mansion built for his second wife Alicia on 3,000 acres in Wilmington, Delaware. It was designed in a late 18th-century French style by Carrere and Hastings, a New York architectural firm. The name has its roots in the family's history. Nemours was the French town that duPont's great-great-grandfather represented in the French Estates General.

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Florida: Fontainebleau Miami Beach

The Fontainebleau Miami Beach sits on 22 acres of oceanfront in Florida, designed for hotelier Ben Novack by architect Morris Lapidus. It opened in 1954 in the heart of Millionaire's Row with a 17,000-square-foot lobby, its signature "Stairway to Nowhere," six acres of gardens inspired by Versailles, and a roster of celebrities including Elvis Presley and Lucille Ball.

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Daniel Mayar // Wikimedia Commons

Georgia: Fox Theatre

Originally intended to be the headquarters for the Shriners organization in Atlanta, the Fox Theatre was inspired by the Alhambra in Spain and the Temple of Karnak in Egypt. It boasted minarets and arches, with gold leaf and trompe l'oeil inside. But before it was completed, "The Fabulous Fox" became too expensive for the Shriners. The organization signed a lease to share the building with William Fox, who was building theaters across the country for the new movies capturing Americans' imaginations. Fox Theatre opened on Christmas Day in 1929, showing "Steamboat Willie," Disney's first Mickey Mouse cartoon. It houses the second-largest theater organ in the world, a Möller organ called "Mighty Mo."

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Hawaii: Iolani Palace

The only royal palace in the United States, the current Iolani Palace in Honolulu was the residence of Hawaiian monarchs. Its cornerstone was laid in 1874. The palace, which was designed with electric lights, indoor plumbing, and a telephone, was home to the last ruling monarchs of Hawaii, King Kalakaua and his sister Queen Liliuokalani, who succeeded him when he died in 1891. She was overthrown and then imprisoned for nearly eight months in the palace. Its style is uniquely Hawaiian and is referred to as American Florentine.

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Idaho: Mission of the Sacred Heart

Built by the Jesuits for the local Coeur d'Alene tribe in the early 1850s, Cataldo's Mission of the Sacred Heart is the oldest building in Idaho, as well as one of the most fascinating. The interior is a triumph of folk art, boasting altars painted to mimic Italian marble and chandeliers wrought from tin cans. A virtual time capsule, the church has managed to avoid renovations throughout the years and is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

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Illinois: Aqua Tower

A recent addition to the Chicago skyline, the Aqua skyscraper is notable for wave-like balconies meant to offer views of the city's landmarks around corners and through the gaps between existing buildings. Completed in 2009, it stands at 876 feet and has 82 stories. Designed by the Studio Gang, it encompasses a hotel, apartments, condominiums, and one of Chicago's largest green roofs.

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Sarah Wilkerson Poole // Wikimedia Commons

Indiana: West Baden Springs Hotel

The West Baden Springs Hotel opened in French Lick, Indiana, in 1902, replacing a smaller one that had been destroyed in a fire. It was designed with a 200-foot atrium and a fireplace that burned 14-foot logs. Designed to take advantage of the mineral springs in the area, it was meant to evoke Baden-Baden, the spa town in southwestern Germany with its famous thermal baths. After the stock market crashed in 1929, the hotel gradually fell into disrepair until it was restored in the mid-2000s.

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Howler Bytes // Wikimedia Commons

Iowa: Figge Art Museum

The Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa, is housed in a glass building on the banks of the Mississippi River that was designed by British architect David Chipperfield. The museum grew out of the Davenport Municipal Art Gallery, which formed in 1925. The collection includes works by Grant Wood and other American regionalist artists.

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Kansas: Museum at Prairiefire

The Museum at Prairiefire in Overland Park, Kansas, opened in 2014 as the centerpiece of a 60-acre development of homes, commercial buildings, and entertainment venues. It showcases permanent and traveling exhibits, primarily from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, with which it has a partnership. The exterior of the building conjures up the prairie fires that are central to farming in Kansas, with a combination of colors and jagged shapes meant to bring flames to mind.

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Kentucky: Churchill Downs

Churchill Downs, the home of the Kentucky Derby, opened in 1875. Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark had attended Epsom Derby in England and wanted to develop a racetrack to showcase Kentucky breeders. Today Churchill Downs sits on 147 acres and is recognizable by the twin spires on top of the grandstand.

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Louisiana: St. Louis Cathedral

A French Quarter landmark with its triple steeples, the Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France, overlooks Jackson Square in New Orleans. The third church on the square, it is the oldest Catholic cathedral in continuous use in the United States and contains the remains of eight New Orleans bishops.

