Every state in the Union lays claim to something special. It might be a dominance in industry, spectacular natural beauty, or perhaps they’ve even been involved in some infamous scandal.
Those bragging rights extend to their more curious contributions, too. We rounded up funny, fascinating, and architecturally odd structures in every state to prove there’s plenty of weird* to be found from sea to shining sea.
(*To be considered, buildings needed to be aesthetically bizarre, have a strange backstory, or both. Understandably, some states had a significantly more fruitful selection.)
This octagonal house was used as staff headquarters for Union Cavalry at the end of the the Civil War, and it’s one of only a handful of antebellum eight-sided homes to have survived in the South.
The Dr. Seuss House
Unofficially named after the beloved author for its uncanny resemblance to Seuss’ illustrated abodes, this 12-story spectacle was abandoned for around 10 years and only recently completed. Considering the views from the top, its owners may legitimately be able to see Russia from their house.
Chapel of the Holy Cross
Dreamed up by an Arizona heiress who was somehow inspired by the construction of the Empire State Building in 1932, this Catholic church was built directly into the rock face, but unfortunately resembles a villains lair more than anything. Still, it’s cool as hell.
Where: Eureka Springs
This ethereal wooden and stone church sits in the middle of a forest, as if abandoned and sacrificed to overgrowth. And while it looks like an open-air structure, it’s enclosed by enormous glass panels all around it.
You may recognize the 60-foot high T-Rex sculpture, “Rex”, from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure or this Tears For Fears video. Built in 1962, it’s one of two giant dinos on the property, and has a staircase that extends from the tail up to a lookout room behind his teeth. These days it’s owned by a group of creationists to spread their, ahem, unique views on the origin of man.
What began as a family construction project in 1969 has transformed into a remarkable castle-shaped “monument of hardworking people”, built by an exceptionally eccentric dude who singlehandedly sourced the 1,000 tons of rock needed to finish it.
Where: East Haddam
This odd-looking stone specimen was commissioned by the American actor William Gillette, best known for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. After his death, its status was in limbo as Gillette (who was unmarried and childless) left a clause in his will that it was to never be owned by a “blithering sap-head who has no conception of where he is or with what surrounded.” Eventually, the state stepped in and took it over. Sorry, William.
In the late ’60s, this retrofuturistic spaceship abode was developed by the Finnish architect Matti Suuronen. Just 96 were constructed, and only half of those have been accounted for around the world—including this one in the middle of a Delaware field.
Where: Lake Wales
Curiously not the Eye Of Sauron, this monolith in the middle of a tropical landscape is a 205-foot tall stained glass-encased bell tower surrounded down below by a botanical garden and bird sanctuary. And probably alligators.
Where: Buena Vista
This internationally renowned compound actually consists of six wildly colorful buildings surrounded by totems and sculptures. It was constructed by a wildly eccentric folk artist who went by the name “Saint EOM.”
Coco Palms Resort
In its heyday, this was a posh resort hotel and moviestar hangout, not to mention the backdrop for the Elvis film Blue Hawaii. After a hurricane in 1992, it fell into disrepair and is now abandoned, burned out, and overgrown, but nonetheless a popular spot among tourists for its rich history
Dog Bark Park Inn
Colloquially known among locals as Sweet Willy, this two-story beagle-shaped building isobviously a dog-themed bed and breakfast.
Raven’s Grin Inn
Where: Mt. Carroll
This former hotel was converted by its current owner into a year-round house of haunts, with weird handmade contraptions, creepy rooms, and a slide that extends from the attic to lower floors.
Now a museum, this former jail’s rotating design was a short-lived and brutal trend in incarceration. The cells were built on a platform that spun around a central axis which could be moved by hand crank to let inmates in or out, one at a time.
Castles of Ida Grove
Where: Ida Grove
Iowa’s winner is less a single structure, and more of an entire town’s worth of weirdness. One of its wealthiest residents (and hardcore castle fan), Byron LeRoy Godbersen, set off a castle-building craze in the 1970s, and eventually everything from strip malls to fast food joints around town were rocking the medieval look.
The Garden of Eden
The dizzying 12-roomed cabin of the eccentric sculptor Samuel P. Dinsmoore is surrounded by a sculpture garden filled with hundreds of his concrete models. He was so attached to them that he was laid to rest in a handmade mausoleum, which sits in one of the home’s corner rooms.
