Annual Fund

Our commitment to carry the values of President Lincoln to future generations.

September 2019

Dear Friend of Hildene,

Over the course of the last eighteen years we – staff, board, volunteers and our generous donors – have transformed Hildene from a very nice, local house museum to a 412 acre, world-class cultural heritage site. As a result, we draw 42,000 visitors annually from around the world, another 4,500 wedding guests and we host 10,000 student days a year. As that activity translates into salaries, room nights, meals in restaurants, purchase of supplies and construction of projects, we generate $15,000,000 for the area economy each year.

As much as all of that matters, there is something even more profound going on here; we are a unifier in what can seem a hopelessly divided world. This goes to the heart of why Hildene means so much to me and why I believe it is on its way to becoming something larger than a site. It is becoming an idea with the power of purpose reaching far beyond its physical borders. Hildene is committed to bringing people together toward the common purpose of achieving America’s, even the world’s, highest ideals.

Emanating straight from Abraham Lincoln, our core values are Integrity, Perseverance and Civic Responsibility. We hold ourselves to the not always easy standard of living our stated values so that anybody who comes into contact with Hildene is reminded of the possibility of America as the civil, constructive society Lincoln exemplifies. We do it by living our environmental ethic; our commitment to young people; and through our high-quality programming.

Everything we do is about others. We work as hard as we have to work to offer our school programs, summer camps, Youth Corps, high school program and our summer jobs program. It would be easier not to, but they are a large part of our contribution to society; they are a large part of the reason we exist.

In the midst of all the hard work, Hildene is a place brimming with joy. I feel it just coming down the driveway each morning because I know that we are positively impacting young lives across the entire property; I know how much our staff cares about Hildene; I know how much our dedicated volunteers care about creating the best experience possible for all our guests; and I know the joy visitors feel as they spend their day with us. And, I know that, even if they can’t put their finger on it, guests leave with the sense they have experienced something meaningful.

When I wrote last December to let you know that 2019 would be my last year as President of Hildene, I spoke of wanting to leave on top and, even more importantly, of wanting to leave Hildene positioned for continued success under Brian Keefe, who will take my place in January. I have worked as hard as I have ever worked since then to tie up loose ends, finish projects and simply to get things done. For his part, Brian has taken full advantage of what will be a ten-month apprenticeship to learn the operation and systems, to get to know staff, volunteers and donors, and to internalize Hildene’s unique culture.

The place Hildene has taken on the world stage is already remarkable; the possibilities ahead of us are astonishing. Please do everything you can to help us end this year in the black. You will be doing me a final favor and you will make sure Brian starts his tenure from a position of strength. I am eternally grateful for all the support I have received for the last eighteen years. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.


Seth Bongartz



We are an internationally recognized Lincoln site, drawing visitors from around the world and every state in the Union;

We are the only Lincoln site focused on promoting President Lincoln’s core values of Integrity, Perseverance and Civic Responsibility;

We have increased attendance from 19,000 in 2005 to over 42,000 in 2019;

We know that half of those 42,000 are in the area for the purpose of coming to Hildene, while the other half come on the recommendation of our friends in the surrounding area;

We serve nearly 3,500 elementary and middle school children each year with excellent programming focused on natural science, agriculture and hands-on history;

Our summer jobs program provides employment and teaches life skills to as many as 15 high school and college students each summer;

Our Eighth Grade Lincoln Essay Competition, run statewide, has become a part of the curriculum in many Vermont middle schools;

We provide excellent programming for adults on topics connected to Hildene’s mission;

Our 412 acres in the middle of Manchester represent one of the great land conservation projects in Southern Vermont;

By returning agriculture to Hildene through the goat dairy on the upper level and Dene Farm on the lower, we help keep alive a vital component of Vermont’s heritage;

We plant and manage our landscape to provide habitat for pollinators;

We use only organically-derived pesticides or herbicides, even then very rarely;

We contribute $15,000,000 annually to the economy of The Shires;

Hildene provides an authentic, soul-enriching experience that draws people back year-after-year, time-after-time.