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5 Historic Summer Homes For Sale Right Now

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They're all right on the water

Welcome back to Period Dramas, a weekly column that alternates between roundups of historic homes on the market and answering questions we’ve always had about older structures.

In just a few days, the (unofficial) start of summer will be upon us, which means we'll be searching for any excuse to get out of the city. And while we would be perfectly fine with a day trip to the beach, we'd be lying if we said we haven't been dreaming about owning a perfect waterfront retreat—bonus points if it's got old school charm.

Today, we're going to let that day dream take center stage. We've scoured the internet for some of the most eye-catching waterfront historic houses, ones that lie on the banks of a lake, river, or right on the ocean. The houses vary in architectural style, too, ranging from Federal to Neoclassical and Greek Revival—meaning that chances are you'll find a house to spark a few summer daydreams of your own.


Barrington, Rhode Island (8 bedrooms, 7 full and 3 half bathrooms, $3.82 million)

Overlooking Narragansett Bay with access to the Atlantic Ocean, this Colonial Revival brick pile is like something straight out of our dreams. In addition to breathtaking ocean views, this house has some of the most impressive woodwork we've ever seen. Just look at that entry hall.

The lavish woodwork continues in every room of the 9,300-square-foot mansion, which lies just 25 minutes from downtown Providence. We especially love the thickly carved woodwork around the mantles in the living and dining rooms. We may think of this house as a wonderful summer retreat, but the abundance of fireplaces also means that it would be equally wonderful in the winter. Gotta get your money's worth, right?

The circa-1910 mansion has updated bathrooms and kitchen, if the glimpse we caught in the edge of one of the photos is any indication. In other words: this place is move-in ready. But its greatest asset may be the frontage on Narragansett Bay, which is visible from many of the rooms of the house, not least of which being that idyllic sunroom. The 3.6-acre lot even includes a private sandy beach, just in case you needed any more of a reason to fall in love.


Arnold, Maryland (6 bedrooms, 8.5 bathrooms, $5.395 million)

Have you ever watched Downton Abbey and thought: you know what this house really needs? A water view. If so, then you'll love this 10,470-square-foot mansion, which looks like it would be just at home in the English countryside as it is here on the banks of the Severn River.

Built in 1909, the house has no shortage of heavily carved woodwork. Among the grander spaces is the stair hall, which has a massive fireplace (one of seven in the house), hammerbeam ceiling, and intricately carved balustrade. The room is lit via leaded windows, and, to be perfectly honest, does look similar to the stair hall at Highclere Castle, which served as the filming location for Downton Abbey.

Elsewhere in the 6-bedroom house, the woodwork is still impressive, if not quite as opulent. A living room has soft arches and delicately carved leaf patterns while some of the bedrooms have elegant paneling and layers of crown molding.

The 2-acre lot provides direct access to the river and also comes with a dock. And on the days when you don't want to take a dip in the river? You can dive right into the pool.


Lake Geneva, Wisconsin (3 bedrooms, 4.5 bathrooms, $5.995 million)

Built in 1901 for Chicago businessman Otto Young, Younglands—as it's known—is the largest estate on Lake Geneva. We're going to try to describe this mansion, but really, there are no words to adequately convey how opulent, intricate, and fantastical its interiors are, so bear with us.

No surface is left unadorned in this 12,000-square-foot house, which looks Neoclassical on the outside, but takes interior cues from the Beaux Arts style. Fireplaces are massive, ceilings are dripping with carved ornamentation, and marble pilasters are embedded into the walls. Setting the impressive design scheme into greater relief is the variety of colors used in each room, which highlights the different patterns to the moldings.

Since the house was used as a private home, it has changed hands multiple times, being used as everything from an all-girls school to a French restaurant to, most recently, a multi-family condo, which may explain why the century-old interiors are spliced with rather unremarkable bathrooms. There might be some work that needs to be done to make the house a cohesive single-family home once again, but if the view of Lake Geneva is anything to go by, the project would be well worth it.


Gloucester, Virginia (6 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, $4.55 million)

Built in 1853 on the banks of the Ware River, Glen Roy is a Greek Revival dream. The elegant main rooms of the 6,300-square-foot house are accessed via a center hall with oversized ear molding around each door and bands of molding on the ceiling. In fact, if you're one for ear molding (a trademark of the Greek Revival style) you're going to love this house: that style of woodwork is found in almost every room, from the dining and living rooms to even the kitchen and the bathrooms.

But Glen Roy is so much more than just airy rooms, six-over-six windows, and enough fireplaces to make any old-house nut giddy. The house served as a base for Union soldiers during the Civil War, who would use the widow's walk to keep an eye out for Confederate soldiers. There was even a small skirmish in 1863 on the property, an event now known as the Battle of Glen Roy.

The 58-acre parcel of land, which provides deep-water access for all the boating fanatics out there, is also home to a series of auxiliary structures including a restored carriage house and a one-room cottage with its own fireplace, wood paneling, and Greek key molding. Even tiny houses are perfectly appointed at Glen Roy.


Leland, Michigan (4 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, $3.895 million)

This adirondack-inspired victorian house was built in 1902 to take full advantage of its gorgeous views of North Lake Leelanau. The house is on a slightly rounded plot of land that has panoramic water views. To capitalize on that, the house is v-shaped, with the crux of the "V" pointed towards the water. This maneuver maximizes the number of rooms that look out over the lake. Clever!

Though it's 114 years old, the house received a thorough renovation in the late 1990s. There may not be much updating to be done, but we'd be remiss if we didn't admit that many of the older features of the interior have been scrubbed away. Arguably the most notable feature of the house—aside from its seemingly never-ending number of diamond-pane windows—is the great room.

Set in the crux of the "V", the two-story great room is anchored by a massive fireplace and features a geometric wooden banister around the second level, which functions as an airy hallway of sorts, connecting the two wings of the house.

The charm of the house continues outside, where there are two lakeside patios and a lush green lawn leading down to the 179 feet of lake frontage. There's also a dock that even comes with an adorable green canopy to protect a little motor boat, should you want to be absolutely certain that your boat will be just as well-housed as you will be on your summer vacation.