The Most Unusual Buildings in Each State You Should Visit on Your Next Roadtrip

Shannon Quinn - August 26, 2022
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

21. New Jersey: Union Hotel

The Union Hotel is a historic landmark located on Main Street in Flemington, New Jersey. It is a contributing property to the Flemington Historic District.First constructed by Neal Hart in 1814, it served as a gathering place for well-to-do stagecoach passengers and socialites throughout the 19th Century, as well as many local characters and tourists visiting the area. The exterior of the present building dates to 1878.

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It gained national notoriety in the early months of 1935 when the trial of Bruno Hauptmann for the kidnapping of Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr. was conducted directly across the street at the Hunterdon County Courthouse and members of the national media covering the trial all stayed at the hotel. Decades later the property was purchased by new owners, renovated, restored, and converted into what is now officially known as the Union Hotel Restaurant. Murals created by Carl Ritz with the assistance of Kurt Wiese adorn the hotel. (via Wikipedia)

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20. New Mexico: Taos Pueblo

Taos Pueblo is an ancient pueblo belonging to a Taos-speaking (Tiwa) Native American tribe of Puebloan people. It lies about 1 mile (1.6 km) north of the modern city of Taos, New Mexico. The pueblos are considered to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the United States. This has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Taos Pueblo is a member of the Eight Northern Pueblos. A tribal land of 95,000 acres (38,000 ha) is attached to the pueblo, and about 4,500 people live in this area.

Tao Pueblo has a long history because it was a home to tribal people. Credit: Taos Pueblo

The pueblo was constructed in a setting backed by the Taos Mountains of the Sangre de Cristo Range. Its headwaters come from Blue Lake, or Ba Whyea, in the nearby mountains. Taos Pueblo’s most prominent architectural feature is a multi-storied residential complex of reddish-brown adobe, built on either side of the Rio Pueblo. The pueblo was designated a National Historic Landmark on October 9, 1960. As of 2010, about 150 people live in the historical pueblo full-time. (via New Mexico)

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19. New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

The Guggenheim, is an art museum at 1071 Fifth Avenue on the corner of East 89th Street on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in New York City. It is the permanent home of a continuously expanding collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, early Modern, and contemporary art and also features special exhibitions throughout the year. It adopted its current name in 1952, three years after the death of its founder Solomon R. Guggenheim.

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In 1959, the museum moved from rented space to its current building, a landmark work of 20th-century architecture designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Its unique ramp gallery extends up from ground level in a long, continuous spiral along the outer edges of the building to end just under the ceiling skylight. The museum’s collection has grown over eight decades and is founded upon several important private collections, beginning with that of Solomon R. Guggenheim. In 2013, nearly 1.2 million people visited the museum, and it hosted the most popular exhibition in New York City. (via Guggenheim)

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18. North Carolina: Biltmore Estate Mansion

Biltmore Estate is a historic house museum and tourist attraction in Asheville, North Carolina built for George Washington Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895 and is the largest privately owned house in the United States, at 178,926 sq ft of floor space. Still owned by George Vanderbilt’s descendants, it remains one of the most prominent examples of Gilded Age mansions.

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Vanderbilt named his estate Biltmore, combining De Bilt (his ancestors’ place of origin in the Netherlands) with more. Vanderbilt bought nearly 700 parcels of land, including over 50 farms and at least five cemeteries; a portion of the estate was once the community of Shiloh. A spokesperson for the estate said in 2017 that archives show much of the land “was in very poor condition, and many of the farmers and other landowners were glad to sell. (via Biltmore)

Credit: State Museum of North Dakota

17. North Dakota: North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum

Experience North Dakota’s heritage throughout the museum spaces. The Northern Lights Atrium is a stunning combination of architecture and symbolism, and the outdoor Pembina River Plaza features specimens from our geologic past. Find treasures in the new Museum Store, and enjoy refreshments at the James River Café. After you explore the museum, take a walk on our beautiful grounds, part of the Capitol Arboretum Trail.

