Escape to a bygone era at a historic B&B. Our list of landmark inns includes pretty Victorian manors, lavish Gilded Age mansions and beautifully restored farmhouses. These U.S. B&Bs offer impressively modern amenities within well-preserved architectural gems—and their innkeepers are proud to share the fascinating histories of their centuries-old inns.
The Victorian Chateau, Chateau Tivoli, San Francisco, California
A stay at this landmark Victorian mansion is an absolute must for history buffs visiting the City by the Bay. Built in 1892 for lumber baron C.B. Jackson, the Chateau Tivoli has hosted an assortment of colorful occupants, from beatnik poet Bob Kaufman to Ernestine Kreling, owner of the famous Tivoli Opera House. With original period details including a magnificent oak staircase, crystal chandlers, decorative fireplaces and stained-glass windows, the beautifully restored property epitomizes Old San Francisco. High-end amenities—from complimentary wine and cheese served daily to weekend Champagne breakfasts—will make you feel positively aristocratic.
The Underground Railroad Station, The Steamboat House, Galena, Illinois
Galena is a popular Midwest weekend escape for travelers who love history. The charming small town is rich with beautiful architecture—in addition to an award-winning local brewery, excellent restaurants and a family-owned winery. In fact, more than 85 percent of Galena's 19th-century structures are on the National Register of Historic Places. One of our favorite gorgeous old Galena homes is the Steamboat House, a 7,000-square-foot mansion designed by architect Jackson Downing. Structurally, the property hasn't been altered since it was built in 1855. Around the time of the Civil War, the house was a stop on the Underground Railroad; there is a secret tunnel under the mansion that was used for this purpose.
The Colonial Farmhouse, The Great Valley House of Valley Forge, Malvern, Pennsylvania
Built in 1690, this is one of the oldest houses in Pennsylvania—and the most ancient property on this list. Valley Forge's Great Valley House is more than 300 years old. William Penn signed the first title deed for the property—and the house was in existence when George Washington's army camped nearby in Valley Forge. Original touches including a stone sink, hand-forged iron hinges, wide fireplaces and random-width wood floors make this extraordinary property a veritable living artifact. Modern amenities complement the historical aspects of your Great Valley stay: An in-ground swimming pool, free Wi-Fi, air conditioning and a free home-cooked breakfast are on offer. Dine in the original 17th-century kitchen, or arrange for breakfast in bed at no extra cost.
The Historic Lodge, Weasku Inn, Grant's Pass, Oregon
Nestled deep in the woods in Oregon wine country, Weasku Inn is a historic fishing lodge that beckons adventure-seeking travelers. Sleep beneath a log roof that has sheltered guests including Walt Disney, Bing Crosby, Herbert Hoover and Clark Gable. Built in 1924, the lodge was recently remodeled, and modern amenities include Jacuzzis, free Wi-Fi, a complimentary wine and cheese reception in evenings, and freshly baked cookies before bed. After a day spent fishing on the nearby Rogue River, return with your catch and the innkeepers will happily prepare it on the grill.
The Sea Captain's Home, Maine Stay Inn and Cottages, Kennebunkport, Maine
Have a historical adventure with a side of sea breezes at this Italianate-style inn set steps from the ocean. Captain Alden Bass (the nephew of John Adams) built this house as a private residence in 1802, and well-preserved 19th-century architectural features—from stained-glass windows to ornate fireplaces—provide a special glimpse of American life as it was in old New England. Watch for ships in the harbor from a high cupola that offers a distant view of the sea. In the morning, head to the wide wraparound porch and dine on classic poached eggs or fresh fruit bruschetta. The Maine Stay Inn is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Gilded Age Estate, Rockcliffe Mansion, Hannibal, Missouri
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Rockcliffe Mansion is a manor that looms tall on limestone bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. Rockcliffe has a fascinating history replete with plenty of local lore—it was abandoned and left unoccupied for more than four decades after its owner, lumber baron John J. Cruikshank, Jr. passed away. When the property's current landlords purchased the 14,000-square-foot inn in 1967 and started the process of restoration, they discovered an incredible collection of original Gilded Age furnishings and decor inside. As such, the Rockcliffe Mansion of today looks much as it did at the turn of the century. Travelers can tour the property, or—better yet— book an overnight stay.
The Antebellum Home, The Twelve Oaks, Covington, Georgia
A celebrated example of Antebellum architecture, the Twelve Oaks is perhaps best known as the inspiration for the Twelve Oaks (Ashley's home) in "Gone with the Wind." The enormous mansion, which was built in 1836, offers guests an exceedingly luxurious experience imbued with Georgia charm and contemporary comforts. L'Occitane bath products; remote-control operated fireplaces; aromatherapy spa tubs; and hot, Southern-style breakfasts featuring local ingredients are just a few of the impressively modern amenities on offer here.
The Presidential Retreat, The Inn at the Crossroads, Charlottesville, Virginia
Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt have been here. Franklin D. Roosevelt gave a speech on the porch. Predictably, this beautiful Colonial inn at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains is both a National Historic Place and a Virginia Historic Landmark. When it was built in 1818 (by Thomas Jefferson's nephew), the Inn at the Crossroads was called the Crossroads Tavern, and it was—as it is now—a happy sanctuary for travelers. History buffs will enjoy the rich array of historical sites in the Charlottesville area: Landmark attractions located a short drive from the inn include Monticello; Michie tavern; and the former home of James Monroe, Ash Lawn-Highland.
The Revolutionary War Home, Francis Malbone House, Newport, Rhode Island
Designed by famous colonial architect Peter Harrison in 1758, the Francis Malbone House (named for its original proprietor) has a fascinating Revolutionary War-era history. The property was utilized by the British Army to store looted goods during the War of Independence, and secret tunnels beneath the inn were used by the inn's shipping-merchant owner for smuggling goods in order to avoid the King's taxes. Today, the Georgian-style house is a U.S. National Historic Landmark District Contributing Property and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It's an excellent option for travelers visiting Newport—and not just for historical reasons. A multi-course hot breakfast, enormous Jacuzzi tubs and wide garden porches offer plenty of incentive to stay.
The Civil War Farmhouse, Battlefield Bed & Breakfast Inn, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Gettysburg is a top destination for American Civil War buffs. The largest battle of the war was fought here, and the town offers an array of centuries-old historic sites. One of our favorites places to stay in the area is Battlefield Bed & Breakfast, a fittingly named farmhouse stationed directly on the field where the Battle of Gettysburg took place. During the Civil War, the farmhouse served as headquarters for General Merritt and its barn was used as a field hospital. Today, the property functions as a peaceful retreat for travelers, and it offers rooms with Jacuzzis and fireplaces, plus a hot country-style breakfast served every morning. Set your alarm: Before breakfast, the inn hosts 8 a.m. history presentations featuring local historians.
By Caroline Costello