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.
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).
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.