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Best Old House Neighborhoods 2012: Cottages and Bungalows

These neighborhoods offer Queen Anne cottages, Craftsman bungalows, and other small and special spaces that'll make you feel right at home

Compact Charm

For those who prefer small and cozy to big and fancy, these neighborhoods offer Queen Anne cottages, Craftsman bungalows, and other small and special spaces that'll make you feel right at home. And they're just a few of the 61 vibrant neighborhoods from coast to coast where you'll find one-of-a-kind period houses. Read on to see which ones pack a lot of great architecture into a little bit of space, or see all the neighborhoods and categories.

Cowls Street, Fairbanks, Alaska

Photo by Courtesy of the Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau

Set deep in the Alaskan wilderness (Anchorage is more than a 6-hour drive away), Fairbanks is an urban oasis offering such metropolitan diversions as art museums, opera houses, heck, even Thai food. But don't be fooled. This is still Alaska. Winters last from late September through late April, and the city is surrounded by snow-capped mountains, raging rivers, and acres of caribou-filled forest. "This is wilderness beyond your comprehension," says Deb Hickok, president and CEO of Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau. While the greater Fairbanks area is home to almost 100,000 people, only about 35,000 live within the city limits (others dwell in surrounding areas). Many of those in town reside in the Cowls Street Neighborhood, which is filled with modest, well-crafted houses, some recently restored, others comfortably lived in.

The Houses

Most were built in the early 1900s, when Fairbanks went from a trading post for gold miners to an actual city, thanks to the railroad and, later, the oil and gas industries. The houses are a mix of Craftsman bungalows, foursquares, ranch-styles, and a few log cabins. Many are situated on small lots, but that doesn't stop residents from cultivating vegetable gardens during the brief growing season. Prices hover around the $100,000 to $200,000 mark.

Why Buy Here?

Residents enjoy the same pleasures as the thousands of tourists who flock here each summer for hiking, hunting, fly-fishing, whitewater rafting, dog mushing, and a great view of the northern lights. For those seeking indoor alternatives, the University of Alaska Fairbanks provides lectures, classes, and sporting events.

Among the best for: The West, Cottages and Bungalows, Parks and Recreation, City Living, Walkability, College Towns, Lots to Do

Pine Crest Historic District, Prescott, Arizona

Photo by Courtesy of Cat Moody

Thanks to its warm climate, clean air, and abundant sunshine, the former frontier town of Prescott, Arizona, became a popular destination for those suffering with tuberculosis and other maladies in the late 19th and early 20th century. Seeing this trend as a boon to the local economy, the Chamber of Commerce developed the west Prescott neighborhood of Pine Crest in 1911 to cater to these long-term temporary residents. The neighborhood was plotted to complement the area's lush, hilly terrain, resulting in a natural setting for its dwellings.

The Houses

Craftsman-style bungalows, built between 1911 and 1935, abound on narrow, shady streets. Many houses retain their original shingled exteriors. A noteworthy feature of homes here is their stone retaining walls. Constructed of native rock, they blend beautifully with Pine Crest's natural surroundings. House prices run between $90,000 and $200,000.

Why Buy Here?

In addition to a healthful environment, Prescott, which is about two hours from Phoenix and Flagstaff, today has a bustling downtown plaza that welcomes strolling among its art museums, boutiques, and galleries. Just outside of town is a sportsman's paradise, with golfing, hiking, and biking in the Bradshaw Mountains and Prescott National Forest, and plenty of fishing, swimming, and kayaking in lakes surrounded by Arizona's dramatic, bouldery terrain. While the year-round climate is mild, the town still gets crisp autumns and winter snow.

Among the best for: The West, Bargains, Walkability, Cottages and Bungalows, Parks and Recreation, Lots to Do, Retirees

The Quapaw Quarter, Little Rock, Arkansas

Photo by Courtesy of Quapaw Quarter Association

Named for the Native Americans who inhabited this place centuries ago, the 9-square-mile Quapaw Quarter incorporates all of downtown Little Rock, as well as several adjacent neighborhoods. Here, among the flowering pear trees and majestic Oaks, stand the city's oldest, most elegant homes—including the Arkansas Governor's Mansion, where Bill Clinton and Mike Huckabee hung their hats, and an 1881 Second Empire you might well recognize as the headquarters for Sugarbaker Designs in the sitcom Designing Women (recently renovated into an event space). Comprising 15 National Historic Districts, the Quarter also boasts dozens of southern-style restaurants, Irish pubs, the sprawling 36-acre MacArthur Park—the oldest municipal park in Little Rock—and the Clinton Presidential Library.

The Houses

The Quarter features an impressive selection of Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, American Foursquare, and Craftsman houses, some lovingly restored, others in dire need of some Tom Silva-like skills. Most were built between 1880 and 1930, when Little Rock experienced its most substantial building boom, and range in size from about 1,500 to 5,000 square feet. Prices run from $150,000, to $500,000.

Why Buy Here?

Anyone looking for a more laid-back lifestyle that includes more strolling than driving would be wise to check out the Quarter. There are also community gardens, farmer's markets, museums, theaters, and hospitals, all within walking distance. Most restoration work in the National Historic Districts is eligible for state rehabilitation tax credits.

Among the best for: The South, Cottages and Bungalows, City Living, Walkability, Parks and Recreation, American Heritage, Family Friendly. Lots to Do, Retirees

Rose Park, Long Beach, California

Photo by Emily Stevens

Situated around a small but beloved pocket park, this Long Beach community of about 22,000 is catching the hearts of artists, musicians, and young couples, some of whom migrate about 25 miles south from Los Angeles for its character-filled Craftsman bungalows and Spanish Revivals, as well as its proximity to the coast. The neighborhood developed in the early 20th century, when second-generation British and Scandinavian immigrants, who worked in commerce, the shipyards, and the oil fields, purchased individual lots to build modest, largely two-bedroom houses. Nowadays, it's a hipper, expanded version of Mayberry, a place where locals gather in the park for picnics or yoga classes and where impromptu concerts might break out on porches on summer nights. Rose Park is also adjacent to Retro Row, a three-block commercial strip that's home to pubs, shops, and a restored 1920s Art Deco movie house.

