Robert Todd Lincoln's Hildene, A Vermont Gem

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May 25th 2015
Published: May 25th 2015
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Robert Todd Lincoln, the only child or Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln to make it to adulthood, built Hildene in Manchester, Vermont, as a summer home. He made his fortune with the Pullman Company, a maker of train cars, and at one time the largest manufacturing operation in the United States. A luxury private car has been beautifully restored and is open for tours along with the elegant home, a Nubian goat farm, formal gardens and miles and miles of walking (and xc skiing trails).

This was a spur of the moment visit and we were tight for time (the tours end at 4:30pm). So we hurried through the Visitors Center, skipped the film and didn’t shop at the boutique as our “tram” arrived to take us to our first stop.

The Pullman car is luxurious indeed. The efficiency of space reminds us of our RV. Train cars like these were leased to wealthy families, corporate boards, etc. to scurry them off to vacations and meetings here and abroad. Nice way to travel and a cool precursor of private jets.

We had to forego the next stop, the farm where Nubian goats are raised for the on-site cheese-making operation. Oh well, the consequences of spontaneous day trips. We’ll take a closer look next time.

On to stop #3, the house! A very gracious, but not pretentious, entrance took us right into a receiving room with dining room to the left and living room to the right and a lovely porch and view of the formal garden straight ahead. A mechanized “player organ” boomed Strauss waltzes from the corner. The pipes were hidden behind louvres on the landing of the picture perfect grand stairway. Family photos, comfortable period furniture, fresh flower arrangements (two local garden clubs see to this with scheduled switch outs two times a week), and a beautifully set table set awaited us like guests from days long gone.

The upstairs bedrooms are lovely. The room of the last Lincoln progeny, Peggy Beckwith, was not so elegant, but revealed through props the many interests of this active and interesting woman’s life style from skiing and painting to golf, fishing, photography, astronomy and more. Really too bad that Peggy, who also owned and flew her own airplanes, was the end of the line.

Hildene is more than just a house museum. There is a considerable amount of Lincoln historic memoribelia on display on the 2nd floor west wing of the mansion.

A wedding was about to begin on the grounds so caterers were hustling about setting up the outdoor part of the ceremony. A tent accommodates dinner and dancing.

Did I mention the natural beauty of the setting? It is literally under Mount Equinox to the west and overlooks a valley dotted with farms, wetlands and rolling acres which start to elevate toward the Green Mountain Range and the fun promises of pristine golf courses, river rafting, fly fishing (the Orvis store has a pond so you can try out the gear), Stratton and Bromley Ski areas, music, maple and art festivals, great outlet shopping and other recreation! We understand that June is a great time for our re-visit as the peonies will be in splendid bloom.

We’re seniors so our admission was $16 each. The tram was free. We could have chosen to walk wide trails to the various “stops,” but time was of the essence. There are wonderful hotels (including the venerable Equinox) and a full range of eateries from maple sugar shacks to elegant dinners. It took us about a little less than hour and a half to make a 6pm dinner date in Saratoga Springs, NY. The ride is beautiful every season of the year. We passed through Arlington, Greenwich, Cambridge, and crossed the Hudson River at Schuylerville.

It was a perfect day!

Additional photos below
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