Collage of photos of some of the buildings mentioned in the article

The Most Architecturally Significant Building in Every State

From Alabama to Wyoming, the United States is filled with incredible buildings

We’re dedicating our August features to architecture and design. After spending an unprecedented amount of time at home, we’ve never been more ready to check into a dreamy new hoteldiscover hidden architectural gems, or hit the road in luxury. Now, we’re excited to celebrate the shapes and structures that make our world beautiful with an inspiring story of how one city is restoring its most sacred monuments, a look at how historic hotels are prioritizing accessibility, an examination of how architecture could be changing the way we travel in cities, and a rundown of the most architecturally significant buildings in every state.

The United States is filled with incredible and magnificent buildings across the country. Some date back to the early years of the nation’s founding, while others were constructed in the new millennium. Stunning structures from dozens of centuries have made their mark on the country, making the U.S. the impressive place it is today. From near-unknown builders to trailblazing women to starchitects with names like Frank Lloyd Wright and Daniel Libeskind, the architects who have built the most significant buildings in the country are a diverse lot—just like the buildings they created. But as diverse as they are, all the buildings have one thing in common: extraordinarily striking design that stands out from the crowd.

Heaviest Corner on Earth

Patrick Cain from Corvallis via Wikimedia Commons

Birmingham, Alabama: Heaviest Corner on Earth

While technically these are four buildings, these Birmingham steel structures combine to make a major impression. Constructed during the early 1900s building boom in Birmingham, the Woodward Building was built in 1902, the Brown-Marx Building in 1906, the Empire building in 1909, and the American Trust and Savings Building in 1912. At the time, these were four of the tallest buildings in the country. Because they were made of steel and located on four corners facing each other in the center of downtown, they were given the nickname the “Heaviest Corner on Earth.”

Fairbanks, Alaska: University of Alaska Museum of the North

Somewhat reminiscent of the Sydney Opera House, this swooping modern white building also calls to mind snow and ice. Designed by Joan Soranno of GDM/HGA in 2005, the museum has cultural and natural exhibits representing the region.

Scottsdale, Arizona: Taliesin West

Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright as a retreat from the Wisconsin winters that the original Taliesen was subjected to, Taliesin West was built in 1937 and became his summer residence, filled with much of his furniture as well. It also became an active architecture school, which is still functioning, and today the public can take guided tours of the structures and grounds.

Eureka Springs, Arkansas: Thorncrown Chapel

A stunning glass-and-wood building with crisscrossing beams that invites the surrounding forest in, Thorncrown Chapel is a one-of-a-kind structure. Commissioned by Arkansas native Jim Reed as a nondenominational chapel, it was designed by E. Fay Jones, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, and built in 1980. In 2000, the chapel was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and in 2006, it was awarded the Twenty-five Year Award by the American Institute of Architects.

Exploring California's Hearst Castle
George Rose / Getty Images

San Simeon, California: Hearst Castle

Commissioned by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, this sprawling Central California estate was designed and built by architect Julia Morgan (the first woman to study architecture at the School of Beaux-Arts in Paris and the first woman to have her own architectural practice in California) between 1919 and 1947. Highlights of Hearst Castle include the 68,500-square-foot Casa Grande, the Gothic library, lush gardens, the stunning Neptune Pool, and Hearst’s art collection. Visitors can tour the grounds of this National Historic Landmark.

Denver, Colorado: Frederic C. Hamilton Building, Denver Art Museum

Designed by Daniel Libeskind, this building was the first of his buildings to be completed in the U.S. when it opened in 2006. The geometric jagged cantilevered building juts out, and it looks different from every angle and viewpoint. Clad in 9,000 titanium panels, the surface reflects the Denver skyline and the Rocky Mountains.

New Canaan, Connecticut: Grace Farms Community Center

Although Philip Johnson’s Glass House is rightfully revered, this community center completed in 2015 is staking a new claim as one of the state’s stunning architectural feats. Set on an 80-acre preserve, the twisty wooden pavilion linking glass-walled rooms was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning Japanese architecture firm Sanaa.

Lewes, Delaware: Zwaanendael Museum

In 1631, Delaware got its first European settlement, called Zwaanendael, and founded by the Dutch. Three hundred years later, in 1931, this museum was built as a replica of the city hall in Hoorn, Netherland. The stepped façade, terra cotta roof tiles, and decorated shutters are classic Dutch architectural elements of the 17th century. The exhibits inside include displays on the maritime and other local histories of the area.