The Houses

The oldest are Victorian-era cottages, but the most ubiquitous are Craftsman bungalows, all the rage between 1910 and 1922, when the neighborhood saw its boom. Later styles include Spanish Revival and Mission Revival. The average price is around $350,000 to $450,000.

Why Buy Here?

The 2008 restoration of the neighborhood's namesake park has given new life to this area, notably in an annual bluegrass festival that draws thousands. And if you're a DIY novice, The Rose Park Neighborhood Association hosts an annual Restoration Trade Fair each summer, when dozens of craftspeople and contractors advise visitors and attendees on the best practices for restoring their old houses.

Among the best for: The West, City Living, First-Time Buyers, Fixer-Uppers, Walkability, Lots to Do, Cottages and Bungalows, Editors' Picks

The Triangle, Wilmington, Delaware

Photo by Courtesy of Judith Kolodgie

Sure, it's located in the biggest city in Delaware. But what makes the Triangle neighborhood, named for its triangulated borders, so appealing is its tranquil suburban feel. "The residents sit on front porches, walk dogs, throw block parties, and look out for each other," says local Realtor Judith Kolodgie. Neighbors also appreciate the Triangle's proximity to bordering Brandywine Park, hiking and biking trails, and a stadium that hosts high-school football games. A nice walk down Baynard Boulevard will get you to downtown Wilmington's shops, restaurants, and the recently refurbished Queen Theatre, a stunning 1915 movie house that now offers live performances.

The Houses

Formed in the early 1900s as a streetcar suburb, the neighborhood includes beefy freestanding houses, many with enormous front porches, as well as semi-detached houses. Styles include Queen Anne, Shingle, Dutch Colonial, and Colonial Revival. Both single and two-family houses are available from $200,000 to $450,000.

Why Buy Here?

There is a strong community feeling among the residents, who together arrange events such as an annual yard sale and a Halloween parade. The Triangle has long been known as "the Sallies neighborhood," because it's home to the Salesianum School, a large Catholic boys' school educating students since 1903. "The Triangle is quiet and friendly and has been a good place to raise kids," says Judith Kolodgie, a homeowner here for 28 years. Need we say more?

Among the best for: The Northeast, Family Friendly, Cottages and Bungalows, City Living, Lots to Do, Parks and Recreation, Walkability

Old Northeast, St. Petersburg, Florida

Photo by Susan Alderson

Boasting an eclectic mix of traditional house styles, Old Northeast is set amid the kind of lush, tropical landscape that put the Sunshine State on the map. Once farmland, the area was developed in 1911 as St. Petersburg's first neighborhood and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Outdoorsy types love its waterfront parks and miles of hiking and biking trails along the Tampa Bay and the Coffeepot Bayou, while culture mavens take in concerts and art shows at the historic Palladium Theater, among other venues. There are plenty of shops and restaurants within walking distance, and events like an annual Easter-egg hunt, Independence Day parade, and street closings for Halloween trick-or-treating attract throngs of local families.

The Houses

Along the bay and the bayou are grand mansions built during Florida's land boom of the 1920s. More-modest houses, interspersed with apartment buildings, populate the tree-lined, red-brick streets. Styles include Craftsman, Mediterranean Revival, and Italian Renaissance, with prices ranging from $90,000 to $400,000.

Why Buy Here?

The 2011 opening of the new Salvador Dali Museum and the restoration of the landmark 1925 Vinoy Hotel, where locals often stop to enjoy an iced tea on the veranda, have brought cachet and tourist dollars to the area. Many think the exposure will drive up interest—and property values—in this charming neighborhood.

Among the best for: The South, Waterfront, Family Friendly, Gardening, Parks and Recreation, Lots to Do, American Heritage, Cottages and Bungalows, Editors' Picks

Waimea, Hawaii

Photo by Alex Woodbury

Waimea has an 180-year history of cattle-roping "paniolo" (cowboys)—and the early-20th-century paniolo-style ranch houses to prove it. Those houses are characterized by their board-and-batten siding, gingerbread trim, decorative shutters, and small verandas. Waimea and its lush surroundings sit at the base of the Big Island's Kohala Mountains, a gateway between the sunny side and the rainy side of the island. "On the dry side of Waimea, they get about 15 inches of rain a year; on the wet side it's 60 or more," says Sherm Warner, president of the Waimea Community Association. Locals appreciate the distance from "big-city distractions" in Kona and Hilo, both over 40 miles away on opposite sides of the island, and the rustic charm that remains from the legacy of raising cattle here. "It's part of the community," Warner says. "You know, rodeo is a high-school sport here."

The Houses

Paniolo-style houses dot the green hills of Waimea along Highway 19. Expect to pay between $375,000 to a million for a 2,500- to 3,000-square-foot-house.

Why Buy Here?

Residents benefit from the Parker Ranch Foundation Trust, formed in 1992 by the late Richard Smart, who owned the area's flagship cattle ranch and used its fortunes to help develop Waimea responsibly. Among the community projects funded by the trust are two private schools and the North Hawaii Community Hospital. Eco-friendly development and sustainable living is part of the culture here, but Warner says the best part is that "It's Hawaii. It's the ideal."

Among the best for: The West, Small Towns, Cottages and Bungalows, Family Friendly, Parks and Recreation, Retirees

Sandpoint, Idaho

Photo by Annie Doyon of a.d. preservation

This little town of 8,500, nestled in the crook of Lake Pend Oreille, halfway between Coeur d'Alene and the Canadian border, gets more traffic than you'd think. "We're the hub of Bonner County, with two state highways," says Carrie Logan, who sits on the Sandpoint City Council. "And it's the only place in Idaho with passenger rail service." Good thing, since timbering gave way to tourism in the 1990s. The list of favorite activities among the town's locals and visitors alike is long: skiing, biking, hiking, sailing, volleyball, "and then there's 'Lost in the 50s,'" says Melissa Bethel, a planning assistant for the city. Picture 500 of the country's best-dressed 1950s-era street rods lined up, hoods popped, engines gleaming. The time warp, inaugurated in 1985, happens the third weekend in May every year.

