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Seldom-Seen Snapshots of American History

Photojournalist David Kidd has traveled to nearly every state in the union while on assignment. His keen interest in American history has led to some interesting and unique discoveries about the nation’s past.

A sculpture of George Washington inside the Virginia state Capitol building.
Jean-Antoine Houdon’s sculpture of George Washington was installed in Virginia’s Capitol rotunda in 1796.
American history is essentially the combined histories of the states, nearly all of which I have visited as Governing’s resident photojournalist and storyteller. Sometimes an assignment will take me directly to a location of historic consequence. Twice, I have been to America’s oldest meeting house in Pelham, Mass., where every year the town’s citizens break their own record for continuous, consecutive town meetings. The 244th annual meeting was called to order last October before the proceedings were moved outside because of COVID-19. Newly whitewashed, the building looks much the same as it did when it opened in 1740. Inside, the backs of the ancient pews still bear the scars of bored, knife-wielding graffiti artists. A few bare bulbs hanging from the ceiling and a 1950s-era kitchen are the only concessions to modern times.

On two separate occasions, two different Maryland governors have granted me access to the cupola atop the state Capitol’s dome. One of the two made a point of coming with me, sharing stories of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams conversing on the very spot where we stood, high above the city of Annapolis. Centuries-old wooden beams that support the dome are in full view while climbing the steep steps to the top. Several stories below, on the ground floor, a statue of General George Washington stands where he voluntarily resigned his military commission in 1783. At the time, America’s oldest statehouse also served as the U.S. capitol.

But American history doesn’t begin and end with the 13 original colonies. There are innumerable places to go, and things to see, in every state in the union. What follows are some of the historically significant places I’ve been lucky enough to visit while traveling for Governing.
An American flag next to a gravestone.
A number of Revolutionary soldiers are buried next to the Old Dutch Church in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.
David Kidd
A street lined with old buildings.
Dating from the mid 1600s to 1774, the four stone houses at the corner of Crown and John Streets in Kingston, N.Y., make up the only remaining per-revolutionary intersection in the nation.
Wooden benches inside a small room with an old wood-burning stove.
Every year since 1743, without interruption, the citizens of Pelham, Mass., have gathered at their meeting house to vote on the issues of the day.
Natural Bridge
Once owned by Thomas Jefferson, Natural Bridge is now a Virginia state park.
An old table with two chairs.
The current mayor of York, Pa., lives in a house once occupied by Thomas Paine.
The interior of the dome on the Maryland Capitol building.
Work began on the Maryland statehouse in 1772, but the exterior of the dome was not completed until 1788 and the interior in 1797. It is held together without nails, only wooden pegs.
The headstone on the grave of Harriet Tubman.
Harriet Tubman is buried in Auburn, N.Y., where she lived in a house purchased from Secretary of State William Seward, also a resident of Auburn.
An old home in the snow.
The only house Abraham Lincoln ever owned is at the corner of 8th and Jackson in Springfield, Ill.
A statue depicting a man and a woman immigrating, with the man carrying a suitcase and the woman carrying a baby.
Dedicated in 1972, a St. Louis statue commemorates Italian immigrants who arrived over a century ago.
The interior of a reconstructed earth lodge at On-A-Slant Village in North Dakota.
Five of the original 75 earth lodges have been reconstructed at On-A-Slant Village in North Dakota, once home to 1,000 members of the Mandan Tribe.
David Kidd
Mount Rushmore with snow on it.
Before settling on four presidents, the likenesses of Lewis and Clark, Sacagawea, Chief Red Cloud and Lakota warrior Crazy Horse were to be carved into the face of Mount Rushmore.
The Crazy Horse Memorial being carved out of Thunderhead Mountain.
Seventeen miles from Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial is slowly being carved out of Thunderhead Mountain.
Franklin Roosevelt’s bedroom at the Little White House in Warm Springs, Ga.
Franklin Roosevelt’s bedroom at the Little White House in Warm Springs, Ga., just as it was when he died there in the spring of 1945.
David Kidd is a photojournalist and storyteller for Governing. He can be reached at dkidd@governing.com.
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