The Battenkill Valley in Vermont evokes images of winding rural roads, cozy cottages, covered bridges, maple syrup and cow-filled pastures. These images are snapshots of life in the Green Mountain State. However, tucked amongst the mountains and charming scenery there’s a great estate in Manchester, Vermont; an original home from America’s Gilded Age.
Hildene is a Georgian Revival mansion built in 1905 by the chairman of the Pullman Company, “the largest manufacturing corporation at the turn of the 20th century.” What made the Chairman of the Pullman Company extra special is he happened to be the son of the 16th president of the United States.
Robert Todd Lincoln was the only child of Mary and Abraham Lincoln who survived to adulthood. He first visited Vermont at the age of 20 in 1864 when his mother and brother Tad were staying in nearby Equinox escaping the summer heat of Washington. Captivated by the breath-taking beauty of the region, Lincoln came back years later and made Manchester his summer home.
Take a step back in time as you enter the grand foyer. The focal point of the entrance hall, besides the tremendous staircase, is the Aeolian Pipe Organ. The 1000-pipe player organ which is played each day was a present from Robert Todd Lincoln to his wife Mary.
The 24-room, 8000 square foot home remained occupied by Lincoln descendents up until 1975 when Robert Todd Lincoln’s granddaughter, Mary Lincoln Beckwith, passed away. Hildene is filled almost completely with furniture that belonged to the Lincoln family.
Hildene is an old English word meaning hill and valley with a stream and befits the great home overlooking the Battenkill Valley. The lush gardens are laid out in the shape of cathedral windows with colorful flowers intended by design to make those “windows” appear like stained glass.
A visit to Hildene offers a multitude of choices for guests. The carriage house where the Lincolns once kept their carriages and horses is now the visitor center. Stop in and view a film and visit the gift shop.
Take the path from the carriage house and stroll to the agriculture center to see animals as they graze at this working farm.
Check out the Pullman Car Sunbeam. The car which opened to the public in 2011 was built in 1888 and carried several notorious passengers. President McKinley and President Theodore Roosevelt traveled the rails in style in this historic car. It was also part of the funeral train traveling from Warm Springs, Georgia to Hyde Park, New York with the body of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1945.
The 500-acre estate also features cutting and kitchen gardens, verdant meadows, walking trails and an observatory. Cared for by the non-profit Friends of Hildene, the estate hosts several camps, school programs, bird walks, workshops and is a sought after location for weddings and other celebrations.
Abraham Lincoln’s son built a beautiful home in the Green Mountain state and fortunately today it’s lovingly cared for and open to the public. If your vacation plans include a trip to experience the bucolic beauty of Vermont, Hildene in Manchester will be a memorable stop on your tour.
1005 Hildene Road
Manchester, Vermont 05254
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