The Houses

Queen Annes and Craftsman-style bungalows make up most of the homes built here in the early 20th century, when logging and mining were the main industries. Other styles include Dutch Colonial Revival and Tudor Revival. An 1,800-square-foot, three-bedroom abode goes for around $200,000, though some period houses can run up to $300,000.

Why Buy Here?

Clothing chain Coldwater Creek started here, as did Quest Aircraft. Perhaps it's the fresh air or the easy access to Schweitzer Mountain Resort, which had boasting rights to some of the most skiable conditions in the United States this winter, but entrepreneurs have found a happy home in Sandpoint. Retirees appreciate that major services—hospital, entertainment, shopping—are closely located; there's also a free bus system.

Among the best for: The West, Cottages and Bungalows, Victorians, Waterfront, Small Towns, Family Friendly, Easy Commute, Parks and Recreation, Retirees, Lots to Do

Beverly, Chicago, Illinois

Photo by Courtesy of Matt Walsh, Beverly Area Planning Association

Not long ago, the Chicago Sun-Times called this hilly South Side Chicago neighborhood "Boomerang Beverly," referencing the number of kids who move away, try another place on for size, then move back to raise their own kids. It's easy to understand why. A neighborhood with safe streets, terrific schools, and seven Metra stations that'll transport you downtown in 30 minutes is nothing to sneeze at. "This is definitely the kind of place where people come to settle down and start a family," says Grace Kuikman, who's lived in a Chicago Bungalow here since 1979. Beverly is also a diverse community, though it leans strongly Irish-American, with its many Guinness-pouring pubs, a replica of an Irish castle, and an Irish film festival that runs each year at the Beverly Arts Center, a neighborhood centerpiece that also offers concerts, classes, and lectures.

The Houses

They range from $125,000 bungalows and brick Tudors to million-dollar mansions, many of which are located in the Ridge Historic District, so named for the glacially formed elevation on which some of its homes were built. Other styles include Victorian-era Italianate and Stick, as well as Prairie-style houses designed by Chicago's own Frank Lloyd Wright.

Why Buy Here?

Unlike most urban neighborhoods, Beverly boasts big yards, huge trees, and wide avenues. It recently received a new fire station and public library. Property values remain steady here, so it's a good bet to invest in this small village right inside the big city.

Among the best for: The Midwest, Family Friendly, Easy Commute, Walkability, Lots to Do, City Living, Cottages and Bungalows, Victorians

Strawberry Hill, Kansas City, Kansas

Photo by Courtesy of John Tomasic

"I have wild strawberries all over my backyard—and, yes, it's kind of cool," says Carole Diehl of the aptly named Kansas City neighborhood she and her husband have called home for the past 21 years. During that time, Diehl, who serves as president of the neighborhood association, has seen a lot of changes in Strawberry Hill, which is situated on a bluff overlooking the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri rivers. The town's citizens—many of them descendants of 19th-century Eastern European immigrants who moved here to work in the city's meatpacking industry—today make room for young artists and young families drawn to the affordable houses and the restaurants, shops, and pubs opening up on Fifth Street, the neighborhood's main commercial drag.

The Houses

Strawberry Hill retains many of its original brick workers' cottages and wood bungalows. Most are located on 25-foot-wide lots, include two or three bedrooms, and average around 1,000 square feet. The neighborhood's larger two-story Victorian-era houses are much sought after by newcomers. A three-bedroom 1932 bungalow was recently on the market for just under $50,000, while a 1,554-square-foot Folk Victorian was going for around $80,000.

Why Buy Here?

Strawberry Hill remains an affordable (and increasingly hip) option for first-time homebuyers. Fifth Street recently underwent a thoughtful makeover, including old-fashioned streetlights and brick sidewalks, promising this reemerging commercial district will continue to bustle in the future.

Among the best for: The Midwest, Cottages and Bungalows, Victorians, Waterfront, City Living, First-Time Buyers

St. Francisville, Louisiana

Photo by Courtesy of Laurie Walsh, St. Francisville Main Street

"This is sort of an unspoiled part of Louisiana," says Anne Butler, a seventh-generation St. Francisville resident who has written numerous books about the area. Claimed at various points in its history by the French, English, and Spanish, St. Francisville boasts not only ample amounts of history and culture but also a cherished landscape. In fact, naturalist John James Audubon spent several months here in 1821, painting more than 30 avian portraits for his book The Birds of America. Perched at the western edge of Louisiana hill country on a narrow ridge above the Mississippi River, St. Francisville was long known as the town that's "two miles long and two yards wide." Over the centuries this elevated position has saved it from the floodwaters that claimed the nearby town of Bayou Sara, a major port just down the river. St. Francisville residents take pride in caring for what has survived the trials of nature and man.

The Houses

St. Francisville has a mix of 19th-century Victorian-era cottages and townhouses, as well as plantation homes, which are located in the surrounding countryside. A number of them have come on the market recently and are being purchased by young families. "It's wonderful to see a new generation bringing with them a new vibrancy," says Butler. Older houses start out at about $175,000 and run into the millions for plantation houses.

Why Buy Here?

Only 30 minutes north of Baton Rouge, St. Francisville gives commuters and recent retirees alike a chance to enjoy daily life in a picturesque town while having access to everything a nearby big city offers. Excellent schools and a low crime rate don't hurt, either.

Among the best for: The South, Parks and Recreation, Family Friendly, Retirees, Cottages and Bungalows, Victorians, Easy Commute

Rockland, Maine

Photo by Courtesy of Dan Bookham

Though he hails from the United Kingdom, Dan Bookham feels right at home in the small coastal town of Rockland, Maine. "Around here, the motto is 'We don't care who your father was. Show us what your kids can do,'" says Bookham, who bought a house here three years ago with his wife, Jessie. Good public schools and safe streets make the town of about 7,300 an ideal place to raise their 4-year-old daughter, and great restaurants, seafood markets, and museums make it pretty great for the Bookhams themselves, too.

The Houses

Shipbuilding, and then mills and factories, in particular, lime production, supported the populace here for centuries, leaving a legacy of Victorian cottages as well as Craftsman bungalows and Folk Victorians that abound in the downtown area. On the town's south end, former workers' cottages, in the Cape Cod style, can be had for around $100,000, while larger houses on the north end, built by wealthy sea captains, command higher prices. Most houses have large backyards, which locals take advantage of by planting elaborate flower and vegetable gardens.

