Hildene, the estate of Robert Todd Lincoln, is located in Manchester Center, Vermont.
Spending more time up in VT inevitably results in explorations of the surrounding areas to find outdoor activities, tourist attractions and cultural events. A few years back my mother visited Hildene, shared the history and related how beautiful the house (mansion) and grounds were. I figured we’d get there eventually.
We spent the past weekend up at the house again with some holiday baking on our To Do list. With some time to spare I got to looking for holiday themed activities that we could check out while we were there. As luck would have it the holiday celebration at Hildene was kicking off this weekend. This meant the house would be decorated and there would be music and activities at the welcome center.
As luck would have it his life, and all of its twists and turns, brought him into the association of a family who lived in Manchester, Vermont. This association helped him locate a 500 acre parcel of land he eventually purchased for what would become Hildene. Aside: the wealth required to take on this project came from several sources including his tenure as the president of the Pullman Rail Car company.
The house and grounds are absolutely beautiful. This time of year the outside is trimmed back and cleaned of leaf debris. If you close your eyes you can imagine what it might look like in the spring or summer. A return trip specifically to see the cutting and kitchen gardens is planned for next year.
Based on the way we decorate for holidays today Christmas in 1912 would seem rather spartan. The tree was plainly decorated, and the style of tree called back to a time before commercialized trees designed for visual appeal with dense clusters of needles on full branches. Less is more! Each of the rooms , except for the kitchen and pantry, had some form of holiday decorations presented including mantle-pieces, wreaths, candelabras and bows. It reminded me of my grandmother’s house during this time of year when I was a child.
I found the kitchen and pantry spaces intriguing. The large cast iron stove and cooktop looks like it would be a lot of fun to experiment with! Some of the gadgets look pretty high-tech for their era and were no doubt made possible by the family’s success.
The entire house was constructed in such a way to allow the staff to quietly and efficiently serve residents and guests. Right off of the foyer was a staircase, dumb-waiter and pantry space used by the butler and staff to hide some of the inner workings of the home.