Bonus Features

Historical House Tours: DNA drove me to them

Pictures of the Day

Fancy Campers
For those of you who do not live on the road, campers have their historical and decorative side...

Chihuly Glass
Like my mother and her mother before her, I am a crow. We have each loved bright, shinny, colorful things...especially glass with light shinning through it. This explains why, for the past ten years I will always make the extra effort to see the works of Dale Chihuly if they are nearby… and no matter where we travel, they frequently are nearby (He seems to be everywhere.) They are fun.  











Google Places and Platypie

Visiting Historical Hysterical Houses

May 2011

A very funny visit to the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California with Calli and Liz brought back some old memories. 

Rain Forest at the San Antonio Botanical GardensMemories of Mother dragging me into so many old and moldy houses to see the beautiful "appointments"  she so loved. She never passed an open mansion, an historical home with or without gardens or an interior decorating establishment that she did not insist on visiting. Up until she died, no matter where we traveled there was always at least one fabulous old mansion she had to see. "My dear, we must see the renowned collection of [Boehm birds, Faberge Eggs, Limoges Porcelain Boxes, Revere Silver, Audubon Elephant prints, Royal Dalton Figurines... Chinese Chippendale furniture...]" and so on. She knew her stuff. After each tour she would spend hours in the adjoining gift shop pouring over and selecting just the right purchase or, in most cases, purchases, to make. Towards the end of her life, she would skip the house or attraction all together, and just take us to the gift shop. (By this time Liz had joined up...and baby Calli was with us for the last trip.) I remember her in the back seat of the car pouring through the guidebooks and free literature from the visitor’s centers trying to pick as many houses with gift shops as possible for us to visit.  I would be hoping for hikes, swimming, birds...anything but another musty house with a big gift shop.  Over the years the gift shops got bigger and bigger.

On our last trip (San Antonio), shortly before her 90th birthday, her disappointment  was overwhelming when we arrived too late for a tour of Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson’s ranch. (She was so looking forward to Lady Bird’s garden.) Liz got a ninety dollar ticket for speeding to get us there, but Mom really didn’t notice. Fortunately she was somewhat consoled by the gift shop that stayed open later. But she found the items being offered, mostly items with a patriotic, historical or presidential theme, unusually unattractive. I believe she bought a crystal paperweight with the presidential seal embedded in it.

Liz tries to sweet talk the copEver since we started traveling full time in a motor home I have found myself from time to time inexplicably drawn to visiting "important" homes; preferably with a garden. I have gone not because I wanted to, but because Mother would have wanted me to see the Limoges or Haviland China, the old Rose Medallion pieces or the extraordinary
Adams Highboy. I always like the gardens. Sometimes I sight a good bird.

Back to the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose California. $77.00 friggin dollars for the three of us to take the tour of 100 of the 160 rooms. AND NO PICTURES ALLOWED! Mostly the house seemed like a lot of empty passageways with a few somewhat restored rooms and an occasional plant. I don’t want to be unkind, but the guide played an alto laughing hyena to our crowd of cringing tourists.

And why NO PICTURES ALLOWED?  Really, you think if I saw a picture on line I wouldn’t visit? The other thing about NO PICTURES is: Deep inside myself I know if I take no pictures, I really wasn’t there.

Winchester House: Collage, colored pencil and pen and ink

Humble Presidential Birthplace Group. Did enjoy visiting both the President Eisenhower and President Carter birthplaces. (No birth certificates were available) Probably because both houses were quite small. The Carter home had a swept yard...insects, I believe.

The folks in Hodgenville, Kentucky along with the National Park Service have reached new heights in humbleness in creating Abraham Lincoln’s Birthplace. A 56 step stairway leads to a granite temple inside which there is a one room log cabin enshrined. I do not plan to visit this spot. Jimmy Carter Birthplace | Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Birthplace

The architectural masterpieces. I could write a whole second story on the Frank Lloyd Wright Homes I have driven to but not seen. Most have been undergoing restoration, some are closed for the season and one had burned to the ground. We were allowed to visit the servants quarters and the sister’s much smaller home next to the Martin Mansion in Buffalo. No photographs, of course, so here is Bernie sitting on the front steps of the house we could not enter. It’s OK though, I like the FLW  room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art better, and it overlooks Central Park.

Unusual Decor Elephant heads and deer foot ash trays are highlights at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York.

George Eastman House in Rochester, New York

Multitudes of six-toed cats and a footpath made of headstones for the deceased cats are big attractions at the Hemingway house in Key West. Obviously pictures were allowed at the Hemingway House. We have given up taking lovely pictures of the decor...This is what each room really looks like. Well, actually the velvet rope is usually at the door.

Hemingway House Key West

Audubon House: Pen and Ink with watercolor wash When When John James Audubon came to Key West to hunt birds, he stayed next door to what is now antique filled and called The Audubon House. Mother would have loved it though, and we liked the orchid filled garden.

Cape May's Emlen Physick Estate: It was here, and you must think me not so terribly bright, that I realized that most of the homes I had seen over the years were really giant doll houses. The furnishings, wall coverings, artistically draped lounging robes and open books (with glasses) were painstakingly gathered antique props. "Why it’s like Cornelius, himself, just left the room."  The ladies historical society associated with each landmark had purchased and placed antiques in the manner that, in this case, Dr. Physick might have used them.

Historical House Tours: DNA drove me to them

Liz and I still continue to visit an occasional home and its gift shop... and it is bittersweet to pick out things Mother would have loved, and sometimes to the annoyance of the visitors around us we get the giggles when imagining something she might have said or done. If there is a heaven, this it what it looks like in the section where Mother abides.

Loved the house tour! My dad was a fan of Frank L. Wright. Excellent photography !!!


Very beautiful picture of your mom.


Is that the old peanut farmer himself standing beside you?  I always though he was taller.


Love the tales & photos of Pa, well and of course the rest of you lovlies as well.

Sara Cooper

Peggy, love your memories of house tours with your mom, Liz and Calli and the pics (especially you and Bernie with the Carters).  I've always thought it was partly my wish to see inside everyone's house (love homes with no window coverings so I can look inside at night!) that got me into these distinguished or not so distinguished mansions.  Steve and I did lots of house tours, the older the house the better.  I drag David into them all the time too - long may this tradition prosper.  Hysterical or historical - it's fun to peek inside.


I cannot believe that it is so easy to reply. I love following your adventures! I have some adventures of my own, but these are by far not as exotic as yours. Good luck and hope to see you soon!


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