Even before we launched our 2012 competition to find the Prettiest Painted Places in America, we suspected that we’d find no template in the winners – and the final results bear that out. Many of the country’s most beautiful painted places are quite different from one another, making the results of the judging all the more intriguing.
While it is true that many of the communities have historic roots and pride in their origins, some prevailed because of their award-winning Main Streets, others, their gorgeous residential areas, and still others, because of their spectacular mural collections.
A few of the winners have a rich mix of all of these elements. Together, our 12 national winners and nine other communities cited for exceptional painted appearance are a fascinating feast for the eyes.
- In the Northeast Region, the winners were Brookville, Pennsylvania and Downtown Frederick, Maryland. Brookville is a beautiful historic western Pennsylvania town with hundreds of artfully painted Victorian homes and buildings. Downtown Frederick’s Main Street area, home to a vibrant arts community, has beautifully painted architecture dating to the 1700s.
- The Southeast Region winners were Historic Downtown Smithfield, Virginia and Key West, Florida. The former is a quaint river town with many historic structures ranging in style from Colonial to Federal to Victorian. Key West, southernmost of the Florida Keys, has brightly painted “conch” homes and “shotgun-style” cottages constructed in the 1800s by shipbuilder-carpenters.
- Winners in the North Central Region were Bay View Association, Michigan and Stillwater, Minnesota. Bay View, an 1800s Methodist camp meeting community of more than 400 small cottages, is now a charming and colorful Victorian resort designated a National Historic Landmark. Stillwater has colorful mansions built by lumber barons and a Main Street listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
- In the South Central Region, the winners were Old Arabi Neighborhood, St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana and Lafayette Square, St. Louis, Missouri. The former, located just five miles from New Orleans’ French Quarter, has two historic districts full of beautifully painted structures. Lafayette Square is an elegant urban neighborhood comprised of stately Victorian-era homes with fine painted detailing.
- The Northwest Region winners were The Victorian Village of Ferndale, California and Eureka, California. Ferndale has a nationally recognized historic business district with beautifully detailed commercial buildings and brightly painted homes. Eureka is a port city 100 miles south of the Oregon border with fantastic Victorian homes built by lumber magnates.
- Winners in the Southwest Region were Tubac, Arizona and Manhattan Beach, California. Established in 1752 as a Spanish fort, Tubac is an exquisite, brightly painted town with more than 100 galleries and businesses lining its meandering streets. Manhattan Beach is a colorful coastal community near Los Angeles where the beautiful landscape is punctuated with artful, individualistic paint color.
But the 12 winners aren’t the only places that impressed. Nine other communities were so striking that the judges extended them “exceptional merit” honors for their beautiful painted appearance. This distinguished fraternity includes:
- Cape May, New Jersey: One of America’s oldest seashore resorts, the Victorian National Historic Landmark town is notable for its beautifully painted homes and buildings.
- Crested Butte, Colorado: A one-time Old West supply town, its colorful buildings and old storefronts are now home to sophisticated galleries and eateries.
- Old Louisville, Kentucky: Old Louisville comprises the country’s largest concentration of restored Victorian homes – nearly 48 city blocks of rich architecture serving today as B&amnp;Bs, museums, and private residences.
- Ottawa and Franklin County, Kansas: Native American culture is evident in the county, which experienced economic expansion with the arrival of the railroads in 1868, resulting in the construction of historic homes and storefronts now lovingly restored.
- Owego Historic District, New York: Located in the Finger Lakes Region, the small town is known for the pristine condition of its historic buildings and its outstanding Central Historic District.
- Paducah, Kentucky: Home of the National Quilt Museum, the appearance of this vibrant river-town resembles a quilt in its colorfully painted, turn-of-the-century architecture.
- Historic Park City, Utah: Long before it hosted the Olympics, the community was a silver mining town with a colorful past that today is reflected in its pretty painted homes and buildings.
- Richmond, Indiana: Community pride runs high in this small city, as evidenced not only by the beautifully painted homes and buildings, but also by dozens of beautifully rendered murals that depict its 200-plus-year history.
- Original Town Site Historic District, Victoria, Texas: Hailed as one of the top ten cities in America for historic preservation, Victoria’s center has more than 100 structures listed on the National Register, some dating back to the 1850s.
For a glimpse of these communities, click here to see a video on the 12 winners in our competition; click here to visit a gallery of photos submitted by the “exceptional merit” towns and neighborhoods. We suspect that, like our judges, you’ll be impressed!