Credit: State Museum of North Dakota

From a life-size T. rex skeleton cast to a 1950s soda shop, you will find connections from your own life with your experience here. Our goal is “history for everyone.” The North Dakota Heritage Center is home to the State Historical Society of North Dakota (SHSND) and the State Museum, the State Archives, the State Historical Society of North Dakota Foundation, and the North Dakota Geological Survey paleontologists. Admission is free, every day. (via North Dakota State Museum)

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16. Ohio: Longaberger Basket Building

The Longaberger Company is an American manufacturer and distributor of handcrafted maple wood baskets and other home and lifestyle products. The company opened in 1973, was acquired in 2013 by CVSL, Inc., and closed in 2018. The following year, Xcel Brands acquired the intellectual property and relaunched the brand, expanding it to include home goods such as furniture, food, jewelry and other handcrafted products.

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“Founded by Dave Longaberger, the family-owned and -operated company used multi-level marketing to sell its products. At its peak in 2000, it had $1 billion in sales, employed more than 8,200 people directly, and had about 45,000 independent distributors selling its products directly to customers. It is a well-known example of novelty architecture, since it takes the shape of the company’s biggest seller, the “Medium Market Basket”. (via Atlas Obscura)

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15. Oklahoma: Price Tower

“The Price Tower is a nineteen-story, 221-foot-high tower at 510 South Dewey Avenue in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. It was built in 1956 to a design by Frank Lloyd Wright. It is the only realized skyscraper by Wright, and is one of only two vertically oriented Wright structures extant (the other is the S.C. Johnson Wax Research Tower in Racine, Wisconsin).”

Credit: Frank Lloyd Wright

“The Price Tower Arts Center is the art complex at Price Tower in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Features includes a museum, tours of the historic tower, a hotel and restaurant. The museum galleries feature changing exhibits. Collections include modern art, works on paper, furniture, textiles and design. The center owns some significant pieces by Frank Lloyd Wright and renowned Oklahoma architect Bruce Goff.” (via Price Tower)

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14. Oregon: Pittock Mansion

The Pittock Mansion is a French Renaissance-style château in the West Hills of Portland, Oregon, United States. The mansion was originally built in 1914 as a private home for London-born Oregonian publisher Henry Pittock and his wife, Georgiana Burton Pittock. It is a 46-room estate made of sandstone.”

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Modeled after Victorian architecture, the mansion is situated on an expanse in the West Hills that provides panoramic views of Downtown Portland. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Paranormal lovers rejoice! This is another very haunted destination; said to be one of the most haunted homes in Oregon. (via Pittock Mansion)

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13. Pennsylvania: Fallingwater

Fallingwater is a house designed by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1935 in the Laurel Highlands of southwest Pennsylvania, about 70 miles (110 km) southeast of Pittsburgh. It is built partly over a waterfall on Bear Run in the Mill Run section of Stewart Township, Fayette County, Pennsylvania. The house was designed to serve as a weekend retreat for Liliane and Edgar J. Kaufmann, the owner of Pittsburgh’s Kaufmann’s Department Store.

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The house was designated a National Historic Landmark on May 11th, 1976. In 1991, members of the American Institute of Architects named Fallingwater the “best all-time work of American architecture” and in 2007, it was ranked 29th on the list of America’s Favorite Architecture according to the AIA. The house and seven other Wright constructions were inscribed as a World Heritage Site under the title, “The 20th-Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright”, in 2019. (via Fallingwater

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12. Rhode Island: The Breakers

The Breakers is a Gilded Age mansion located at 44 Ochre Point Avenue, Newport, Rhode Island, US. It is a 70-room mansion, with a gross area of 125,339 square feet (11,644.4 m2) and 62,482 square feet (5,804.8 m2) of living area on five floors, was designed by Richard Morris Hunt in the Renaissance Revival style; the interior decor was by Jules Allard and Sons and Ogden Codman Jr.