The Dali Museum Grand Opening Ribbon Cutting And Festival
Michael Weimar / Getty Images

St. Petersburg, Florida: Salvador Dalí Museum

Designed by Yann Weymouth of HOK, this freeform geodesic glass bubble set on an 18-inch thick concrete rectangle was completed in 2011. The bubble is known as the “enigma” and is made of 1,062 triangular pieces of glass and rises 75 feet high. Inside is another iconic element, the helix staircase that recalls a DNA strand. The museum displays the largest collection of works of the artist Salvador Dalí outside of Europe and works by artists inspired by him.

Atlanta, Georgia: Atlanta Marriott Marquis

Atlanta architect John Portman is responsible for many of the buildings that make up Atlanta’s skyline, including this iconic skyscraper. This 1985 hotel masterpiece—endearingly referred to as the “Pregnant Building”—is a 52-story building with a bottom that bulges out, giving the hotel its show-stopping atrium. When it opened, it was the largest atrium globally, and the building has been featuring in several films, including two of the "Hunger Games" movies.

Roadway leading up to Iolani Palace in Honolulu, HI

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Honolulu, Hawaii: Iolani Palace

The only royal palace in the U.S., Iolani Palace was built for David Kalākaua, the last reigning king of Hawaii. He was also the first Hawaiian king to travel around the world in 1881, where he was inspired by some of the European palaces. The gorgeous palace was designed by Thomas J. Baker, Charles J. Wall, and Isaac Moore, and today it’s a National Historic Landmark.

Boise, Idaho: Idaho State Capitol Building

Built between 1905 and 1920, Idaho’s state capitol was built from locally sourced sandstone. The classical design has a central dome that rises more than 200 feet and is topped by a golden eagle. Perhaps most impressive, though, is that it’s the only state capital building in the country that’s geothermally heated.  

Chicago, Illinois: Willis Tower

Chicago’s skyline is dotted with some of the country’s most iconic and beautiful buildings, making it hard to select just one for this list. But when push comes to shove, it’s hard to ignore the massive 108-story Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) that, well, towers over the city at 1,450 feet. Built in 1973-1974 by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill architecture firm, Willis Tower was the tallest building in the world for 25 years, and today it is the third tallest building in the U.S. Visitors can ascend to the 103rd-floor observation deck and step out onto the glass enclosed balcony for a panoramic view of the Windy City.

Indianapolis, Indiana: Madam Walker Legacy Center

This theatre opened in 1927 in honor of Black entrepreneur Madam CJ Walker, who passed away eight years earlier. She made her fortune inventing and selling hair care products, and it was the site of her factory where all the hair care products were made. She employed hundreds of women who were deployed to go across the country selling the products. The building, one of the few remaining examples of African Art Deco design, recently went through a $15 million renovation.

Des Moines, Iowa: Krause Gateway Center

Famous architect Renzo Piano designed this modern office building, completed in early 2019, to be the new headquarters of Kum & Go, a convenience store chain primarily located in the Midwest. The 150,000-square-foot building is wrapped in glass panels, with the lobby windows measuring 29 feet high.

Cottonwood Falls, Kansas: Chase County Courthouse

Completed in 1873, this French Renaissance-style building designed by John G. Haskell is constructed of walnut and limestone, quarried on the townsite. The courthouse is characterized by the distinctive shape of the red mansard roof, and inside is a three-story spiral staircase made from walnut trees from the Cottonwood River. It is the oldest Kansas courthouse still in use.

The Mint Jubilee
Michael Loccisano / Getty Images

Louisville, Kentucky: Palace Theater

This historic landmark opened its downtown doors on Sept. 1, 1928. Designed by architect John Eberson, it was originally known as the Loew’s and United Artists State Theatre. The striking building is Spanish Baroque style and features arcades, balconies, and turrets with blue, red, and gold accents. The dramatic vaulted ceiling has 139 sculptures and has hosted musicians like Tom Waits, Ray Charles, Alison Krauss, and Kings of Leon.