Why Buy Here?

In the past couple of decades, Rockland has shaken its image as an insular commercial fishing community by redefining itself as a popular tourist destination that's also attracting full-time residents. It's home to the North American Blues Festival in July and the Maine Lobster Festival each August. Rockland is the location of the Farnsworth Art Museum, which boasts more than 10,000 paintings by American masters, including Maine's own, the Wyeths: Andrew, N.C., and Jaimie. There are also plenty of sailing, hiking, and skiing opportunities.

Among the best for: The Northeast, Victorians, Waterfront, Parks and Recreation, Small Towns, First-Time Buyers, Gardening, Cottages and Bungalows

Town Center Historic District, Yazoo City, Mississippi

Photo by Courtesy of Kay Mills

Named for the Native American tribe that lived near the mouth of the Yazoo River, Yazoo City knows a thing or two about survival. A yellow-fever epidemic decimated its population in 1853; the Union Army sacked it repeatedly during the Civil War; and a 1904 fire destroyed much of its downtown and over 100 residences on adjacent streets. Yazoo faced its most recent challenge in 2010, when two tornadoes ripped through the outskirts of town, destroying houses and damaging businesses. Through it all, this city of about 14,500 continues to move forward. Its downtown, rebuilt following the 1904 fire, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Known as the Town Center Historic District, its attractions include the new Downtown Marketplace, which boasts over 100 vendors, selling everything from artwork to casseroles, and Grace Hardware, a go-to spot for furniture custom-built by Mississippi craftsmen.

The Houses

Yazoo City has hundreds of 19th- and 20th-century examples of Queen Anne cottages, Greek Revivals, and Colonial Revivals, which range from $45,000 for a fixer-upper to around $250,000 for a restored Victorian-era house. A remodeled 4,818-square-foot center-hall Queen Anne was recently priced for $139,000.

Why Buy Here?

For anyone who's ever dreamed of living in (or retiring to) a small, convivial southern town, Yazoo City is a great option, says resident Dawn Rosenberg Davis. "Everyone still knows everyone here," she says. It's downright beautiful, too, whether looking toward the rolling hills to the east or the flat Mississippi Delta to the west. Yazoo City is also a 40-minute drive from Jackson, so it's also an easy commute.

Among the best for: The South, Victorians, Small Towns, Retirees, Fixer-Uppers, Cottages and Bungalows, Bargains, Easy Commute, American Heritage

Boulevards Historic District, Lincoln, Nebraska

Photo by Courtesy of Ed Zimmer

The Boulevards Historic District was the vision of brothers Frank, Mark, and George Woods, who developed 450 acres of land into a first-tier suburb in the early to mid 1900s. The brothers, who had made quite a bit of money in various endeavors, including selling tractors and starting a local phone company, constructed lavish, high-style houses of brick and stone along what is now Sheridan Boulevard for the town's most affluent residents. The Woods brothers also worked with various landscape architects to design meandering side streets lined with cottages and bungalows. Those streets eschewed the predictable grid system, hugging the natural landscapes into which they were set. The Boulevards encompasses about 1,250 houses and remains a much-sought-after location for today's upper- and middle-class families in this city of 250,000-plus residents.

The Houses

Those on Sheridan Boulevard, which remains the District's most prestigious address, are set far back from the street and include high-style examples of Tudor Revival, Greek Revival, and Colonial Revival houses. On the neighborhood's winding and woodsy outskirts you'll find more modest houses in the Craftsman, Cape Cod, and Mission Revival styles. Prices range from $160,000 for smaller houses to around $650,000.

Why Buy Here?

Unlike many first-tier suburbs, the Boulevards avoided periods of decline, with very few teardowns and mostly tasteful renovations. The neighborhood was recently placed on the National Register of Historic Places, giving residents an even greater sense of pride. Downtown Lincoln, home to the University of Nebraska, is just a few miles away.

Among the best for: The Midwest, Easy Commute, Family Friendly, Cottages and Bungalows, Walkability, College Towns, American Heritage, Lots to Do

Peninsula, Ohio

Photo by Peninsula Valley Historic & Education Foundation

Jutting out into a sharp bend in the Cuyahoga River (hence its name), this spirited hamlet of just 600 people sits within the 30,000-acre Cuyahoga Valley National Park and offers enough shopping, dining, and recreational opportunities to keep locals, and the thousands of tourists who flock here each year, entertained. Founded as a settlement of the Connecticut Western Reserve in 1824, Peninsula became a vital port town with the completion of the Ohio and Erie Canal, in 1832, which opened the Buckeye State up to trade from the eastern U.S. While railroads rendered the canal superfluous by the early 1900s, Peninsula still thrives by celebrating its storied past, most notably its 19th-century Greek-Revival commercial buildings. Once home to saloons and hotels, they now house local businesses including a bike store, bookstore, and several antiques shops.

The Houses

The town boasts well-crafted Gothic Revivals, Queen Annes, and Italianate cottages dating from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s, as well as a few 1920s Sears Craftsman bungalows. Prices range from $85,000 for a small fixer-upper to $400,000 for a more exquisite historic house. Houses sell fast here, so if you're interested, it's wise to set up an email alert for available properties.

Why Buy Here?

Its close proximity to both Akron (just 10 minutes south) and Cleveland (30 minutes north) makes it a haven for commuters who are drawn to its outdoorsy amenities. Cuyahoga Valley National Park is home to hiking and biking trails and more than 100 ponds and lakes. Foodies will delight in the fact that the area is home to myriad farm stands and markets, and local parents rave about the area's excellent public schools.

Among the best for: Editors' Picks, The Midwest, Small Towns, Fixer-Uppers, Easy Commute, Family Friendly, Cottages and Bungalows, Parks and Recreation, Waterfront

Original Townsite, Muskogee, Oklahoma

Photo by Courtesy of Downtown Muskogee Inc.

