True Love Shacks
If home is where the heart is, these 10 charming houses must be filled to the brim: they’ve held the hearts of some of the most legendary lovers in history. Though each house differs greatly—in era, in location, and in detailing—they each held a special place for their owners, either as a romantic love nest or as a memorial of a once-great love. Check out these grand palaces of affection, many of which can be visited today.
The Old House, Quincy, Massachusetts
John and Abigail Adams
Long before there was This Old House, there was The Old House, the private home of the second United States president, John Adams, and wife, Abigail Adams. Well known for their intense love and mutual admiration—preserved in dozens of thoughtful and effusive letters—the couple often lived apart as John served in various political and diplomatic posts. It wasn’t until 1801, when John left the presidency, that the lovebirds were able to reunite permanently. The setting was this house.
The Old House, Quincy, Massachusetts (cont’d)
Abigail had taken 12 years to expand and upgrade the original cottage, and John admiringly referred to the restyled Georgian home as “Peacefield.” The renovated manse included a room for entertaining guests that features some of the oldest American wood paneling. Handed down through four generations of Adamses, The Old House was bequeathed to the National Park Service in 1946 by descendants of the famous couple and is now a museum.
The Mark Twain House, Hartford, CT
Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) and Olivia Langdon Clemens
Samuel Clemens, who wrote under the pen name Mark Twain, instantly fell in love with Olivia Langdon in 1867 when her brother, a fellow passenger on his steamship tour of Europe, showed him a miniature painting of her. Upon his return to the U.S., Twain took up the invitation to dine at the Langdon family’s home, and on his second visit stayed more than 12 hours. Thus began a two-year courtship between Samuel and Olivia, preserved in the countless letters the two exchanged before their marriage in 1870.
The Mark Twain House, Hartford, CT (cont’d)
The couple eventually settled in Hartford, where they built a 25-room house designed by architect Edward Tuckerman Potter with creative input from Olivia. Twain’s deep fondness for this home was no secret. He wrote, “To us, our house…had a heart, and a soul, and eyes to see us with…it was of us.” At the same time, Twain’s admiration for his wife, who he considered an equal, was made clear when he put the deed to the house and the land in her name. Twain wrote many of his classics in this home, including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. In his own words, this house was “a home—and the word never had so much meaning before.” Sadly, the Clemens family left the home to travel abroad after daughter Susy died there in 1896. They never returned and sold the house in 1903; it is now a museum.
Casa Kimberley, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton
They fell in love while making the extravagant 1963 film Cleopatra, setting the tone for a whirlwind of romance and excess. In fact, the tumultuous love affair of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton played out much like a movie script, never short of intrigue, opulence, or turmoil. The famous couple, who became two of the highest paid actors in Hollywood at the time, commanded so much attention, their only real escape was their residence, Casa Kimberley.
Burton purchased the massive 22,900-square-foot home as a gift to Taylor on her 32nd birthday, then bought a neighboring villa for himself. He connected the two with a pink bridge, which has been likened to the Bridge of Sighs in Venice. Despite the couple’s divorce, reconciliation, remarriage, and second divorce, Taylor held onto the home until Burton died, when it became too painful a reminder of her famous ex-husband.
The home was open to the public for a time, but it has been sold and will, sadly, be torn down to make way for condominiums.
The Casa Estudio, Mexico City, Mexico
Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera
The passionate relationship between these creative mavens was colored with drama and infidelity. Yet in spite of—or maybe as a result of—their intense affair, Kahlo and Rivera produced many famous paintings in their Mexico City home, itself a work of art.
The 1931 Bauhaus-style structure was considered an early example of functionalist architecture. The building was actually two houses created by architect Juan O’Gorman—one red for Rivera, and one blue for Kahlo—connected by a bridge between the two roofs. Both houses also contained the artists’ studios. Today the home is a museum dedicated to the couple’s lives and artwork.
The Dakota Apartments, New York, NY
John Lennon and Yoko Ono
In 1973, after two years renting in New York’s Greenwich Village, the ex-Beatle and the avant-garde artist moved into the oldest, grandest apartment building on Central Park West. Lennon fell for New York almost as hard as he had fallen for Ono. The couple, who had been hounded by fans and the press since their “bed-in” days and accusations that their romance broke up the most famous rock band in the world, found peace in their New York anonymity, and decided they wanted to live out their lives in the city. The 1884 building was a perfect spot for the pair to settle down; it was luxurious, secure, and right next to Central Park, where they loved to take long walks.
The Dakota Apartments, New York, NY (cont’d)
They soon had their son, Sean, and John retreated to a private life raising him away from the spotlights. On December 8, 1980, the Dakota played a tragic part in the couple’s wonderful life together: It was at the entrance to the building that Lennon was fatally shot in front of Ono by crazed fan Mark David Chapman. More than 30 years later, Ono continues to live in the apartment because of its connection to her beloved husband. “It gives me what’s the reminder of love that we had,” she once said. “It gives me power.”
