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En español | It took some 40 years (1769-1809) for Thomas Jefferson, frequently called the father of national architecture, to design and build his brick neoclassical plantation home on 5,000 acres near Charlottesville. His masterwork is based on the Greco-Roman principles detailed in The Four Books of Architecture, by Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio.
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Frank Lloyd Wright's 1935 Fallingwater (aka the Kaufmann Residence) might just be the most famous private home ever built. It's constructed of sandstone, concrete, steel and glass, perched above a waterfall surrounded by 5,000 acres of wilderness. The house has strong, clean, contemporary lines — both vertical and horizontal — yet seems completely at home with its rustic surroundings, making it the epitome of Wright's "organic" style of architecture.
Built atop a hill on a 47-acre estate, Philip Johnson's 1949 Glass House is what many think of as "modern" architecture. The entire 32-by-56-foot structure has glass walls that provide shelter from the elements yet allow the outdoors to become very much a part of the simple, streamlined interior — and vice versa. Architectural Digest called it "the architectural equivalent of a brilliantly packed suitcase."
In 1951, Edith Farnsworth sued her architect, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, for his international-style house (essentially, a raised glass box with two rows of eight steel columns supporting the floor and roof, and glass walls in between), claiming the structure wasn't livable. She lost the lawsuit but won public opinion when House Beautiful magazine called it "a threat to the new America." Today, it's considered a stellar example of a residence built in a style more often associated with commercial buildings.
In 1939, the firm of Furbringer & Ehrman designed a classical revival-style mansion on 13.5 acres for S.C. Toof, a local printer. He named the property Graceland Farms, after his daughter. In 1957, Elvis Presley bought the then-10,266-square-foot farmhouse and remodeled it to 17,552 square feet. Many called the property "garish." Today, the King's home is one of America's most popular, with 600,000 visitors a year.
In the mid-1940s, Arts and Architecture magazine challenged the architectural community to design homes built and furnished using materials and techniques derived from the experience of World War II. Husband-and-wife design team Charles and Ray Eames took on that challenge in 1949 by building an inexpensive and efficient home using prefabricated materials on 1.4 acres. The structure, whose exterior looks very much like one of the later, linear works by minimalist Dutch artist Piet Mondrian, became one of the most successful designs of the Case Study project.
In 2012, the American Institute of Architects selected the Gehry Residence as the recipient of its 25-Year Award, given to a building that has stood the test of time for a quarter of century as an "embodiment of architectural excellence." Gehry's neighbors weren't as thrilled with his work, considering the unconventional materials he used (such as chain-link fencing and corrugated steel) to expand the 1920s pink bungalow.
Getty Images: Michele Galli, Christian Wheatley, Kevin Forest, Steve Mason
Our picks for America's most iconic homes embody the forward thinking and style that the definition requires. Here are homes with different architectural approaches — from historical to modern to cutting edge.
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