The city of Muskogee was born in 1872, when the Missouri-Kansas & Texas Railroad became the first rail line to cross what was then called Indian Territory (Oklahoma wouldn't become a state for another 35 years). The town rapidly grew into the Territory's most important city. It was here that the federal government set up an agency, the Dawes Commission, to allot land to the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole Indians after they arrived in the area following the forced migration, or "Trail of Tears."

The Houses

The Original Townsite encompasses four historic neighborhoods, including Founders Place and Kendall Place, where turn-of-the-century lawyers, many of whom worked with the Dawes Commission, built stately Neoclassical houses with full-height entry porches. More-modest Craftsman and Queen Anne cottages can be found in the city's Capitol Place and Eastside neighborhoods. Wherever you live, houses are affordable, ranging from $80,000 to 200,000. The city is less than an hour's drive from Tulsa.

Why Buy Here?

These days, Muskogee is home to a diverse community of Native American, African-American, and European-American cultures. It also boasts four institutions of higher learning. The historic downtown is host to The Five Civilized Tribes Museum and the National Soul Food Cook-off, which draws thousands. Thanks to a Main Street improvement program, new restaurants and shops are also being established. In 2011 the city was named by the National Trust for Historic Places as one of its Dozen Distinctive Destinations.

Among the best for: The South, American Heritage, Fixer-Uppers, Bargains, First-Time Buyers, College Towns, Cottages and Bungalows

Baker City, Oregon

Photo by Courtesy of Historic Baker City Inc.

After gold was discovered here in the 1860s, this town nestled between the Wallowa and Blue mountains quickly grew into a cultural oasis with hotels, opera houses, and saloons. By the turn of the century, Baker City was known as the "Queen City of the Inland Empire," its population of 6,700 rivaling that of Spokane and Boise. After the closing of a local sawmill led to an economic downturn in the 1980s, it managed to lure a new generation of artists and lone wolves with its surplus of affordable houses and large commercial spaces. Today, the town of 10,000 has a downtown that's home to more than 140 independently owned businesses, including art galleries, a food co-op, and restaurants.

The Houses

Most were built between the 1890s and 1920s by miners and business owners who made their fortunes here during the gold rush. These are well-crafted houses, with plank wall construction and, in many cases, tuff stone cladding and foundations. Styles include vernacular cottages, Queen Annes, Italianates, American Foursquares, and Gothic Revivals. Modest houses can be had for less than $100,000, with a median price under $200,000.

Why Buy Here?

With its gorgeous surroundings and growing artistic community, locals believe Baker City is poised to become the Santa Fe of the northwest. Surrounded by mountain ranges, parks, and hiking trails, it also appeals to skiers and snowshoers. Anyone who's dreamed of opening a business can nab a two-story commercial building downtown for around $200,000. But at the rate things are going, those bargains won't last long.

Among the best for: The West, Parks and Recreation, Walkability, Lots to Do, Bargains, Fixer-Uppers, Victorians, Cottages and Bungalows

The Fifth Ward, Newport, Rhode Island

Photo by Courtesy of Arthur Chapman

If you were Irish and landed in Newport in the 19th century, odds are you made your home in the Fifth Ward, on the city's south side. Perhaps you helped build the nearby 21-acre Fort Adams or found employment along the waterfront at the Newport Gas-Light Company or, when Kingscote, Chateau-sur-Mer, and The Breakers were built, someone like you had to take care of those massive "summer cottages." The tenacity with which the neighborhood has clung to its name over the years (it was absorbed by the Third Ward voting district in the 1950s) is indicative of the strong cultural spirit of the people who live here, and have for generations.

The Houses

"The Fifth Ward has examples of nearly everything Newport has to offer," says Pieter Roos, executive director of the Newport Restoration Foundation. "You can find gems all over." There are lots of simple one- and two-story frame houses with clapboard or shingle siding, some larger Second Empire multifamily houses, and a smattering of Queen Annes. Prices run between $250,000 and $550,000.

Why Buy Here?

There is a healthy supply of well-built houses in a family-oriented neighborhood close to the water and several parks. Downtown Newport, and all it has to offer, is within a 20-minute walk. Recently, a naval-base realignment brought new jobs to Newport and, with this, increased competition for these perfect starter homes, so don't delay. "We're still oversupplied," says real estate broker Arthur Chapman, whose great-grandfather, P.J. Fagan, built many of the houses on Carroll Avenue in the heart of the Fifth Ward, "but the rush is on."

Among the best for: The Northeast, Cottages and Bungalows, Family Friendly, Waterfront, First-Time Buyers, Parks and Recreation, Retirees, Walkability, Lots to Do, American Heritage

Park Circle, North Charleston, South Carolina

Photo by Courtesy of Thea Anderson

We all know about the historic and very pricey Greek Revivals and Italianates that line the avenues of downtown Charleston. But about 20 minutes north, in the Park Circle neighborhood of North Charleston, you'll find hundreds of lovingly crafted—albeit more modest and affordable—old houses surrounding a 30-plus-acre park filled with baseball fields, playgrounds, and a weekly farmer's market. The origins of Park Circle go back to 1912, when it was a working-class neighborhood for employees of North Charleston's many factories and a naval base. Closed in 1995, the base is now being transformed into breweries, waterfront parks, studio space, and offices.

The Houses

The houses were built mostly from the 1920s through the 1960s and include Craftsman bungalows, Colonial Revivals, and brick ranch-style houses. Fixer-uppers go for as little as $50,000; small bungalows for under $100,000. Larger, restored houses, like a 2,700-square-foot Dutch Colonial Revival, can command upwards of $300,000. Still, "one of the wonderful things about Park Circle is that, compared to downtown, it is still affordable—and there are plenty of houses left to restore," says Clem Arsenault, a real estate agent who moved here in 2005.

Why Buy Here?

With its affordable houses and plenty of restaurants and shops on Montague Avenue, its main commercial thoroughfare, Park Circle is popular among first-time homebuyers. A new elementary school and a performing arts school draw families with children. Since more of the former naval base's buildings are being converted to office space, this is a great place for anyone with a good business plan, too. "People here are all about supporting small, locally owned businesses," says resident Thea Anderson. "We have open arms—and open buildings."