Casa di Giulietta, Verona, Italy
Romeo and Juliet
In fair Verona, here lies 23 Via Capello, a mecca for romantics and Shakespeare lovers alike. Though the tale of Romeo and Juliet may be fictional, the most famous love story of all time lives on through this house, once owned by the del Capello family, thought to be the model for the Capulets. It even has a balcony just like the one where Juliet famously cried out to her dear Romeo.
Casa di Giulietta, Verona, Italy (cont’d)
The home has become a tourist attraction, with 1.5 million visitors per year. All want to see the famous balcony that symbolizes the desperate, irrepressible love between the two star-crossed lovers. Many write letters to the young heroine, addressed to “Juliet, Verona,” which are attached to a wall in the courtyard. Real or not, the impact of Shakespeare’s tale universally melts the hearts of hopeless romantics.
Chateau de la Malmaison, Rueil-Malmaison, France
Napoleon and Josephine Bonaparte
Up-and-coming French general Napoleon Bonaparte first spotted the widow Marie-Josephe-Rose de Beauharnais at a party. Her then-lover set her up by telling her to entertain the general; Napoleon was instantly smitten, and pursued her relentlessly. She gave in, and the couple were married in 1796. (Napoleon insisted on calling her Josephine instead of her given name, Rose.) They stayed married for 13 years, and though Josephine was known to stray often, Napoleon was deeply in love with her.
Chateau de la Malmaison, Rueil-Malmaison, France (cont’d)
In 1799, Josephine bought a three-story country cottage just outside Paris. Napoleon, still five years away from crowning himself Emperor of France, was off fighting in Egypt, so Josephine took on the task of transforming the house into a grand home. With the help of architects Charles Percier and Pierre Fontaine—and 3 million francs—she created a Roman-inspired interior that became the most-copied of its time, a perfect representation of the fashionable Empire style. The couple divorced in 1809, but Napoleon allowed Josephine to continue to live at her beloved chateau until her death in 1814. The house is open to the public.
Le Moulin de la Tuilerie, Glif-sur-Yvette, France
The Duke and Duchess of Windsor
Edward VIII of Britain abdicated the throne in 1936—after just 11 months as king—so he could marry his true love, American divorcee Wallis Simpson. The newly dubbed Duke and Duchess of Windsor left Britain for France, where they lived before and after World War II. In 1952, they found a perfect romantic retreat at Le Moulin de la Tuilerie, a country cottage near Versailles. Simpson once described their residence as “our only real home.” The house served as a weekend getaway, where they entertained friends, including the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton (see above).
Le Moulin de la Tuilerie, Glif-sur-Yvette, France (cont’d)
Though the interior decor has been critiqued as “tacky,” the style was purely Simpson: a little off-kilter and over-the-top (think: brightly colored carpets). Edward was particularly meticulous about the maintenance and appearance of his gardens, where he employed an English designer to tend to his plots. The couple spent weekends there until the Duke’s death in 1972. Wallis followed him in 1986. The home is now available for holiday rentals.
Casa Guidi, Florence, Italy
Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning
How much did these two Romantic poets love each other? Let us count the ways. Robert Browning first contacted Elizabeth Barrett as a fan. He admired her poetry and wrote to tell her so. Soon they were introduced, and in 1846, Elizabeth and Robert married in secret and stole away to Florence. In a letter to her sister, Elizabeth affectionately comments on the rooms inside their love nest, Casa Giudi, “three of which are magnificent and the others excellent…to say nothing of our terraces.”
Casa Guidi, Florence, Italy (cont’d)
The Drawing Room is where Elizabeth wrote; it contained bookcases, couches, books from fellow authors, and had so much meaning for Robert that he sanctioned an oil sketch of the room. The couple sensibly filled their home with mostly used items; they were not a couple of extravagance. In 1861, Elizabeth passed away at Casa Guidi and Robert left soon after. The house is open to the public and contains memorabilia of the poetic couple.
Balmoral Castle, Balmoral, Scotland
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert
As Queen, she was his superior. But the love between Victoria and her Saxon prince-husband was so great that she fought to make him her “king-consort,” though her advisors kept her from doing so. Their loving, admirable partnership was brief, as marriages go—just 21 years from 1840 to 1861. But it produced nine children—and one of the most splendid vacation homes in the United Kingdom.
Balmoral Castle, Balmoral, Scotland (cont’d)
The picturesque Balmoral Castle in the Highlands of Scotland was a complete overhaul of the structure they purchased. Deeming the original too small, Albert designed a new castle to suit their fancies, and Victoria laid the first foundation stone for the rebuild in 1853. And much as she served as a support to Albert’s castle renovation, Albert increasingly aided Victoria throughout her reign. They were a true power couple, the castle serving as a representation of their mastery. It expands 50,000 acres, and is so beloved, to this day it remains the British Royal family’s private vacation residence.