Go Behind the Scenes of These 5 National Historic Sites

December 15, 2015Travel Ideas

National historic sites are some of the most striking examples of our country’s history, from forts and cemeteries to the homes of celebrated historical figures. Each site offers an opportunity to step back in time with guided or self-guided tours, but for some devoted history buffs, that may not be enough. A handful of national historic sites provide an opportunity to go behind the scenes, seeing things the public rarely gets a chance to access. 

Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site

At the historic Ansley Wilcox home in Buffalo, New York, the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Historic Site marks the spot where our 26th president was sworn into office in 1901. The standard guided tour includes audio and video presentations, interactive activities, and three restored rooms within the Ansley Wilcox home, but there's more to be seen behind closed doors. Take the site's revealing Behind-the-Scenes Tour with curator Lenora Henson to view seldom-seen artifacts from the Theodore Roosevelt collection, including souvenirs from Buffalo's Pan-American Exposition of 1901.

Home where Theodore Roosevelt was sworn into office in 1901
Coingeek, Wikimedia Commons

Steamtown National Historic Site

Pennsylvania's Steamtown National Historic Site preserves the history of the American railroad — the trains, the people who built them, and the passengers who rode them. Train rides, photography, and tours of the park's vast collection of vintage locomotives are popular pastimes here. And, in case you've ever wondered what it takes to preserve and repair a steam locomotive, there's the Locomotive Shop Tour, which brings you behind the scenes at the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad's locomotive shop. You get to meet the people and see the machines that keep the trains, and the park itself, running smoothly.

Old locomotive in the boiler room at Steamtown National Historic Site
National Park Service

Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site

For almost fifty years in the 1800’s, Fort Union Trading Post was a bustling depot on the Upper Missouri River. Seven regional Native American tribes met here to trade fur and other goods. At the height of its commercial success, Fort Union saw the exchange of 25,000 buffalo robes and $100,000 worth of merchandise every year. The national historic site welcomes visitors year-round though winter hours are limited. Visitors are able to partake in a video program as well as participate in a hands-on exhibit of examples of trade goods.

Market of Trading Post goods
National Park Service

Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site

In 1957, nine high school students made history as the first African Americans to attend Little Rock Central High School. The desegregation of the then-all white school is the most famous example of the integration that came as a result of the landmark 1954 Supreme Court case Brown vs. Board which deemed that separation was not equal. Out of respect for the students currently attending Little Rock Central, visitors must be accompanied by a park ranger on a tour. To ensure availability, the site recommends that tours are reserved two weeks before arrival. In addition, park rangers also give short guided walking tours to visitors outside the school building.

Little Rock Central High School building
National Park Service

James A. Garfield National Historic Site

From the porch where James A. Garfield greeted well-wishers during his presidential campaign to the grassy lawn that is now open to picnicking, the James A. Garfield National Historic Site offers the public plenty to see and do. Certain areas, however, are off-limits, including the basement, third-floor suites, windmill, and horse barn. To see these, one must take the Behind the Scenes Tour, available on the first Saturday of every month.

 James A. Garfield National Historic Site House
Andrew DeFratis, Wikimedia Commons

These five national historic sites allow visitors the opportunity to experience the thrill of going behind the scenes. With dozens of historic sites across the U.S., there are always new experiences to be had!

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