Arts & Culture

Five Historic Southern House Museums to Visit this Summer

If you’ve already been to the Biltmore and Mount Vernon, discover one of these off-the-beaten-path destinations

Photo: Courtesy of Hampton Plantation

Hampton Plantation, South Carolina.

Hampton Plantation
McClellanville, SC

Your grandparents might have known this remote place as the home of Archibald Rutledge, the poet laureate of South Carolina and an outdoorsman, who declared, “Some men are mere hunters; others are turkey hunters.” With history stretching back beyond the Revolution, this former rice plantation offers volunteer archaeology digs, an outbuilding inhabited by a colony of endangered bats, and an enormous live oak supposedly saved by George Washington.

Whitney Plantation
Wallace, LA

Built in 1803, Whitney Plantation turns the traditional antebellum narrative on its head by focusing solely on the human cost of slavery. Part historic site and part memorial, Whitney has a story that is told primarily from an enslaved child’s point of view. Thanks to impassioned guides armed with rigorous scholarship, visitors leave moved by a thoughtful approach to our painful shared past.

Stratford Hall
Stratford, VA

Built circa 1730 atop dramatic cliffs overlooking the Potomac, Stratford Hall survives today thanks to the 1929 efforts of a formidable group of preservation-minded women. Located halfway between Richmond and Washington, D.C., the ancestral home of the Lee family tells a larger story than Robert E’s. Explore the Great House at your own pace with a new self-guided mobile tour, search for fossilized shark teeth on the beach, or make it an overnight visit by renting one of the on-site guesthouses.

Owens Thomas House
Savannah, GA

Constructed in 1819 for wealthy merchant Richard Richardson, the Owens Thomas House is the finest example of English Regency architecture in America. Museum leadership recently flipped the tour script to tell a more complete story of Savannah. In the main house, rolled sleeping pallets stored under ornate beds speak volumes about the twenty-four-hour labor of urban enslaved people.

Miller Farmstead
Roan Mountain, TN 

In 1870, an enterprising young man named Nathaniel Miller built a modest wooden house among the ridges of what is now Roan Mountain State Park. Three generations of Millers carved a living from this rocky, windswept place, and it is preserved just as they left it in the mid-twentieth century (newsprint wallpaper included). Sit awhile on the porch swing overlooking the perennial garden spotted with hummingbirds before exploring the house; the only sound is the creaking of boards.

Courtesy of Miller Farmstead