Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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Roaming the Halls of America’s 80th Largest House

E.W. Marland Estate, Ponca City, OklahomaCruising through the quiet streets of Ponca City, Oklahoma, I passed by the Poncan Theatre (opened in 1927 to a crowd of 1,200 people), City Hall (built in 1916 as an auditorium), and the Ponca City Library, in a Spanish-influenced design to complement City Hall, across the street. Just a few minutes away, I reached my destination, the fantastic E.W. Marland Estate, a 55-room palace on 30 acres built like an Italian villa for lawyer, oilman, Congressman, and governor E.W. Marland and his wife in 1928 — a mansion that they lived in for fewer than three years. Read more about one of the best house museums in the United States >


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50 Candidates, 5 Winners: The Most Beautiful State Capitols in the United States

Missouri State CapitolAs Washington, D.C., continues to fail to deliver meaningful, beneficial change to the vast majority of Americans, state governments step up to fill in this appalling lack of action. From minimum wage increases to environmental legislation, governors and state senators and representatives enact changes on a local level. And many of them around the country get to do that in what is very often the most beautiful building in the capital city of their respective state. From domed cruciforms to tower skyscrapers, from a circular structure to a building that looks like a French palace, U.S. state capitols are brimming with history and run a gamut of architectural styles (some more successfully than others). Read about the top five capitols in the United States >


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Top 5 Buildings in Nuremberg, Germany

Church of Our Lady, Nuremberg, GermanyI was spending the second day of my weeklong jaunt through the Christmas markets of Germany in Nuremberg, a city long associated with the trials of Nazi war criminals in the mid-1940s. But this wonderfully charming city with a very deep history has so much more to offer than the notoriety of that brief period, including some very impressive architecture. Read about the top five buildings in Nuremberg >


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Faith and Fun in Helsinki’s Finest Churches

Karuna Church, Helsinki, FinlandStrong incense emanating from censers in a Russian Orthodox cathedral. An organ concert in an iconic Lutheran cathedral. Utter silence in a modern chapel in a busy area of Helsinki. A wedding in a church built into a rock. A chorale by Finland’s most famous composer ringing from the bell tower of an Art Nouveau church. My experiences in the city’s churches continually surprised me, surpassing mere architecture, history, and religious tradition (although all of those abound in Helsinki’s houses or worship), and visiting them became one long series of unexpected delights. Read about the top five churches in Helsinki >


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The Churches of Pittsburgh: Very Diverse, All Beautiful

From the top of Mount Washington, I took in the fantastic view of the skyline of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, one of the best urban views in the United States. Connected to the land across the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers by its iconic yellow bridges, this pie-shaped section of the city rises heavenward with its shiny skyscrapers, which (unfortunately) effectively hide one of the city’s lower-rise assets: its gorgeous houses of worship. Read about the top five churches in Pittsburgh >


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From 1322 to Today, Tallinn’s Town Hall Was Built to Last

Town Hall, Tallinn, EstoniaIn 2005, the Town Hall in Tallinn, Estonia, received second prize in the category of Conservation of Architectural Heritage at the European Heritage Awards. Located in the heart of Tallinn’s Old Town, Town Hall isn’t the largest one I’ve ever seen, nor the grandest or most elaborate, but it’s certainly charming and irrefutably resilient: For nearly 700 years, this structure has weathered everything from its critical role in the then-independent city to its subordination under Soviet Communism to its rebirth as Tallinn’s hub. And, so, that award was very well-deserved. Read more about it >


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Appreciating Alabama’s Architectural Heritage

Steiner-Lobman and Teague Hardware BuildingsIn between outdriving projected tornado paths through central Alabama and enduring a fierce electrical storm that knocked out power in my hotel in Montgomery, I had ample time to explore many of the state’s highlights, from a massive battleship to a lazy cruise on the Alabama River to key civil rights sites. Through it all, I kept admiring some remarkable structures, many of historical and architectural significance that have become national landmarks over the years. Read more about the top five buildings in Alabama >