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Traveling Massachusetts – A Side Trip to Hildene, Home of Robert Lincoln

This is one in a series about touring Massachusetts and Newport, Rhode Island. My husband and I spent three weeks there in October, 2021. This Travelogue is a journal of our trip, done for my own sake and to show readers why you should visit Massachusetts.

You’ll Love Hildene

When we stayed in the Berkshires, Diane, the proprietor of the Stockbridge Country Inn, said we had to take a day to visit Hildene in Manchester, Vermont. It’s only 1.5 hours away, she said, and we’d love it. We did.

My Husband Stands In Front of Hildene – The Lincoln Family Home in Manchester, Vermont.

In 1905, Robert Lincoln, the only surviving adult son of President and Mary Lincoln, built Hildene as a summer home for he and his wife Mary. Robert and Mary built the house as a place for them to relax, not entertain, and so it is modestly decorated by the day’s standards (opposed to the extravagant Newport summer “cottages” I blogged about earlier).

The most extravagant room is the stairway landing that houses 1000 pipes in its cabinets for an Aeolian Organ.
Docents have the organ set to play and welcome visitors every 15 minutes. The sound is magnificent from the stairway landing!

Hildene and The Lincoln Family

Hildene (meaning hill + valley with stream) remained in the Lincoln family until 1975. In 1978 the non-profit Friends of Hildene purchased the mansion and began restoring it, and its surrounding grounds. Besides the main house, Hildene now includes 412 acres of historic buildings, a Pullman (train) car, a formal garden, wetlands, and the Dene Farm. The farm offers agricultural and environmental courses to nearby high schools, while the mansion houses archives from the Lincoln collection. Researchers can request access to the archives.

Robert Lincoln’s Office

Robert Lincoln’s Career

Robert Lincoln (1843 – 1926) had an extensive career. He served as the Secretary of War under Presidents James Garfield and Chester Arthur. Then he became Ambassador to the United Kingdom under Presidents Benjamin Harrison and Grover Cleveland. After that, Robert worked as General Counsel for the Pullman Palace Car Company–the largest train car manufacturing company in the world. After George Pullman, the founder and president of the Pullman Company died, Robert Lincoln became its president. He held the position from 1897 to 1911, then served as Chairman of the Board till 1922.

Portrait of Robert Lincoln at Age 78.
Robert’s Library Where He Did Most Of His Pullman Work
Sunbeam is the Name of this 1903 Wooden Pullman Palace Car on the Grounds of Hildene
An Interior View. These Benches Could Unfold into Beds.

Mary Harlan Lincoln

I’m sorry to say I did not learn much about Mary Harlan Lincoln except that she helped design the house and formal garden. She and Robert had two daughters and a son.

Mary’s Bed. Note the beautiful bed-chamber ceiling.
The Linen Closet
The Staff Kitchen

President Abraham Lincoln

As you might expect, there was a bit of history about President Lincoln in some of the rooms of the house. I felt especially moved seeing the looking-glass where he likely took a last look at himself before going to the Ford Theater.

1850 Map Showing Division of Slavery Within the United States.

The map shown above lists a surprising (at least to me) fact about slavery in 1850: “Of the 6,222,418 white inhabitants of the South, only 347,525 are owners of slaves. And yet this faction controls every branch of the Federal Government, and wields its influence for the increase and perpetration of slavery.”

Touring the Grounds

After touring the house, my husband and I walked through the formal garden and down to Dene Farm. If you go, don’t skip this part! It’s beautiful.

Looking Down on the Formal Garden
One of Twelve Miles of Hiking Trails – This One Leads to Dene Farm.
Set Up to Harvest Maple Syrup
A Network of Taps Ran Through Acres of Trees
Part of the 600 Foot-Long Floating Boardwalk
A Portion of The Battenkill Wetlands
A Map of Dene Farm Showing The Trail We Walked, Starting at the Maple Trail
Llamas and Chickens Seem to Get Along Together
The Historic Farm House

More Info:

For more information about Hildene, please visit their website. And to see more of my blogs about New England, go to this category. Stay tuned for next week and another Exploring Massachusetts blog! Thanks for sharing.

2 Comments

  1. Stephen Michael Dahl Stephen Michael Dahl

    Love this blog post, Karen! Now I am sure I must see this former Lincoln estate and the Dene Farm! Thank you very much!

    • KarenGough KarenGough

      Yay! Thanks for telling me Stephen! I love hearing that people like you appreciate my blog. ๐Ÿ˜

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