Among the best for: The South, Waterfront, Lots to Do, Family Friendly, First-Time Buyers, Cottages and Bungalows, Easy Commute

Lead, South Dakota

Photo by Courtesy of Mike Stahl

"I moved to Lead from the East Coast 28 years ago and haven't looked back," says Realtor Bill Laskowski of his adopted hometown. It's easy to see where all the love comes from. This western South Dakota town, founded in 1876 and home to just over 3,000 residents, is engulfed by the Black Hills National Forest, so to say it's picturesque is an understatement. It also offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts (hiking, skiing, or snowmobiling, anyone?). Until recently, the city's raison d'etre was the Homestake gold mine, once the biggest, deepest mine in the western hemisphere until it shut down, in 2002.

The Houses

Most were built for mine workers and operators between the late 1800s and the 1940s, and range in style from Queen Anne to Tudor Revival. Many have been restored or are undergoing restoration. A large Stick-style home on Main Street was recently listed for $136,000, but a fixer-upper Queen Anne cottage can be found for as low as $14,000.

Why Buy Here?

While Lead was devastated after the closing of its gold mine, which destroyed both jobs and community spirit, things are looking up due to the Sanford Underground Laboratory, a massive science lab under construction in the old Homestead Mine that's expected to produce jobs and a new sense of purpose. Downtown, meanwhile, is being refurbished into a regional center for arts and entertainment, the centerpiece of which is the restoration of the 1914 opera house.

Among the best for: The West, Bargains, Fixer-Uppers, Parks and Recreation, Cottages and Bungalows, Victorians

Central Gardens Memphis, Tennessee

Photo by Courtesy of Christina Hall, Central Gardens Neighborhood Association

Once favored by wealthy turn-of-the-century Memphis residents who made their fortunes during the city's cotton boom, this 83-block first-tier suburb is known for beautifully maintained houses distinguished by handsome millwork and wide front porches. And talk about tree-lined streets! With more than 90 different species of trees, most of which are more than a century old, the entire neighborhood was designated a Level 3 Arboretum through the Tennessee Arboretum Certification Program in 2008. Located just two miles from downtown Memphis, the backbone of Central Gardens is the Central Gardens Association, which has overseen the restoration and maintenance of the area since 1967.

The Houses

Central Gardens' most lavish homes are former country estates built in the Tudor Revival, Neoclassical, and Mediterranean Revival styles. While these houses, often beautifully landscaped, command anywhere from $300,000 to more than $1 million, there are plenty of affordable American Foursquare and Craftsman homes (starting at around $150,000) to choose from. The entire neighborhood is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Why Buy Here?

Those who live here get to enjoy the ease of suburban living with the added benefit of being able to walk to dining and shopping. Central Gardens is a block or two from Overton Square, with its Italian restaurants and pizza parlors, as well as the Cooper-Young area, offering delis, more restaurants, and pubs.

Among the best for: The South, Family Friendly, Walkability, Cottages and Bungalows, City Living, Gardening, American Heritage

Gonzales, Texas

Photo by Courtesy of Michelle London

Local history buffs know Gonzales as "the Lexington of Texas," where the battle for the Lone Star State's independence got underway. It happened in 1835, when the settlement fought off a 100-man-strong Mexican army attempting to retrieve a cannon the Mexican government had given them to thwart Native American attacks. After a brief battle, the army left empty-handed—a failure that's re-enacted each October during the town's Come and Take It festival. But history isn't all that this town of 7,000 is concerned about. Gonzales's well-preserved downtown is popular for tourists, who love its bed-and-breakfasts, restaurants serving hearty local fare, and antiques shops. They also come to tour the Shiner Brewery, located in the nearby town of Shiner.

The Houses

Most were built near the turn of the century, when the city's cotton and cattle industries were booming thanks to the railroad, which allowed easier transport. They include elegant examples of Queen Anne, Tudor Revival, and Italianate houses and cottages, as well as Greek Revivals. Prices start at $60,000 for fixer-uppers and top out around $575,000.

Why Buy Here?

In the last 10 years, Gonzales has welcomed residents from larger cities who are looking to live in a small town within driving distance of jobs in Austin or San Antonio, an hour away. Michelle London and her husband, Mark, relocated from Chicago to manage two bed-and-breakfasts and have no regrets. "We're here less than a year, but we love it," says Michelle. Gonzales is close to state parks, lakes, and several golf courses, making it attractive to retirees as well.

Among the best for: The South, Small Towns, American Heritage, Walkability, Cottages and Bungalows, Fixer-Uppers, Easy Commute, Retirees, Bargains, Lots to Do, Parks and Recreation

Five Sisters Neighborhood, Burlington, Vermont

Photo by Courtesy of Devin Colman

The Five Sisters neighborhood is in the south end of Burlington near the shores of Lake Champlain. Its five primary streets bear the names of Caroline, Charlotte, Katherine, Margaret, and Marian, hence the moniker. Here you'll find around 300 houses and cottages developed from 1900 through the 1950s for working-class families employed by the nearby Queen City Cotton Mill and the American Woolen Company, among others. These days, it's attracting young families, who often take turns walking kids to school, a practice known as the "walking school bus."

The Houses

Expect a nice mix of Craftsman bungalows, Cape Cods, foursquares, and Colonial Revivals, and a few Sears kit houses to boot. Houses are set along narrow streets with plenty of attractive landscaping and mature trees. Most have front porches and large back yards, many with vegetable gardens. Houses sell for $200,000 to $400,000.

Why Buy Here?

"The neighborhood has seen a dramatic revival over the past decade," says Burlington resident Devin Colman. "Older residents are selling to young families, who are restoring and renovating the houses." Five Sisters is a pleasant, mile-long walk to bustling downtown Burlington (pop. 42,000) with its wealth of attractions, including shops, yoga studios, gourmet markets, and of course places to drink and dine, as well as three colleges, including the University of Vermont. There's also plenty of sailing and kayaking on Lake Champlain.

