6 Obscure U.S. Cities Every History Buff Should Visit
Some cities are notorious for incidents that happened there, or happen to be a hotbed for a certain historic trend. Here are six unexpected places that nonetheless played a key role in the growth of the country, and which make great trips for history hounds. From westward expansion to civil rights to early oil money’s influence on architecture in out-of-the-way pockets of America, these havens of history happen to be full of Americana.
Many are familiar with the fact that the expedition of Lewis and Clark, officially known as the Corps of Discovery, began in St. Louis and headed west. Tasked by President Thomas Jefferson with mapping the western territory all the way to the Pacific Ocean, this is where Lewis and Clark ended up. Near the mouth of the Columbia River, the corp’s Fort Clatsop, which got them through their second winter before turning back east, is nearby today’s Astoria, Oregon. The Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Parks, including a re-creation of the small fort, chronicles and commemorates the important exploration mission. Meanwhile, Astoria has some history of its own, highlighted at the Astoria Column, a towering hilltop monument with murals depicting area history and panoramic views. The Columbia River Maritime Museum showcases fishing, shipping and military history in a waterfront building. Set in a Queen Anne–style Victorian mansion, Flavel House Museum features period furniture amidst impeccably manicured gardens.
Fans of both Native American and Hollywood history need to check out Durango. The area’s ancestral Puebloans, or Anasazi, initially settled the area, but vanished from the Four Corners region around 1300. Today, Mesa Verde National Park, established as a national park in 1906, features thousands of archaeological sites and ancient Anasazi cliff dwellings. As the closest modern town, Durango serves as sort of an unofficial jumping off point for area tourism, and it has some western history of its own — both real and cinematic. Situated near the Mexican border, the small, southwestern Colorado city is known for the 19th-century Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. The steam train hugs mountainsides and rolls through canyons today as a tourist attraction, but it originally hauled gold and silver ore that helped build the city and the nation. The Railroad Museum in town displays restored locomotives. Several popular Hollywood hits were made in Durango, including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, City Slickers and How the West Was Won.