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The footprint of the house covers approximately 1 acre (4,000 m2) or 43,000 square feet of the 14 acres (5.7 ha) estate on the cliffs overlooking Easton Bay of the Atlantic Ocean. It is also a contributing property to the Bellevue Avenue Historic District. The property is owned and operated by the Newport Preservation Society as a museum and is open for visits all year.(via Newport Mansions)

Wikimedia Commons

11. South Carolina: The Calhoun Mansion

The Williams Mansion (formerly called the Calhoun Mansion) is a Victorian house in Charleston, South Carolina. The house was built in 1875 and 1876 for George W. Williams, a businessman, according to plans drawn by W.P. Russell. The 24,000-square-foot house has thirty main rooms and many more smaller rooms. The main hall is 50 feet long and 14 feet wide.

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It opened as a hotel starting in 1914. Attorney Gedney Howe and his wife, Patricia, bought the house in 1976 and undertook a restoration. In 2020, the home officially returned to its original name, the Williams Mansion. The owner stated he wished to avoid any implication that John C. Calhoun lived in the home. (via Calhoun Mansion)

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10. South Dakota: Corn Palace

The Corn Palace, commonly advertised as The World’s Only Corn Palace and the Mitchell Corn Palace, is a multi-purpose arena/facility located in Mitchell, South Dakota, United States. The Moorish Revival building is decorated with crop art; the murals and designs covering the building are made from corn and other grains, and a new design is constructed each year.

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The Corn Palace serves as a venue for community events. Each year, the Corn Palace is celebrated with a citywide festival, the Corn Palace Festival. Historically it was held at harvest time. It is also home to the Dakota Wesleyan University Tigers and the Mitchell High School Kernels basketball teams. (via Corn Palace)

This building was created because of one man’s guitar-shaped dreams. Credit: Road Arch

9. Tennessee: The Grand Guitar

Joe Morrell dreamed for years of building a building shaped like a giant guitar. On May 13, 1983, it opened to the public. Seventy feet long and three stories tall, it was painted to resemble a Martin Dreadnought acoustic guitar. It was accented with a gargantuan saddle bridge, sound hole, pick guard, fingerboard, turning keys, and strings. Inside, the building housed a gift shop, a recording studio, a country music AM radio station, and Morrell’s personal collection of hundreds of musical instruments, including one made of matchsticks, another shaped like a pig, and a third made from a dead armadillo.”

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But by then Joe Morrell was dead, and the building had been abandoned for years, its paint faded and peeling, its nylon strings broken and sagging. Years passed and the building remained empty and forlorn. If it could play a country music song, it would have been a sad one. The developer had Grand Guitar torn down on August 16, 2019.

(via Roadside America)

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8. Texas: Prada Marfa

Prada Marfa is a permanent sculptural art installation by artists Elmgreen and Dragset, located along U.S. Route 90 in Jeff Davis County, Texas, United States, 1.4 miles (2.3 km) northwest of Valentine, and about 26 miles (42 km) northwest of Marfa (its namesake city). The installation is in the form of a Prada storefront and it was inaugurated on October 1, 2005. The artists described the work as a “pop architectural land art project.

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Realized with the assistance of American architects Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello the construction cost $120,000. The original intent was that the building would not be repaired, but would rather gradually degrade into its surroundings. This plan was revised after vandals graffitied the exterior and stole its contents, the night the sculpture was completed. (via Wikipedia)

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7. Utah: Beehive House

The Beehive House was constructed in 1854, two years before the neighboring Lion House was built (also a residence of Young’s). Both homes are one block east of the Salt Lake Temple and Temple Square on South Temple street in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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Young was a polygamist, and the Beehive House was designed to accommodate his large family. The Beehive House also became his official residence as governor of Utah Territory and president of the LDS Church. Upon its completion, Young briefly shared the Beehive House with his senior wife Mary Ann Angell. Young’s first polygamous wife, Lucy Ann Decker Young, possibly due to her seniority, became hostess of the Beehive House and lived there with her nine children. (via Church of Jesus Christ)

Credit: Atlas Obscura

6. Vermont: Dog Chapel

In 2000, the Dog Chapel was introduced to the world as a symbol of peace, love, and remembrance. The Chapel has become a unique and moving physical embodiment of the unending love people have to give.