Among the best for: The Northeast, College Towns, Family Friendly, Lots to Do, Parks and Recreation, Gardening, First-Time Buyers, Cottages and Bungalows

Logan, Spokane, Washington

Photo by Courtesy of Spokane Preservation Advocates

Historic preservation is serious business in Spokane, the largest city in eastern Washington, and even the experts are charmed by this neighborhood. "If I lived in Spokane, I'd have a house in Logan," says Kathryn Burk-Hise, who commutes to the city for her job as executive coordinator of Spokane Preservation Advocates. Flanked by Gonzaga University to the southwest and the Spokane River to the southeast, this little pocket first emerged in 1894 with 30 houses. It was imagined, then, to be the start of a Jesuit community. Today, it's not only a "Catholic hub" but also a community with nearby schools and hundreds of quaint single-family homes at affordable prices. "Streets are wide, tree canopies are big, and there are elementary schools," says Burk-Hise. "It's a great family neighborhood."

The Houses

Queen Annes, Tudor Revivals, and Craftsman bungalows built between 1900 and the 1930s pepper Logan's verdant streets. A well-kept 2,700-square-foot house near Mission Park recently sold for $189,900, though the average price in the area today is $87,000 for houses with original features, including leaded-glass windows and oak millwork. Dwellings that need some rehab go for as low as $50,000.

Why Buy Here?

Students and educators at the four colleges in the area have plenty of worthy distractions from academic pursuits. Locals can be found kayaking, fishing, and swimming in the summer, and it's hard not to be dazzled by the spectacular set of waterfalls that run right through town a few blocks from the southwest edge of Logan.

Among the best for: The West, Bargains, Fixer-Uppers, Cottages and Bungalows, Victorians, College Towns, Retirees, Family Friendly, First-Time Buyers, Easy Commute, Parks and Recreation, American Heritage

East End, Charleston, West Virginia

Photo by Michael Keller/West Virginia Encyclopedia

Straddling the confluence of the Kanawha and Elk Rivers, Charleston is the capital and center of commerce for West Virginia, but with just over 52,000 residents, it's possible to find some small-town attributes. When history professor Billy Joe Peyton and his wife looked for a house in Charleston, it wasn't hard to settle on the East End. "You can walk to nearly everything, and it's an interesting place to live," he says of the neighborhood that is home to a minor-league baseball stadium, the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences, and the Capitol Market, a farmer's market located inside a restored train depot.

The Houses

The official National Register Historic District, on the south side of Washington Street East, which runs through the middle of the East End, affords a mix of Queen Annes, foursquares, and Neoclassical Revivals, many with porticos and enormous stucco columns. Recently, a 1920 foursquare with original hardwood floors and a block from the river was for sale at $239,000. To the north, there are smaller brick and wood-frame houses that are deals, like a 1,700-square-foot 1910 Craftsman for just $38,000.

Why Buy Here?

After suffering from urban blight during the latter half of the 20th century, the neighborhood is experiencing a wave of revitalization and preservation. Thanks in part to the efforts of the East End Main Street program, many buildings have been refurbished, new street lamps installed, and colorful murals painted by local artists. What's more, around 30 new businesses have opened since 2002. Even outside Charleston, people are taking notice: The neighborhood is a semifinalist for the 2012 Great American Main Street Award.

Among the best for: The South, Victorians, Walkability, First-Time Buyers, Fixer-Uppers, Lots to Do, Bargains, Cottages and Bungalows, City Living

East Forest Avenue Historic District, Neenah, Wisconsin

Photo by Courtesy of The City of Neenah

There once was a time when all a town needed to survive was a good river. That's what put Neenah, Wisconsin, on the map. The Fox River generated enough waterpower to allow the lumber- and flour-milling industries to flourish here in the late 19th century. Following the Civil War and the establishment of the railroad, the city drew wealth from its many paper factories. Many paper executives built handsome manses across the river on Doty Island, in what's now called the East Forest Avenue Historic District. These days, the neighborhood attracts those who like its safe, tree-shaded streets and its proximity to the shops, Roosevelt Elementary School, and a farmers market downtown, just a 10-minute walk away. "The people who move here come for the natural beauty, the history, and the uniqueness of the architecture," says Carol Kasmimor, an assistant planner with the City of Neenah. It's just a great neighborhood."

The Houses

Houses in the historic district include Queen Anne, Italianate, Colonial Revival, and Tudor Revival dwellings dating from 1880 to the early 1900s. Prices range from $200,000 to $500,000.

Why Buy Here?

East Forest Avenue Historic District is located on Doty Island, at the confluence of the Fox River and the shores of 137,700-acre Lake Winnebago. This waterfront community has plenty of recreational opportunities, including swimming and boating. The neighborhood is a state historic district and was designated a National Register Historic District in 2005.

Among the best for: The Midwest, Waterfront, Parks and Recreation, Family Friendly, Cottages and Bungalows, Bargains, First-Time Buyers, Lots to Do, American Heritage

Buffalo, Wyoming

Photo by Courtesy of Nancy Lee Jennings

Buffalo was established in the 1870s to provide saloons, hotels, and dining for gold miners and for soldiers stationed at nearby Fort McKinney, where their assignment was to keep the peace among sparring Native American tribes. Today, the city of 4,500 is home to many outdoor enthusiasts who know a thing or two about self reliance. "It's made up of a hearty, easy-going group," says Johnnie Pond, manager of Buffalo's Historic Mansion House Inn. "And the outdoors is important to every one of them." In addition to being a destination for hiking, biking, fishing, and hunting, Buffalo is also considered the artistic hub of Johnson County, with century-old commercial buildings that house galleries and museums, as well as studios where potters, ironworkers, and wood carvers hone their respective skills.

The Houses

There are a variety of houses that date to the 1880s, when the town was founded. Most were built by doctors, lawyers, judges, and those who worked on the railroad, which arrived in the late 1800s. Prices range from $150,000 to $500,000, but you can also find a fixer-upper cottage for $110,000.

Why Buy Here?

With scenic views of the Big Horn Mountains from every point in Buffalo, this place is about as beautiful as it gets. The nearby Bighorn National Forest encompasses 387 miles of snowmobile trails, two downhill ski areas, and four cross-country ski trails. The economy here is stable, thanks to a growing methane gas industry.