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Maine: Wadsworth-Longfellow House

The colonial home of the author and poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was built in Portland, Maine, by Longfellow's grandfather, an officer in the Revolutionary War, in the mid-1700s. Longfellow grew up in the house and wrote his poem "The Rainy Day" in a small room behind the parlor. The house was bequeathed to the Maine Historical Society after the death of Longfellow's younger sister, to serve as a memorial. Almost all of the household items on display in the house belonged to the Wadsworth and Longfellow families.

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Maryland: Fort McHenry

An earthen forerunner of Fort McHenry was built in Baltimore during the Revolutionary War, but the British never attacked the city. Construction on Fort McHenry, named after the third Secretary of War James McHenry, began in 1798. When the British did attack the fort during the War of 1812, the sight of the American flag flying prompted Francis Scott Key to compose "The Star-Spangled Banner."

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Miguel Hermoso Cuesta // Wikimedia Commons

Massachusetts: Faneuil Hall

Boston's Faneuil Hall, rich in American history, is the "cradle of liberty" where Samuel Adams and others protested Great Britain's taxation without representation. The red brick building was designed in 1742 as a marketplace and meeting hall, and financed by Peter Faneuil, the son of French Huguenots and a wealthy merchant who traded not only commodities but also African slaves. It was rebuilt after a fire, expanded in the early 1800s, and drew abolitionists, suffragists, and labor unions. John F. Kennedy's last campaign speech during the 1960 presidential race was televised from this location.

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Michigan: Fisher Building

Detroit's art deco-styled Fisher Building, designed by architect Albert Khan, is made almost entirely of granite and more than 40 different kinds of marble. Its 441-foot tower was originally covered in gold leaf tile, but it was later replaced with green terra cotta. The building, completed in 1928, was constructed by the Fisher brothers to serve as the headquarters for their auto body company.

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lbboh // Wikimedia Commons

Minnesota: Foshay Tower

Modeled after the Washington Monument, the Foshay Tower was finished in 1929. Wilbur Foshay had made his fortune in utility companies, and for the dedication of the art deco building in Minneapolis, John Philip Sousa wrote the Foshay Tower march. But only weeks after the opening, the stock market crashed, bringing on the Great Depression, and Foshay's check to Sousa bounced. Sousa would not allow the piece to be played until the debt was settled.

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Mississippi: Medgar Evers Home Museum

Medgar Evers was assassinated outside his home in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1963. A noted civil rights organizer, he was the first field secretary for the Mississippi NAACP and led voter registration drives and boycotts. The home has been turned into a museum and looks as it did when he lived there with his wife Myrlie and their family.

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National WWI Museum // Wikimedia Commons

Missouri: National World War I Museum and Memorial

After World War I ended, the people of Kansas City, Missouri, raised money for a Liberty Memorial in honor of those who had served in the war. In 1921, the five supreme Allied commanders came together to dedicate the site for the memorial, an Egyptian Revival-style monument that was finished five years later. Congress named it an official World War I Museum in 2004.

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Montana: Hotel Meade

Hotel Meade and more than 50 other buildings make up the ghost town of Bannack. It was the site of Montana's first major gold discovery in 1862, setting off a gold rush, and it was the first territorial capital. But it emptied as the value of the gold dropped and miners moved out of the area.

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Mawhamba // Wikimedia Commons

Nebraska: Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer

The mission of this living history museum in Grand Island, Nebraska is to preserve the spirit of the pioneers who built the first towns in Nebraska. The Stuhr Building, designed by Edward Durell Stone, the architect of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, sits on 207 acres and in 2015 underwent a $7.4 million renovation. Exhibits include collections of Native American and Old West memorabilia, antique farm machinery, and railroad cars.

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Miguel Hermoso Cuesta // Wikimedia Commons

Nevada: Luxor Las Vegas

Built in the shape of the pyramids of Egypt, and named after the ancient Egyptian city, the hotel opened in Las Vegas in 1993 and has more than 4,000 rooms. Other Egyptian touches include a life-sized reproduction of the tomb of King Tutankhamen and a replica of the Great Sphinx of Giza.

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midnightdreary // Wikimedia Commons

New Hampshire: Franklin Pierce Homestead

Franklin Pierce, the country's 14th president, lived here from infancy until his marriage in 1834. Built by his father Benjamin in 1804, the two-story frame and clapboard house in Hillsborough, New Hampshire, is now a state park and a national historical site, and includes a formal ballroom on the second floor. Benjamin Pierce trained county militia in the room, which now features a curved table used by the state legislature when Franklin Pierce was the speaker.

