by professor Kenneth C. Turino
Using historic houses as holiday rentals is nothing new in Europe. The National Trust of Britain, the Landmark Trust of Britain, and English Heritage among others rent historic properties from cottages to portions of castles. Here in the United States the idea has been slow to develop, but this is changing. Last October, my partner and I rented a Lockkeeper’s House on the C&O canal near Washington, D.C., operated by the C&O Canal Trust in partnership with the National Park Service, the owner of the building and the park it is in. The house was restored to a 1950′s appearance, with period furniture that could actually be used. Each of the 6 rental houses is restored to reflect a different aspect of the canal’s history. What a wonderful way to experience the history of the area and the C&O canal. In the house, we found information on the house and canal and guide books on the history of the canal. We used one book on our walk along the canal into Georgetown. We learned a tremendous amount about the history of the canal as we enjoyed the perfect fall weather, along with the many people who were jogging, walking or bicycling on the towpath. That evening we invite about 20 friends to the house for a party. They explored the house, sat on the porch overlooking the canal, and enjoyed the ambiance. The next morning we left our comments in the guest book and were delighted to read about other people’s experience who came here to celebrate anniversaries, birthdays, weddings and simply the atmosphere: “Thank you C&O Trust for restoring these historic houses and sharing them with sojourners who long to enjoy the vision and reality of this place birthed by the founders of our nation.” Historic houses as holiday rentals are just another way that people can engage in history. It is something we in the field should seriously consider as an option, especially since historic sites are looking for new ways to engage audiences. Some additional rental examples are Rudyard Kippling’s house in Vermont, Naulakha, (www.landmarktrustusa.org/) where he wrote Captain’s Courages and the Jungle Book. Or one where my family stayed, officers’ housing at Fort Worden State Park, Port Townsend, WA (www.parks.wa.gov/fortworden/accommodations/), a former military base with accommodations for family vacations, conferences, reunions and retreats. Visitors may choose from buildings including century-old officers’ housing, a castle and special one-room houses. Try historic house rentals, a different way to enjoy history.
Interested in Historic Houses? Check out Kenneth Turino and Barbara Silberman’s course, Revitalizing Historic House Museums, this summer at Tufts!