I love to haunt the homes of the dead, especially those of the famous and notable. Now before you think me profane, let me explain.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved visiting historic homes. Family vacations always involved at least one stop at a house museum and more likely, several. I can honestly say I’ve been in hundreds of historic homes, from General Ulysses S. Grant’s house in Galena, Illinois, and Rutherford B. Hayes’s home in Fremont, Ohio, to the homes of Susan B. Anthony, Harry Truman, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and lesser figures who just happened to have beautiful old homes in states across the country. I thrilled at walking the same floors as President James Monroe, and tried to imagine the lives of the people who lived in these spaces decades and even centuries ago. It made history seem real and tangible (it’s the historic corollary to celebrity magazines that show celebrities doing normal things like grocery shopping. Thomas Jefferson sleeps in a bed, just like me!) and is probably largely responsible for my love of history today.
Cut to a few years ago when I met my now husband. “You want to visit a dead person’s house for what reason?” he asked. “You know they’re dead, right?”
The question left me speechless. “Of course I know that,” I snapped. “But aren’t you curious how they lived? Where they lived? Some of these homes are just so beautiful.”
He still hasn’t come around to my view. But he’s happy to come along and wait outside while I continue my tour of the homes of dead people in American history.