If this House Could Talk--: Historic Homes, Extraordinary Americans

Front Cover
Simon & Schuster, 1999 - Architecture - 277 pages
Abraham Lincoln once remarked that "the strength of a nation lies in the homes of its people." Author Elizabeth Smith Brownstein, former Director of Research for the Emmy Award-winning series "Smithsonian World," proves him right and gives new meaning to the old saying "If these walls could talk..." In this book they do, and the stories they tell are fascinating.

The result of an intensive nationwide search that took the author across deserts and plains, into ghost towns, legendary mansions, and secret compartments, "If This House Could Talk."..opens the doors to some of America's most significant, surprising houses and to the lives of the extraordinary men and women whose stories they tell: from the only house in America with a throne room, where a doomed monarch ruled for just two years, to a beloved poet's simple New Hampshire farm; from a rare and remote plantation complex built by America's greatest architect to the multicolored mansion of an Indian chief; from the house of an innocent victim, of the Salem witch trials in 1692 to the only house our greatest president ever owned.

What stories lie hidden behind the gleaming facade of a quintessential antebellum plantation house? What was it about a small green house that infuriated its neighbors and helped change the face of modern architecture? What do a 250-room chateau built for a bachelor and an overcrowded Lower East Side tenement both say about the persistence of the American Dream? In thought-provoking, anecdotal essays, the author considers these questions and more as she explores such themes as the struggle for equality, the role of women in culture and politics, public skepticism toward government, and theplace of art in everyday life. Over 200 specially commissioned and archival photographs combine with her essays to bring to life major episodes in American history and people who have shaped American culture and institutions.

Based on privileged access to private and public homes, rare documents, unpublished diaries, oral histories, and interviews of noted scholars and curators, "If This House Could Talk."..surprises and moves as it examines the myths and realities and conveys the richness and drama of the American experience.

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User Review  - lilithcat - LibraryThing

Here's a curiosity: my book does not have the title "If This House Could Talk" on the cover, but does on the title page. The cover has the same format as this, but the photographs are of the houses ... Read full review

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About the author (1999)

A graduate of Wellesley College and The London School of Economics, Elizabeth Smith Brownstein is a researcher, writer, and producer of cultural documentaries and public affairs programs. She is a member of the Society of Women Geographers and the National Press Club and a former president of the American Friends of The London School of Economics. Researching this book allowed her to indulge her lifelong passion for travel and adventure. Her home base is Washington, D.C.

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