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Old-House Online » Old-House Tips, Restoration Stories, & More » Historic Places » Editors’ Picks: 10 Favorite Historic Districts

Editors’ Picks: 10 Favorite Historic Districts

The editors of Old House Journal share their favorite spots to ogle historic architecture. By the OHJ Editorial Staff | Online Exclusive

    Charleston's Old & Historic District contains more than 4,800 immaculately preserved old buildings.

    Charleston's Old & Historic District contains more than 4,800 immaculately preserved old buildings. (Photo: Suebee65/istockphoto)

    Old & Historic District
    Charleston, South Carolina

    Charleston’s enviable legacy of preservation shouldn’t come as much of a surprise—its downtown historic district was designated in 1931 (the first in the country), so they’ve had plenty of time to get things right. The candy-colored façades of the district’s Georgian, Federal, and Greek Revival homes are set off against cobblestone streets and lush gardens—the ideal image of the genteel Old South.

    Bungalow Heaven Historic District
    Pasadena, California

    One of the most fabulous collections of Arts & Crafts bungalows anywhere, each with their own distinctive personalities—leaded windows, massive front doors, low-slung rooflines. Walking the streets of this neighborhood always inspires us to stop and stare.

    Garrett Park Historic District
    Garrett Park, Maryland

    As a railroad community, Garrett Park developed over time. May of its houses—sprawling Victorians—date to the 1890s, while the neighborhood also boasts an array of modest 1920s-era “Chevy Houses,” which came complete with a car in the garage at purchase. We love the eclectic mix of this community, which is also reflected in its neighborhood spirit, evidenced by a sign on prominent display along the main road since the 1980s, boasting “Nuclear Free Zone.” (The train still runs, too—you can hear the whistle echo through the streets.)

    Arapahoe Acres

    Denver, Colorado

    The first post-World War II development to be added to the National Register, Arapahoe Acres is a treasure trove of mid-century architecture. Its regulations were stringent from the start (developer Edward Hawkins mandated an Architectural Control Committee to review any changes to the neighborhood, right down to the landscaping), and today, residents proudly apply the same unwavering dedicate to preserving its Atomic Age vibe.

    Sunny pastels and glamorous mid-century architecture typify Miami's Art Deco District.

    Sunny pastels and glamorous mid-century architecture typify Miami's Art Deco District. (Photo: Nitin Sanil/istockphoto)

    Miami Beach Art Deco District
    Miami, Florida

    From snazzy hotels to streamlined apartment buildings (with some houses thrown in for good measure), Miami’s architecture—the largest collection of Art Deco buildings anywhere— will instantly transport you to the Jazz Age.

    Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie School of Architecture Historic District
    Oak Park, Illinois

    A rich concentration of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings—from his own home and studio to some of his most recognizable houses—are located in this historic district. It’s a must-see destination for anyone interested in the Prairie Style.

    Washington, D.C.

    This neighborhood, which predates the city of Washington, D.C., is full of history and early architectural treasures. In addition to its buildings, cobblestone streets with streetcar tracks (installed in the 1890s) add turn-of-the-century charm. Must-see stops: Tudor Place, built by Martha Washington’s granddaughter, Martha Custis Peter; Dumbarton Oaks; and the Old Stone House, the oldest building in D.C.

    Cape May Historic District

    Cape May, New Jersey

    The streets of most beach towns tend to be filled with tacky souvenir stands and tourist attractions, but Cape May’s collection of cheerful, gingerbread-festooned Victorian-era houses, hotels, and churches puts it a cut above the rest. The town is so into its Victorian heritage, in fact, that it holds regular period-themed events to celebrate it.

    Red Mountain Suburbs Historic District
    Birmingham, Alabama

    This early auto suburb (one of Birmingham’s first) just south of downtown gets our vote for two reasons. Not only is it a veritable encyclopedia of early 20th-century building styles (including Craftsman, Tudor, Colonial Revival, Spanish Colonial, and Chateauesque), but the panoramic views of the city from its loftiest points can’t be beat.

    Old City
    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

    Perhaps it’s the proximity to Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, but Philly’s Old City neighborhood has the power to instantly transport you back in time, thanks to narrow cobblestone streets lined with Georgian- and Federal-style brick row houses (including the one where Betsy Ross stitched the first American flag). But the real reason we love Old City is its pitch-perfect blend of past and present—historic landmarks and popular shops and restaurants mingle with ease here.

    Published in: Old-House Journal April/May 2011


    Keith Gross, Architect May 12, 2016 at 3:15 pm

    Surprised no mention of the numerous occurences of historic collections in Massachusetts: Nantucket Town; Camp Meeting area in Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard; Salem and Marblehead; Beacon Hill…….the list is endless.
    Also on the West Coast the collection of 50′s modern homes and the integration of new modernists houses in Palm Springs is well worth a visit.

    Pam May 13, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    Hey, what about Savannah GA?

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