America's Top 25 Heritage Sites: Our Readers Vote for Their Favorite Historic Places

American Heritage, Spring-Summer 2008 | Go to article overview

America's Top 25 Heritage Sites: Our Readers Vote for Their Favorite Historic Places


America is blessed with a richness of historical sites: From Franklin Roosevelt's Campobello home on the Canadian border and the Hemingway House in Key West to the little known WWII battlefield of Attu in Alaska's remote Aleutian islands and our country is packed with places we have embued with meaning.

Given this richness, it's tough to choose favorites, but that's what we asked you to do. "I don't think there is any place I wouldn't go to," said subscriber Joan Hollins in an email to the editors. "Do we have to make a choice?"

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More than 500 readers filled out the survey. Their top 25 favorites--selected from more than 100 choices--are listed in order of their popularity on the following pages.

1. Smithsonian Institution Museums, Washington, DC Our subscribers' favorite site turned out to the world's largest museum and research complex. Hundreds of curators and specialists manage the Institution's 137 million artifacts, artworks, and biological specimens in 19 museums and galleries. After a $85 million renovation, the National Museum of American History is scheduled to reopen this November. Exhibits will include a dramatic new display of the restored Star-Spangled Banner and exhibition on Abraham Lincoln.(202) 633-1000 www.si.edu

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2. Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg, PA American's reverence for Gettysburg is well founded. In the first three days of July 1863, more than 165,000 fought in the largest battle in North America. It was the largest battle ever fought in North American history. More than 51,000 soldiers were killed, wounded, or captured.

Often referred to as the "High Water Mark of the Confederacy," the Battle of Gettysburg ended Gen. Robert E. Lee's second and most ambitious invasion of the North--and provided Abraham Lincoln with a powerful setting for his most famous address.

This year a beautiful new visitor center opened with extensive exhibits (see our article "Gettysburg Redux" on page 10) and the famed Cyclorama mural of the battle, fully restored, will reopen in September. The National Park offers a wide range of programs, including battlefield walks, re-enactments, evening campfire programs, and concerts. (717) 334-1124 ext. 8023 www.nps.gov/gett

Dwight D. Eisenhower's home welcome visitors near the Gettysburg National Military Parkwith tours of the 34th president's home and guided walks around his farm. (717) 338-9114 ext. 10 www.nps.gov/eise

3. Statue of Liberty National Monument & Ellis Island, New York, NY "Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World" was a gift of friendship to U.S. citizens from the people of France. Located on 12-acre Bedloe Island in New York Harbor, the imposing sculpture has become a universal symbol of freedom and democracy.

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The Statue of Liberty was dedicated on October 28, 1886, designated as a National Monument in 1924, and handsomely restored for its centennial on July 4, 1986. Tours of Liberty Island are regularly available, leaving from Battery Park in New York and Liberty State Park in New Jersey. The museum details the making of the Statue. (212) 363-3200 www.nps.gov/stli

Two in five Americans can trace their ancestry through Ellis Island. Today, a three-floor museum with exhibits and self-guided tours details the history of the island and 19th-century immigration. (212) 363-3200 www.nps.gov/elis www.nps.gov/elis

4. USS Arizona & USS Missouri Memorials, Pearl Harbor, HI On December 7, 1941, Japanese fighter pilots launched a surprise attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, sinking the USS Arizona, along with with 1,177 sailors. The 184-foot-long USS Arizona Memorial, (808) 422-0561, www.nps.gov/usar, includes two theaters and a museum dedicated to the "Day of Infamy," which propelled America into World War II. Only a short distance away lies the USS Missouri Memorial.

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