Why do people tour house museums? Well, excluding because they are on vacation, it’s raining, and they’ve already gone to a movie, the aquarium, and the history museum, people go to house museums because they are interested in architecture, preservation/restoration, antique furniture, local/social/cultural history, and/or the famous people who once lived in the house.
Me? I like touring houses because I’m interested in local/social/cultural history, i.e., how people lived; architecture, on a very basic level; and preservation/restoration in the sense of why did the preservationists make that choice. I’ve been touring houses since the early 1990s. Although I had toured the House Where Lincoln Died (the Petersen House) and the White House, it wasn’t until I visited Casa Loma in Toronto that I realized I wanted to see more like that. I’ve since been to houses in 12 states and Jamaica.
Tour books and websites don’t provide the type of information I need to decide to visit a house. And that was the genesis of HouseTourist.info. Once I’ve visited a house, I’ll tell you if I think it’s worth a visit and also provide information on what type of house museum it is and what the tour is like, so you can make up your own mind.
Through my touring, I’ve realized house museums fall into various categories; they can be unchanged since the last resident departed, completely restored to a time in the house’s past or to a mishmash of the house’s past, rebuilt from the ground up, furnished or unfurnished, and include gardens or other buildings on the grounds. Likewise, house tours are not created equal; they can be free or not, led by a live or recorded docent, self-guided, allow or prohibit photography, and focus on the house’s architecture/restoration or its former residents. Each house discussed on the site begins with a grid of the following information about the house and the tour.
|Admission fee||✓ = $ required||Photography||✓ = allowed|
|Docent||✓ = tour is guided||Gardens||✓ = yes|
|Audio tour||✓ = available, fee may be charged||Furnishings||✓ = yes|
|Tour brochure||✓ = provided||Rebuilt||✓ = mostly or entirely|
|Museum shop||✓ = yes||Primary focus||house = provided info is mostly on the house
residents = provided info is mostly on the residents of the house
I hope you find this site useful. Happy touring!