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Several times a year, the Stephen Huneck Gallery on Dog Mountain hosts unforgettable Dog Parties. Hundreds of people with hundreds of dogs attend these festivities. Dogs are free to play, swim, greet one another, and of course sit by the food tables and ask for food (which we provide in abundance with food trucks for the dogs and their people). Everyone has a ball! (via Dog Chapel)

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5. Virginia: Monticello

Monticello was the primary plantation of Thomas Jefferson, who began designing at age 26. Located just outside Charlottesville, Virginia, in the Piedmont region, the plantation was originally 5,000 acres, with Jefferson using the labor of enslaved African people for extensive cultivation of tobacco and mixed crops, later shifting from tobacco cultivation to wheat in response to changing markets. The current nickel, a United States coin, features a depiction of Monticello on its reverse side.

Many people recognize Monticello because it is on the back of the nickle. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Jefferson designed the main house using neoclassical design principles. Situated on the summit of an 850 ft -high peak in the Southwest Mountains south of the Rivanna Gap, the name Monticello derives from Italian meaning “little mountain”. Cabins for enslaved Africans who worked in the fields were farther from the mansion. (via Monticello)

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4. Washington: The Seattle Public Library

The Seattle Public Library (SPL) is the public library system serving the city of Seattle, Washington. Seattle Public Library also founded the Washington Talking Book & Braille Library (WTBBL), which it administered until July 2008.

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All but one of Seattle’s early purpose-built libraries were Carnegie libraries. However, some have undergone significant alterations. Ballard’s former Carnegie library has since housed a number of restaurants and antique stores among other enterprises, while others such as the Fremont and Green Lake branches have been modernized and remain in use as libraries. (vis SPL)

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3. West Virginia: The Greenbrier

The Greenbrier is a luxury resort located in the Allegheny Mountains, West Virginia, in the United States. Since 1778, visitors have traveled to this part of the state to “take the waters” of the area. There are more than 55 indoor and outdoor activities and sports, and 36 retail shops. Greenbrier was built in 1913 by the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway.

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Governor of West Virginia Jim Justice subsequently bought the property and promised to return the hotel to its former status as a five-star resort. A total of 26 presidents have stayed at the hotel. Greenbrier is also the site of a massive underground bunker that was meant to serve as an emergency shelter for the United States Congress during the Cold War called “Project Greek Island.” (via Wikipedia)

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2. Wisconsin: Burke Brise Soleil at the Milwaukee Art Museum

The Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM) is an art museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Its collection contains nearly 25,000 works of art. Alexander Mitchell donated all of his collection to constructing Milwaukee’s first permanent art gallery in the city’s history. In 1888, the Milwaukee Art Association was created by a group of German panorama artists and local businessmen.

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In 1957 they moved into the newly built Eero Saarinen-designed Milwaukee County War Memorial. Aside from its galleries, the museum includes a cafe with views of Lake Michigan and a gift shop. (via MAM)

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1. Wyoming: Old Town Trail

Looking for Wild West thrills? There’s a rodeo, a bizarre gun museum, and a store topped by a huge rifle. But the town’s biggest concentration of frontier charm isn’t on its main street. It’s on the fabricated main street of Old Trail Town, a history attraction on the western edge of Cody. Behind is a veterinary clinic, visible as a low, brown assemblage of buildings out on the rangeland.

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In the 1960s, Bob W. Edgar was an archeologist working for the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody. He was also a historian, a marksman and trick shooter, a trapper, and an artist. Edgar loved historic buildings that told the story of the old west. He noticed they had a tendency to disappear. He started to acquire and preserve a few. “Edgar opened Old Trail Town in 1967 with five buildings. It also happened to be where Edgar lived, in a leased cabin near the highway to Yellowstone National Park. (via Old Town Trail)