Before viral advertising, it was all about making sure your customers knew exactly what your business was all about. Exhibit A: this giant mortar and pestle-shaped pharmacy (which has since been reopened as a liquor store).
Where: St. Francisville
Often making it on the list of America’s most haunted homes, this old-school plantation is rumored to have been built on an ancient Tunica Indian burial ground. If you don’t believe it’s legitimately spooky, ask the Unsolved Mysteries crew, who allegedly encountered some weird technical difficulties while filming a segment there.
Nervous Nellie’s Jams and Jellies
Where: Deer Isle
This seriously eclectic outpost may sell homemade jams and jellies, but the truly unique thing here the random selection of sculptures, repurposed farm equipment, and Wild West-styled authentic 19th-Century buildings that dot the premises.
Enchanted Forest Amusement Park
Where: Ellicott City
Like a cruel reminder that childhood doesn’t last, this once-thriving fantasyland is now a crumbling set of buildings—like this miniature castle—behind a strip mall.
This trippy Frank Gehry building on MIT’s campus is not only trippy to stare up at, but also filled with a laundry list of design flaws according to a lawsuit MIT filed against the architect in 2007.
Earl Young Mushroom Houses
Like a tiny Middle Earth in the Midwest, this collection of 31 tiny homes was designed and built over 52 years by an untrained architect using stones, boulders, and other materials he sourced from around the area.
Weisman Art Museum
Frank Gehry’s second nod on the list, this maze of angles sprouting from the ground is a landmark on the University of Minnesota.
This outrageously un-PC roadside attraction was repainted during the 1960s in an effort to be less offensive, but still functions as a restaurant, serving lunches and desserts.
Where: St. Louis
This one-time cement plant on the outskirts of St. Louis was partially transformed into an industrial playground for adults by the sculptor Bob Casilly. He had grand plans to build it up with pyramids and waterslides, but was tragically killed in 2011 when a bulldozer rolled onto him while he was toiling at the site.
Anaconda Smelter Stack
Less a building and more a giant freakin’ chimney, this beast is so tall and wide the Washington Monument could fit inside. Add to that its existence amongst such stark surroundings, and you understand why this made the list.
Maskell City Hall
You know you live in a small town when your city hall is the size of tool shed. Since you’re probably wondering, yep, it is the tiniest city hall in America.
Thunder Mountain Monument
The handiwork of Native American WWII vet Frank Dean Van Zant, this mesmerizing compound was a response to his alleged mid-life crisis. It’s made up of buildings (which he built in preparation for the apocalypse), found objects, and concrete sculptures and statues that depict various Native American spirits, massacres, and purported injustices.
This site’s loaded with fascinating manmade rock formations and caves that reportedly date back 4,000 years. Though there is still debate over its origins, and whether all of the structures are as old as speculated, or rather, built by the family who occupied the property in the 19th Century.
Lucy The Elephant
Where: Margate City
This outrageous 6-story elephant just outside Atlantic City was first built in 1881, used to sell real estate and attract tourists, and served as everything from restaurant to bar to cigar store over years. You can still walk up inside through its hind leg to get a unique view of the coast. It’s also been reported that Lucy was what inspired that guy in California to build the Cabazon Dinosaurs.
The largest wood and glue-laminate structure in the world, this enormous trestle was used during the Cold War as platform to test how military aircraft would hold up against high-altitude nuclear explosions. The program as discontinued in 1991, but the rig is still standing, and visible from the commercial runways of the Albuquerque airport.
Walking the streets of the well-to-do neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights, you’d probably never notice anything out of place about this red brick brownstone. But look a little closer, and you’ll notice the windows and door are blacked out. That’s because it isn’t a house at all, but rather a facade for a secret subway and ventilation point.
Castle Mont Rouge
Designed to serve as a sculptor’s studio, this fantastical castle pops out of nowhere at the end of a long rural road. After the untimely death of the artist’s wife, it was never finished and fell into disrepair. These days, it functions mostly as a haven for graffiti artists, though the artist did recently launch a since-unsuccessful Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to rehabilitate it.
Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex
This alienesque landscape is dotted with a slew of military facilities. They were used for a brief period in the mid-’70s as command and launch sites for anti-ballistic missiles. Ahhh, such sweet, sweet Cold War memories.
The Longaberger Company
Can you guess what this company makes? Baskets. It’s baskets.