New Orleans, Louisiana: Doullut Steamboat Houses

These unique homes were designed in 1905 by steamboat captain Paul Doullut to resemble the steamboats he piloted along the river. The first home was for himself, and in 1913 he built an identical one for his son. The 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis featured a Japanese pavilion, and its thought that Doullut may have been influenced by it, leading him to give the homes a Japanese pagoda style, which he then mixed with ornate Gothic features.

Portland, Maine: Portland Observatory

This octagonal 86-foot tower at the top of Munjoy Hill was built in 1807 and used until 1923. At 221 feet above sea level, it was an ideal signal for ships arriving into the harbor. Today it’s a museum and state landmark, and the top floor is open to guests and affords sweeping ocean views.

Baltimore, Maryland: Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African-American History & Culture

One of the few downtown Baltimore buildings designed by Black architects, the museum was designed by Philip Freelon and Gary Bowden and completed in 2005. One of the largest African-American museums in the country, the design represents the dignity, struggle, and accomplishments of African-Americans in Maryland.

Trinity Church and Copley Square
Bruce Yuanyue Bi / Getty Images

Boston, Massachusetts: Trinity Church

Named by many (including the American Association of Architects) as one of the most architecturally significant buildings in the U.S., Trinity Church was built by Henry Hobson Richardson in the 1870s (although its parish was established in 1733) and was his first major work. It’s a premier example of what came to be known as the eponymously named Richardsonian Romanesque and features arches, stained glass, mosaics, and rough stone.

Detroit, Michigan: Fisher Building

The Motor City skyline is filled with Art Deco masterpieces that came about during the heyday of the automobile industry. The 30-story Fisher Building was designed by Albert Kahn in 1928. The façade is made from limestone, granite, and various types of marble. The original roof was covered in gold leaf, but it was hidden under asphalt during World War II, which could then not be removed. Today the roof is covered in green tiles that are lit to give them a golden hue. Today it houses the landmarked Fisher Theatre and is also the headquarters for Detroit Public Schools.

Exterior of the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum on the University of Minnesota Campus

Raymond Boyd / Contributor / Getty Images

Minneapolis, Minnesota: Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum

Starchitect Frank Gehry and his trademark fragmented curvy metal sheets are represented at this modern art museum at the University of Minnesota. The building was completed in 1993 and received an addition, also designed by Gehry, in 2011.

Natchez, Mississippi: Longwood

Known as “Nutt’s Folley,” Longwood was commissioned by plantation owners Haller and Julia Nutt in the late 1850s, but work on the home was discontinued in 1861 when the workers left due to the Civil War. The Nutts, who were enslavers, endeavored to continue work on the building, but only the basement when work stopped on it in 1862, Nutt died two years later. However, it remains the largest standing octagonal house in the country. It is a six-story, 30,000-square-foot Oriental Revival Style mansion with a domed cupola, 32 rooms, 26 fireplaces, 115 doors, and 96 columns.

Kansas City, Missouri: Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts

This complicated structure designed by Moshe Safdie features two symmetrical half-shells made from concentric arches anchored by 27 steel cables. Each one houses an individual performance venue, with the two sharing a backstage. The southern end features the lobby, made completely out of glass, affording sweeping city views. The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts opened in 2011 and hosts performances by the Kansas City Ballet, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, the Kansas City Symphony, and others.

Helena, Montana: Cathedral of St. Helena

Inspired by Votivkirche in Vienna, architect A.O. Von Herbulis started constructing the Gothic-style cathedral in 1908 and completed it in 1914. The stained-glass windows, which tell the story of Adam and Eve, were made in Bavaria, and the spires rise 230 feet.

Omaha, Nebraska: Durham Museum

Located inside Omaha’s former Union Station, the Durham Museum exhibits the history of the country’s western region. The Art Deco building designed by Gilbert Stanley Underwood is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and is a U.S. National Historic Landmark. The Suzanne and Walter Scott Great Hall was previously the main waiting room of the station. The impressive hall features a 60-foot ceiling of sculptured plaster, 10 massive cathedral-like glass windows, a patterned terrazzo floor, black Belgian marble wainscoting, and six huge Art Deco-style chandeliers.

Exterior of the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health

Monster4711, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Las Vegas, Nevada: Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health

Opened in 2010 and designed by Pritzker Prize-winning Frank Gehry, the Lou Ruvo Center was founded by Larry Ruvo in memory of his father, Lou Ruvo, who had Alzheimer’s disease. The design feature’s Gehry’s typical twisted metal and is almost reminiscent of a Dr. Seuss-like structure that seems to be melting in the hot Nevada sun.