Among the best for: The West, Parks and Recreation, American Heritage, Small Towns, Walkability, Fixer-Uppers, Cottages and Bungalows

Stanstead, Quebec, Canada

Photo by Matthew Farfan

Once a backwater for smugglers and lawless New Englanders, this town on the Quebec-Vermont border bloomed in the 19th century as a business and transportation center due to large-scale quarrying of granite and its place as the last Canadian stop on the stagecoach that linked Quebec with Boston. In 1870, the stagecoach gave way to a railway, reinvented as a bicycle path today. Dufferin Street, which runs through Stanstead and into Derby Line, Vermont, is hailed by locals as an open-air museum that features three large churches and massive two- and three-story Victorian-era homes. "We have lots of examples that are half in Canada, half in the United States," says Troy Winter of ReMax Realty. Residents show their community spirit with an outdoor Christmas bazaar, holiday decorating contest, winter fun day in Beebe Memorial Park, and—new this year—a haunted hockey arena at Halloween. Each summer, the approximately 3,000 citizens (and their American neighbors) celebrate culture and history at Border Fest, enjoying a parade, music, foods of the region, and family-style "firemen" races.

The Houses

Queen Annes and foursquares predominate. Large Victorian-era homes run from $300,00 to $350,000, but come with a whopping 12 to 15 rooms, suitable for big families. Smaller but equally gracious foursquares go for $180,000 to $250,000.

Why Buy Here?

Its location at the U.S. border and proximity to Autoroute 55 make it easy to travel near and far. The Haskell Free Library and Opera House, constructed between 1901 and 1904 deliberately at the convergence of the two border towns, is still accessible from either side without passing through customs. Sports fans appreciate L'Arena Pat Burns, a state-of-the-art arena named for the legendary NHL coach.

Among the best for: Canada, Family Friendly, First-Time Buyers, Victorians, Cottages and Bungalows, Lots to Do, Small Towns, Parks and Recreation

St. Martins, New Brunswick, Canada

Photo by Barbara McIntyre, Quaco Museum

Summer vacationers flock to this tiny village for its rugged beauty, and some love it so much they stay. "It's a healthy place to be," says Jacqueline Bartlett, who retired to St. Martins from Toronto with her husband in 2005. Locals don't mind trading urban convenience for gorgeous views of the Bay of Fundy along the southern coast of the province, 110 miles from the Maine border. "We came for the good, fresh air and healthy water. I have my own chickens and food from the garden—and I'm a city person." The remote town comes alive as a tourist mecca during the summer, but only about 400 of New Brunswick's heartiest stick it out year-round. "Most go south for the winter," says local museum curator Barbara McIntyre, with a friendly chuckle.

The Houses

Prosperous sea captains built most of the homes in the area in the early 19th century. Inspired by architecture from as far away as France, Spain, Malaysia, and China, the houses weave elements of what locals saw abroad with Gothic Revival, Italianate, and Queen Anne styles. Expect a bay view, an acre or more of land, and a sturdy, storied structure to set you back about $110,000 to $250,000.

Why Buy Here?

All roads to the entrance of the famed Fundy Trail Parkway lead through St. Martins. This 10-mile multiuse coastal trail is undergoing its second phase of development. Once completed, it will connect to the trans-Canadian network, creating hundreds of new year-round jobs in the area and also giving the town an even bigger tourism boost.

Among the best for: Canada, Small Towns, Waterfront, Parks and Recreation, Cottages and Bungalows, Bargains, Walkability, Victorians

Strathcona, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Photo by Dan Jarvis

The oldest residential neighborhood in Vancouver, Strathcona developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries just east of the city's original townsite, where an 1860s sawmill—then the city's main economic engine—was located on the Burrard Inlet and around which most of the city's first residents lived. Vancouver grew by leaps and bounds when the Canadian Pacific Railway made the city a terminus in 1887, turning it into a center of trade and industry. To meet rising demands for housing, the Vancouver Improvement Company developed the neighborhood of Strathcona, which soon became home to a diverse cross-section of residents, including Chinese, Italian, and African-Canadian families. These days, as many older residents relocate to smaller houses or assisted living, newcomers are buying, and beautifully restoring, its Victorian-era houses. "This is one of Vancouver's best neighborhoods," says local historian James Johnstone. "Its character and sense of identity set it apart from the rest of the city."

The Houses

Most are Queen Anne or Folk Victorians in either two-story or cottage styles. Many retain their wood clapboard exteriors. The neighborhood is relatively affordable for Vancouver, which has the highest housing costs in Canada. While restored Victorian cottages are now commanding up to $900,000 USD, and some houses are selling for more than a million, fixer-uppers can be had in the $720,000 range.

Why Buy Here?

The neighborhood is a few minutes from downtown Vancouver (pop. 600,000) and adjacent to Chinatown. Many houses have detached garages set along alleyways; thanks to new zoning laws, these can be converted into rental properties if desired.

Among the best for: Canada, Fixer-Uppers, City Living, Victorians, Cottages and Bungalows, Easy Commute, Waterfront

The Highlands, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Photo by Highlands Historical Society

Named in a contest that awarded the winner $50 in gold, The Highlands was developed by the McGrath-Holgate Real Estate Company in 1910 as an "upper crust" community overlooking the North Saskatchewan River Valley on the northeast edge of Edmonton. The company's rapid construction of luxurious houses came to an unfortunate end in 1913, when an economic recession caused the real-estate market here to bottom out. In the next 30 years, the Highlands developed piecemeal, with flurries of smaller houses built following World War I and again in the 1940s, following the expansion of oil pipelines from here to the United States. These days, residents enjoy an abundance of activities offered by the Highlands Community League, including sports programs, as well as bridge, gardening, and craft clubs.

The Houses

Houses in Craftsman, foursquare, and various Arts and Crafts styles can be had for $275,000 to $350,000. Classical Revival houses (as well as larger Craftsmans and foursquares) are priced in the millions.

Why Buy Here?

The multiphase development of The Highlands means the streets here are lined with dwellings representing a wealth of 20th-century housing styles. Says Johanne Yakula, of From Times Past Antiques and Interiors, "These homes are real pieces of history, standing side by side." The upcoming conversion of writer and philosopher Marshall McLuhan's childhood home into a visiting academics and writers' center will add another landmark to what is already a culturally enriched community.

Among the best for: Canada, Cottages and Bungalows, Walkability, Gardening, Lots to Do