“Above all, a home.”
Robert Todd Lincoln’s Ancestral Home
Hildene is a Georgian Revival Style home designed by the Boston architectural firm Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge. Construction of this 24-room home began in 1903 and the Lincoln family moved in on June 20, 1905.
Aeolian Pipe Organ
The 1,000-pipe organ, installed in the entrance hall at Hildene in 1908 as a gift from Robert Todd Lincoln to his wife, Mary, is believed to be the oldest residential pipe organ with a player attachment still in its original location and still in working order in the United States. There are 242 rolls, most of which are in good condition. It is played each day.
Hoyt Formal Garden
The formal garden was designed in 1907 for Mary Harlan Lincoln by her daughter Jessie. Her design was influenced by French parterre gardens she had seen while the family lived in Europe and she wanted the garden to resemble a stained-glass Romanesque cathedral window. The panes of colored glass were produced by different colored flowers and privet hedge was planted to represent the leading between the panes. In mid-June, over 1,000 peony blossoms from original plantings fill the garden with color.
The Carriage Barn at Hildene was once used to house the Lincoln family's carriages and horses. It now serves as the Welcome Center and houses the Museum Store and administrative offices. In the winter, the Carriage Barn also becomes the check in point for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Rowland Agricultural Center at Hildene Farm
The animals at Hildene are managed using rotational grazing. By grazing the animals on small sections of land and moving them every two or three days, they are moved onto fresh grass many times during the growing season. Construction of a solar powered barn designed to house a herd of goats and to make cheese was completed in the summer of 2009 and is open to the public. ALL PARKING AND CHECK-IN IS AT THE WELCOME CENTER. Each step of the cheese making process is visible to guests traveling along a public corridor.
Pullman Car Sunbeam & Many Voices exhibit
The exhibit, “Many Voices” at the 1903 Pullman car, Sunbeam, speaks to the significant journey of the Pullman Porters, African Americans whose lives and actions impacted future generations. In spite of the exploitive work environment, these men were able to improve their lives and those of their families, helping to give rise to America’s black middle class. With a timeline overview that spans the 100 years from Abe Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 to the Civil Rights Movement and March on Washington in 1963, the exhibit highlights the voices of the Pullman Company, the wealthy passengers who rode cars like Sunbeam, the Black porters who worked on the railcars and the voices of those who visit and interact with this information. Guests examining the provocative content of the exhibit, are challenged to ask questions and engage in civil civic discourse with others about it, a process that fits squarely within Hildene’s mission: Values into Action.
Hildene was built by presidential son, Robert Lincoln, in 1905 during his tenure as President of the Pullman Palace Car Company.
To learn more about the Vermont African American Heritage Trail and to download a map visit www.vtafricanamericanheritage.net
The Sunbeam was originally built by the Pullman Company as a 10-section luxury car in June 1888. The car’s original name was Ortega and was built for the Pullman – Southern Pacific Association. It was used by President McKinley until his death in 1901. In June 1903 Pullman rebuilt the Ortega and four others as private cars for Pullman charter service. With the rebuilding done, the Ortega was renamed Sunbeam. The Sunbeam was part of the train that former President Theodore Roosevelt employed for correspondents accompanying him as he traveled between Chicago and Milwaukee in October 1912 at the height of his campaign for President on the Bull-Moose ticket. In June 1916 the car was sold to the Northwestern RR of South Carolina, controlled by the Atlantic Coast Line. In the 1920s the car was sold to the Charleston & Western Carolina and was named car 100. The Sunbeam returned to South Carolina where it was eventually taken out of service in the late 1940s. When the Sunbeam was retired, it was placed next to a lake in western South Carolina. A private party acquired the car in 1957, and built a pole barn to protect it in Parksville, South Carolina. Hildene bought the Sunbeam in the summer of 2007 and it was restored in South Carolina. In its new home at Hildene, Sunbeam is the finest example of a wooden Pullman car on public display.
Cutting and Kitchen Gardens
The Cutting & Kitchen Gardens at Hildene were once the center of much activity. From these gardens the Lincoln family servants would gather an abundance of fruit, flowers and vegetables for household use. A playhouse and reflecting pond for the Lincoln grandchildren were once located at the edge of the gardens.
Paths and arbors have been restored and the flower and vegetable beds have been replanted. In 2004 a soft fruit cage was added and this year two new gardens were added: an observation garden to assist the Master Gardener in identifying and cataloging Hildene’s original peony plants, and a butterfly garden used for youth education programs.
Explore the natural areas of Hildene on approximately 12 miles of walking trails. There are interpretative signs along the Farm Loop Trail highlighting a variety of trees, shrubs, ferns and natural habitats.
Astronomy was a lifelong interest of Robert Lincoln and he chose a high point of land northeast of the house to build his observatory. The scope is functional and the hope is to build public and school programming around it in the future. Hildene guests are welcome to enter the observatory and view the telescope.
The Meadows in the verdant Battenkill Valley sit three hundred feet below the main house and gardens. Land that was once used by Robert as grazing pastures for his livestock and as an airstrip by Peggy Beckwith, is now the site of many Hildene events. The Meadows are also home to a number of farmhouses, outbuildings, and an original 1832 one-room schoolhouse.
On display in the Welcome Center is the 1928 Franklin Roadster which once belonged to Robert Todd Lincoln's daughter, Jessie (Lincoln Beckwith Johnson Randolph). She and her then husband, John Randolph, drove the car over 60,000 miles, traveling from their Virginia plantation to their homes in Washington, D.C. and New York and to Vermont to visit her daughter Peggy. In 1948, the Franklin was discovered abandoned in a field at the Randolph's plantation. Several owners and many years of restoration later, Jessie's car found its way back to Hildene where our visitors can see it.
1902-1903 Robert Todd Lincoln purchased 500 acres for approximately $30 per acre
1903 Construction of House began on April 18th
Approximate Costs: House $63,109, Terrace $1777, Carriage Barn $16,100
1905 Lincolns moved into Hildene on June 20th
1907 Formal Gardens added
1908 Pipe Organ installed at a cost of $11,500. West end of the house extended 18 feet to accommodate an office for Mr. Lincoln’s secretary.
ARCHITECTS: Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge of Boston, Mass.
BUILDER: Ira G. Hersey of Boston, Mass
LANDSCAPE DESIGNER: Frederick Todd, an apprentice of Frederick Law Olmstead (Landscape Designer of New York’s Central Park)
STYLE: Georgian Revival
ROOMS: 24 rooms, 8 bathrooms, attic and basement
FEATURES: 8000 square feet, 8 fireplaces, town water, electricity, telephones, two coal fired furnaces