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Acroterion // Wikimedia Commons

New Jersey: Ford Mansion and Washington's Headquarters Museum

During the winter of 1779 to 1780, then-Gen. George Washington used the Ford Mansion in Morristown, New Jersey, as his headquarters. The mansion is a Georgian style home built in the early 1770s for Jacob Ford Jr., an iron manufacturer. He died in 1777, but his widow, Theodosia, allowed George and Martha Washington, plus their aides and servants, to take over the house for six months. One of the earliest museums centered in a house, it was donated to the National Park Service in 1933.

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New Mexico: Taos Pueblo

The Taos settlement in northern New Mexico is believed to be the oldest continuously inhabited community in the United States, with the main part probably dating to between 1000 and 1450. About 150 people live here full time today. Made of adobe—earth mixed with water and straw—the pueblo consists of Hlauuma, the north house, and Hlaukwima, the south house. At one time, the homes had no doors or windows, only entrances at the top. The pueblo's church, the San Geronimo Chapel, replaced an original church destroyed in 1847 during the Mexican-American War.

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New York: Chrysler Building

Its 185-foot art deco spire makes the Chrysler Building instantly recognizable in the New York City skyline. It was erected at the end of the Roaring '20s when developers were vying for the title of tallest skyscraper. It beat out the Bank of Manhattan Trust Building after architect William Van Alen had the spire assembled in secret inside the building and hoisted into place after the trust building was completed. The victory was short-lived: The Empire State Building eclipsed the Chrysler Building 11 months later. in April 1931.

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North Carolina: Biltmore

This Biltmore in the Blue Ridge Mountains was the Asheville, North Carolina, country home of George and Edith Vanderbilt—a 250-room French Renaissance chateau, the construction of which began in 1889. When it was finished in 1895, it had 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces. During World War II, the estate was used to store historic artwork from Washington, D.C.'s National Gallery of Art. As part of Vanderbilt's initial plan, though one he did not live to experience, The Inn on Biltmore Estate opened to guests in 2001, and has continued to expand.

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Tallmikejensen4320 // Wikimedia Commons

North Dakota: Bagg Bonanza Farm

The 15-acre farm in Mooreton, North Dakota, is one of the last remaining bonanza farms in the United States. Gigantic bonanza farms in North Dakota made large amounts of money and ranged in size from 3,000 acres to more than 75,000 acres. Wheat was the only crop. The Bagg farm features a fully restored 21-bedroom main house.

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Barry haynes // Wikimedia Commons

Ohio: Longaberger Basket Building

The former headquarters of the Longaberger Basket Co. is fittingly built in the shape of a giant basket. The seven-story building, which opened in 1997 in Newark, Ohio, is a replica of the company's medium market basket, but it became vacant when Longaberger went out of business in 2018. It is to become a luxury hotel.

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John From Tulsa, USA // Wikimedia Commons

Oklahoma: Price Tower

Frank Lloyd Wright built Price Tower in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, for Harold Price as a headquarters for his pipeline construction company. The building originally was designed to be New York City apartments, but was never constructed there because of the Great Depression. Wright nicknamed the building "The Tree That Escaped the Crowded Forest," a reference to its escape from Manhattan.

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M.O. Stevens // Wikimedia Commons

Oregon: Pioneer Courthouse

The courthouse is a three-story building in Portland, Oregon, designed in the Italianate style. It was completed in 1875, the second-oldest federal courthouse west of the Mississippi River. With the completion of the new Gus J. Solomon Courthouse in 1933, the federal government began trying to sell the building and Congress authorized its demolition. But the Pioneer Courthouse was spared, restored in the 1970s and is again being used as a courthouse.

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Pennsylvania: Fallingwater

Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece in southwestern Pennsylvania, Fallingwater is cantilevered over a waterfall on Bear Run, an example of Wright's architecture fitting organically into its surroundings. The house was a weekend home in Mill Run, Pennsylvania, for the family of Edgar Kaufmann Sr., the owner of the Kaufmann's Department Store in Pittsburgh. The Kaufmanns were expecting to build their house across from the falls in order to enjoy a view of them.

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Stilfehler // Wikimedia Commons

Rhode Island: The Breakers

The Breakers, the most impressive of the so-called summer "cottages" in Newport, Rhode Island, was built by Cornelius Vanderbilt II, the president of the New York Central Railroad and grandson of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, who made the family fortune. The Italian Renaissance-style palazzo consists of 70 rooms and was based on palaces constructed in the 16th century in Genoa and Turin, Italy. Vanderbilt's youngest daughter opened The Breakers in 1948 to raise money for The Preservation Society of Newport County, which now owns the home.