Bretton Woods, New Hampshire: Omni Mount Washington Resort

A Gilded Age hotel that opened its doors back in 1902, the castle-like Omni Mount Washington Resort was designed by Charles Alling Gifford. Previously known as Mount Washington Hotel, it was known as one of the best hotels in the country when it opened against a backdrop of the stunning White Mountains. The hotel has hosted historical luminaries, including Thomas Edison and several U.S. presidents. In 1986 it was designated a National Historic Landmark, and it’s a member of the Historic Hotels of America.

Holmdel, New Jersey: Bell Works

This 472-acre campus has a 1.9-million-square-foot mirrored-glass main building designed in 1958 by the legendary architect Eero Saarinen. Formerly known as the Bell Labs Holmdel Complex and then Bell Telephone Laboratories, the campus was a scientific research facility that closed in 2007. In 2013, Somerset Development bought the building and had it renovated by Alexander Gorlin Architects. Today it is a mixed-use site that is home to offices, shops, entertainment, and restaurants.

Taos, New Mexico: Taos Pueblo

Although there are actually several buildings, it’s hard to get past the architectural and cultural significance of these red adobe structures dating back to the 15th century. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Pueblo de Taos is a still-lived-in Native American community built in terraced tiers with homes and ceremonial buildings.

The Empire State Building

Sebastian Noack / EyeEm

New York, New York: Empire State Building

While the Manhattan skyline glitters with countless significant and impressive buildings, it’s hard to ignore one of the most famous buildings in the world. Celebrating its 90th anniversary, the 102-story, 1,454-foot-tall Art Deco skyscraper by Shreve, Lamb & Harmon was completed in 1931 and was the tallest building in the world until 1970. Visitors can take the elevator up to the 86th-floor and the 102nd-floor observatories, both renovated in 2019.

Asheville, North Carolina: Biltmore

George Vanderbilt commissioned this massive estate as his country home in 1889. The French Renaissance chateau took six years to build and used hundreds of builders to create the largest residential home in the country. It has more than four acres of floor space, with 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces. Today the estate includes a winery and hotel, and the original home is open for guided tours.

Bismarck, North Dakota: State Historical Society of North Dakota

This 97,000-square-foot structure has a mostly limestone exterior, with a striking glass-and-steel cube as an entrance, with two copper wings on either side. It is the state’s official history museum and was originally opened in 1981 but was expanded and renovated in 2014.

Cleveland, Ohio: Hyatt Regency Cleveland at the Arcade

Although it is a hotel now, it encompasses one of Ohio’s most important architectural landmarks, the Arcade. A Victorian-era structure consisting of two nine-story buildings joined by a five-story arcade, the Arcade has a glass skylight more than 300 feet long that spreads along the four balconies. Erected in 1890, it is identified as one of the earliest indoor shopping malls in the U.S. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1975.

Tulsa, Oklahoma: Boston Avenue Methodist Church

An Art Deco icon, this church in Tulsa features terracotta sculptures by artist Robert Garrison and intricate Art Deco details and embellishments. Completed in 1929, the building was based on designs by local art teacher Adah Robinson and architect Bruce Goff.

Salem, Oregon: Oregon State Capitol

Although this is the third building to house the state’s government in Salem (two previous buildings were destroyed by fire), it has left a mark. Constructed between 1936 and 1938 and expanded in 1977, the unique building forgoes the typical dome that many capitol buildings have. Instead, the Art Deco building is covered in brilliant white Vermont marble and has a flat-topped rotunda with a gilded bronze statue of the Oregon Pioneer at the top.

The Fallingwater House

Richard A. Cooke III / Contributor / Getty Images

Mill Run, Pennsylvania: Fallingwater

One of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most famous works, Fallingwater is known as one of the most beautiful houses in existence, and it has garnered countless accolades and awards. Completed in 1937, the cantilevered structure blends modern and organic architecture while letting the natural surroundings effortlessly shine through.

Newport, Rhode Island: The Breakers

Another Gilded Age Vanderbilt family home makes the list with this opulent, over-the-top mansion inspired by the 16th-century palazzos of Genoa and Turin. Architect Richard Morris Hunt designed the exterior, completed in 1895. Jules Allard and Sons and Ogden Codman, Jr., designed the ornate interior that visitors can’t help but ogle on tours today.

