Friday Funday: Famous Houses You Can Tour

By Dan Gregory

Hearst Castle is one of the landmark houses you can tour -- and where you might find adaptable ideas for your own home (though perhaps on a smaller scale!)

If you're thinking about building anew house, you might be interested in touring landmark residences by famous architects -- perhaps on your summer vacation. Here's a sampling.

Billtmore Estate, Asheville, NC, designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt with grounds by Frederick Law Olmsted (developer of Central Park) for George Washington Vanderbilt in 1891.2329399231_cea567f3d620Biltmore20CC
The 250-room Chateau style house is the largest private estate ever built in the United States. It was, in effect, a way of bringing the European Grand Tour home — references to Blois and other French chateaux are evident (Photo by Kamoteus through Creative Commons). Though grand in a way that’s difficult to comprehend, it illustrates an idea-collecting habit that is shared by anyone building a new home.

Hearst Castle on the central California coast by architect Julia Morgan for newspaper tycoon and mining heir William Randolph Hearst (built from 1919 into the 1930s) is only a little smaller in number of rooms but larger in amenities, like the indoor and outdoor swimming pools and the cathedral-like bell towers (image at the top of this post). It also vividly expresses the collecting mania of its owner, who brought a vast array of antique European artifacts -- like temple fronts, marble statues, ceilings and stairways -- home from numerous trips abroad and asked Julia Morgan to incorporate them into her design. The so-called Neptune Pool includes a variety of historical elements.

(photos courtesy I guess you could call it a form of architectural recycling. Julia Morgan, incidentally, was the posthumous recipient of this year's American Institute of Architects' Gold Medal -- the AIA's highest award. Hearst Castle was just one of the more than 700 projects she completed.

Fallingwater at Bear Run, Pennsylvania, of 1938 is Frank Lloyd Wright's most famous house and perhaps America's as well.

It vividly shows the architect's imagination and audacity in the way the house cantilevers right over the waterfall, and in the way the smooth plaster planes and interlocking rough stone piers become an architectural version of the waterfall itself. (Photo courtesy


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