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South Carolina: The Citadel

The military college in Charleston, South Carolina, is known for the two-story Romanesque building that was designed by architect Frederick Wesner and became known as The Citadel. It was erected in 1829, with an interior courtyard with Doric columns and Roman arches. Wesner's design might have been inspired by the Jacques-Louis David painting, "The Oath of the Horatii."

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South Dakota: Mitchell Corn Palace

The first Mitchell, South Dakota, Corn Palace was constructed in 1892 to prove agriculture could thrive in the state's climate. The current Moorish Revival building was completed in 1921 as a place for residents to celebrate the harvest with a fall festival and entertainment. Its most distinctive features are its corn murals, yearly designs of grass and corn around such themes as "Mother Goose Rhymes," "Rock of Ages," and "Salute to Rodeo," which spanned two years because of a severe drought.

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Tennessee: Batman Building

The AT&T Building in Nashville, Tennessee, built in the 1990s, got its nickname because it looks like Batman's mask. Dick Miller, designer and the senior architect at Earl Swensson Associates, did not anticipate the reaction to the building, because the resemblance to the superhero was not apparent on a small model, as he told the Nashville Business Journal. It is the tallest office building in Nashville and has a three-story winter garden.

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Michael Barera // Wikimedia Commons

Texas: Former Texas School Book Depository

The Romanesque Revival-style building in downtown Dallas is notorious as the location from which President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Lee Harvey Oswald fired on the president from the sixth floor on Nov. 23, 1963. At the time, the building was leased by the Texas School Book Depository Company, which fulfilled orders for school books. For the following 25 years, the floor was closed to the public. Today, the renamed Dallas County Administration Building is used for offices, except for the sixth floor, which has become the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza.

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Scott Catron // Wikimedia Commons

Utah: Salt Lake Temple

The Salt Lake Temple, notable for its spires and statue of the angel Moroni, is an international symbol of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is the church's largest temple, and took 40 years to build, with walls 9 feet thick at the base. Groundbreaking took place in 1853. Sharing Temple Square is the Tabernacle, home to The Tabernacle Choir.

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GDFL // Wikimedia Commons

Vermont: Robert Frost Stone House Museum

Robert Frost wrote "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" at the dining room table of the stone house in Shaftsbury, Vermont, in June 1922. He lived here for nine years. The Dutch Colonial, built in 1769, sits on 7 acres with stone walls and some of Frost's heirloom apple trees. Bennington College took ownership of the house, now a museum, in 2017.

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Ron Cogswell // Wikimedia Commons

Virginia: Virginia State Capitol

The state capitol in Richmond was designed by Thomas Jefferson and Charles-Louis Clérisseau, and was based on the Maison Carrée, a Roman temple in Nîmes, France. The state's General Assembly first met there in 1788. A life-sized, marble statue of George Washington stands in the rotunda, and a bust of the Marquis de Lafayette is also on display.

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Washington: Space Needle

Seattle's Space Needle was built for the 1962 World's Fair, the theme of which was "The Age of Space." One of the fair's organizers, Edward E. Carlson, had been inspired by a broadcast tower that he saw while on a trip to Stuttgart, Germany, and wanted something similar for the fair. He named the structure, which stands at 605 feet. From the top, visitors look out over downtown Seattle, Mount Rainier, Puget Sound, and the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges.

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Bohemian Baltimore // Wikimedia Commons

West Virginia: Our Lady of the Pines

The tiny Roman Catholic church bills itself as the smallest church in 48 states. Built in 1958 near the community of Eglon, West Virginia, it is 12 feet by 24 feet, with room for about a dozen people. There are three small pews on each side of the center aisle. It was built by a couple as a memorial to their parents.

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Wisconsin: Cana Island Lighthouse

The 86-foot Cana Island Lighthouse was built along the shores of Lake Michigan in 1869, and its beacon became automated in 1944. The lighthouse tower opened to the public in 2008, and visitors can climb the 102 steps to the catwalk. The Door County island can be reached by a short walk across a causeway.

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Wyoming: Sheridan Inn

Established in 1893, the Sheridan Inn was partly owned by Col. William F. Cody, aka Buffalo Bill, who auditioned new members for his "Wild West" show from its front porch. It was financed by the Burlington Missouri Railroad and the Sheridan Land Company, and was inspired by hunting lodges that the architect had visited in Scotland. Today each of the 22 rooms feature Buffalo Bill or key people from his life.

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