Murrells Inlet, South Carolina: Atalaya Castle at Huntington Beach State Park

A Spanish-Moorish style compound built during the Great Depression, Atalaya Castle is the former winter home and studio of American sculptress Anna Hyatt Huntington and her husband, Archer Milton Huntington, who designed the home. The couple employed local laborers to build and maintain the home and gardens to help them make a living during the Depression. Thirty rooms surround a courtyard with a 40-foot-tall water tower.

Originally built in 1892 and modified several times, the Corn Palace, which doubles as an auditorium
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Mitchell, South Dakota: Mitchell Corn Palace

Perhaps not surprisingly, this is the world’s only corn palace. Built in 1921 in the Moorish Revival style and adorned with crop art made from corn, it features a new corn-cob mural every year. The palace functions as an auditorium and event space and hosts everything from concerts to rodeos.

Chattanooga, Tennessee: Hunter Museum of American Art

This structure comprises three buildings that span 100 years and incorporate three different styles that manage to blend together to create a one-of-a-kind masterpiece. The original building is a 1904 classical revival mansion designed by Abram Garfield (son of President Garfield) in the Edwardian style. Starting in 1952, it housed the museum. In 1975, a Brutalist style addition was designed by Chattanooga architects Derthick, Henley & Wilkerson, and then in 2005, Randall Stout designed what now serves as the dramatic entrance to the museum.

San Antonio, Texas: Mission San Jose

While the Alamo Mission may get more attention because of its history, San Antonio has five famous missions that make up the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. Mission San Jose is the largest and is known as the “Queen of the Missions.” The stone mission was founded in 1720 and was once the heart of a vibrant Spanish community.

St. George, Utah: St. George Utah Temple

Although the Salt Lake City Temple is larger and perhaps more famous, this all-white stunner is unforgettable. Both Church of the Latter Day Saints temples were designed by Truman O. Angell and this one, completed in 1877, has quintessential elements of Gothic architecture.

Old Round Church
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Richmond, Vermont: Old Round Church

This 16-sided polygon structure was built in 1814 by local blacksmith and carpenter William Rhodes. It originally served five different branches of Protestantism in 1814 and then as the town hall from 1880 until 1973. Rumor has it that it was built in a circular shape so that the devil had no corners to hide in.

Charlottesville, Virginia: Monticello

Monticello was the home of President Thomas Jefferson, who designed, built, and lived here until he died in 1826. Jefferson traveled to Europe in the mid-1780s, which likely provided a lot of influence for his home. Today, visitors can tour the entire estate.

Exterior of the Seattle Public Library

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Seattle, Washington: Seattle Public Library

Rem Koolhaus worked with Seattle’s LMN Architects to create this truly modern library building in 2004. The mirrored-glass angular structure has cantilevered sections that provide reading nooks with city views.

White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia: The Greenbrier

This resort may be more famous for what it has underground: a 12,544-square-foot bunker built during the Cold War 720 feet under the Greenbrier’s West Virginia Wing. An active site for 30 years meant to protect members of the U.S. government in the event of an attack; today, guests can go on tours of the massive bunker. Above ground, the genteel resort’s current building was constructed in 1913 (although the hotel dates back to 1778), and high-society decorator Dorothy Draper oversaw an interior renovation in the mid-20th century that has informed the hotel’s character ever since.

Spring Green, Wisconsin: Taliesin

Frank Lloyd Wright grew up in Wisconsin, and he returned in 1911 to build this summer residence on his favorite boyhood hill. The estate, which sits on 800 acres and is an ideal representation of the architect’s Prairie School design principles, is home to his private quarters, studio, and architecture school. Highlights include the Romeo & Juliet Windmill, Hillside School, Tan-y-Deri, and Midway Barn. In 1976, Taliesin was designated a National Historic Landmark, and in 2019 it was named UNESCO World Heritage Site along with seven other Wright buildings.

Jackson, Wyoming: National Museum of Wildlife Art

This museum seems to blend right into its gorgeous natural surroundings and is actually built from the ruins of Scotland’s Slain Castle. Built in 1987, the low-slung building holds a collection of North American wildlife art.

Illustration: TripSavvy / Taylor McIntyre