Towering glass skyscrapers, luxury high-rises , and other state-of-the-art contemporary constructions characterize the architecture of many major U.S. cities. But beneath those modern marvels stand some overlooked historic treasures. We’ve gathered a few such destinations from New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and elsewhere that are still operational and open to the public. From the country’s oldest restaurant to the birthplace of the Model T, these stops are sure to add a dose of historic charm to your next big-city trip.
Shown: Union Oyster House This pre-Revolutionary New England dining spot—located along the Freedom Trail—has been serving food since 1826, making it America’s oldest continuously operating restaurant. The oyster bar, where senator Daniel Webster was a frequent customer, still functions in its original position in the restaurant. Be sure to stop in for a cup of classic clam chowder or a raw-bar treat next time you’re in Boston.
41 Union Street, Boston; unionoysterhouseom
Paul Revere’s House
Another Boston landmark, this two-story 18th-century home is the oldest extant structure downtown. It is also the only home on the Freedom Trail. Revere was living here with his family in April 1775, when he made his famous messenger ride to nearby Lexington.
19 North Square, Boston; paulreverehouserg
Merchant’s House Museum Nearly 200 years ago, this brick-and-marble rowhouse was constructed on Fourth Street, which was then part of a quiet suburb of New York. Architectural details of note include the newly restored 1850s kitchen and the ornamental plaster medallions in the parlor (commonly regarded as the finest surviving plaster medallions of the period). A private residence for nearly a century, the home is now a museum, and during the winter holidays, special readings of A Christmas Carol are performed there.
29 East 4th Street, New York; merchantshouserg
The oldest house in Manhattan, the Morris-Jumel Mansion dates from 1765, when it was built as a summer home for English colonel Roger Morris. Because of its prime hilltop location, George Washington occupied the mansion for five weeks during the American Revolution, and later it was briefly the home of vice president Aaron Burr, who hosted his wedding there. The site is now a museum and event space.
65 Jumel Terrace, New York; morrisjumelrg
This cozy New York bar and eatery is ripe with fascinating city history. Originally named the Sign of Queen Charlotte, the tavern opened in 1762 and was the founding place of the New York Chamber of Commerce. It was a hub of social and cultural activity: Clubs such as the New York Society Library and the Knights of the Order of Corsica met here, and George Washington was among the tavern’s famous patrons. Fraunces is still open for business, and the museum on the second and third floors offers even more insight into the neighborhood’s history.
54 Pearl Street, New York; frauncestavernom
Ford Piquette Avenue Plant
This Detroit complex became the second home of the Ford Motor Company at the turn of the 20th century. The company would occupy the space for a six-year span, during which Ford engineered and created the very first Model T. The Piquette Avenue Plant produced the first 12,000 of these game-changing vehicles, along with Ford models B, C, F, K, N, R, and S. The space now operates as an automotive museum.
461 Piquette Avenue, Detroit; fordpiquetteavenueplanrg
Philadelphia is home to the country’s oldest residential street, Elfreth’s Alley. Located in Old City, these 32 brick rowhouses give New York’s West Village and Boston’s Beacon Hill a run for the title of most charming neighborhood. Built between the 1720s and 1830s, the homes are a glimpse into the lives of America’s founders.
Elfreth’s Alley, Philadelphia; elfrethsallerg
Frank Lloyd Wright House
It would be difficult to mention Chicago without mentioning Frank Lloyd Wright, who spent the first 22 years of his prolific career living and working in the city and its suburbs. Wright’s Oak Park property is where his iconic Prairie style was born and where he designed more than a quarter of his life’s work.
951 Chicago Avenue, Oak Park, Illinois; flwrighrg