The Bavinger House
This architectural marvel was built over five years in the ’50s by its to-be residents—a pair of artists—with help from their students and volunteers. Despite the rural location, it attracted many visitors, who were drawn to check out its unique features, including a 96-foot long spiral that serves as its outer wall.
Hot Lake Hotel
Originally built in 1864, this building has led quite a long and colorful life. First, as a hotel, which drew visitors to the nearby hot springs, then as a state-of-the-art hospital-cum-resort, later serving as a nursing home and asylum, and eventually a restaurant until it shuttered its doors in 1991. These days, the allegedly haunted complex is a simple bed and breakfast.
Haines Shoe House
Built in 1948 by a shoe salesman as a bold form of advertisement, this boot-shaped two-bedroom abode has changed hands a few times since then, and undergone some slight renovations to keep it in tip-top shape from heel to toe.
Fleur De Lys Studios
This colorful house, which sticks out quite boldly in historic downtown Providence, is considered to be an incredibly important element in the Arts and Crafts movement. It was conceived and built by the artist Sydney Burleigh to serve as a workspace for himself and his fellow artists. Today, it’s run by the Providence Art Club, and still partially functions as a studio space.
Where: Murrells Inlet
More reminiscent of a bunker these days, this sprawling concrete “castle” on the Atlantic was once the winter residence of the Huntingtons, a wealthy couple from New York. They temporarily vacated it during WWII and gave it over to the Air Army Corps to use, and left for good when Mr. Huntington passed away a few years later. Stripped of its furnishings, the 30-room residence was taken over, and is now open to the public.
Touted as “the world’s only corn palace” this onion-domed plant-shrine is filled with art made completely out of corn, and serves as a local venue for concerts, sports, and community events.
The Spaceship House
Where: Signal Mountain
Constructed in 1972 for the owner’s son, this flying saucer-shaped home is a full-on homage to pop culture spaceships of the era, complete with a drop-down staircase. Inside, most of the rooms (and even the furniture) are totally round. The best part? You can actually rent it for the weekend.
Superconducting Super Collider
Well before CERN was trying to discover the God Particle in Switzerland, Texas threw its hat in the ring to become a go-to venue for nuclear research. They even began construction on a super collider, but were forced to cancel when the feds cut funds after they discovered how ridiculously expensive it would end up being. The site, including the above ground complex, was purchased in 2012 by the chemical company Magnablend.
Mars Analogue Research Station
Supported by an international consortium of life-on-Mars enthusiasts, this plot of land is a venue that uses prototype research centers where scientists and engineers can live and work as if they were on the Red Planet.
The Dog Chapel
Where: St. Johnsbury
Of course Vermont has a church where you can worship and celebrate the bond you share with your four-legged friend. You go, VT.
The Markel Building
Can you guess what the inspiration behind this monstrosity was? If you guessed “a baked potato wrapped in aluminum foil” you’d be 100% correct. Seriously.
Experience Music Project
Oh, hey, it’s another Gehry building! This Paul Allen-founded museum is dedicated to contemporary pop culture, and has hosted exhibitions covering everything from the leather jacket in America to Battlestar Gallactica.
New Vrindaban Palace of Gold
It’s hard to believe this incredible, gilded Hare Krishna retreat is in the middle of West Virginia. It was originally meant to serve as the residence for the founder of the movement, but since he died two years before it even opened it was transformed into a shrine into him.
The House On The Rock
Rumor has it that the inspiration for this architectural oddity was the result of a conversation between its builder, Alex Jordan Jr., and Frank Lloyd Wright. Inside the rural home are a number of fantastical features, including the world’s largest indoor carousel and The Infinity Room, which is cantilevered over 200 feet beyond the rock the house sits on.
Where: Wapiti Valley
This radical handmade log cabin was the seemingly never-ending project of architect and engineer Francis Lee Smith. He started construction on it in 1973 using hand tools and an elaborate series of pulleys, and only stopped adding on in 1992, when he died. It fell into disrepair but his daughter has been pushing for a preservation campaign to ensure her father’s work is maintained as he would have wanted.
BONUS: Washington, D.C.
The Watergate Complex
While its architectural merit has been argued since construction was completed, it’s the building’s role in the scandal that took down Nixon, and its popularity among the D.C. elite that warrant its inclusion on this awesome, definitely definitive list.