The experience begins at the Oscar V. Johnson Welcome Center where guests get a glimpse of all that the Hildene mission: Values into Action encompasses. The carriage barn built circa 1905 by presidential son, Robert Todd Lincoln, is home to The Museum Store and interactive displays that include, telegraph, observation beehive, and a model Pullman train circling the perimeter at ceiling level. It is here that guests can access information on everything from the mansion and gardens to the Hildene Farm and solar powered cheese-making facility, the Pullman car, Sunbeam, and the 412 acre estate’s miles of trails perfect for an autumn hike or a winter x-country ski or snowshoe trek. A short film focuses on the history of the family in Manchester and Hildene’s past and present commitment to restoration, conservation and education. Shuttle transportation to the various sites begins there as well.
Most guests begin their stay with a visit to the mansion where the tour focuses on the lives of the three generations of President Lincoln’s descendants who called this home for 70 years. Robert Lincoln, was the only child of President Abraham Lincoln and wife, Mary Todd, to survive to adulthood. He built Hildene, his ancestral home in 1905, after a successful career as attorney and statesman and while he was president of the Pullman Company, the largest manufacturing company in the world at that time.
The tour of the home traditionally concludes in the family’s formal garden surrounded by scenic vistas of the Taconic and Green Mountains. Jessie, President Lincoln’s granddaughter, designed the formal garden as a gift to her mother, Mary Harlan Lincoln in 1907. An American version of the French parterre, throughout the summer and into the fall, the garden’s spectacular hues are provided by perennials. The Cutting and Kitchen Gardens, Butterfly Garden, Observation Garden and Soft Fruit Cage are located behind the Welcome Center, a favorite area for kids, as it was for Robert Todd Lincoln’s grandchildren more than 100 years ago.
Sunbeam, a 1903 Pullman palace car built during Robert’s tenure as president of the company, tells the story of Many Voices: those of the company, society and the Pulllman porters. These voices are “heard” within the historical context of the time, midpoint between the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and the Civil Rights Movement in 1963.
The Rowland Agricultural Center at Hildene Farm is designed for public viewing of the cheese-making process from milking Hildene’s herd of Nubian goats through processing and packaging to the aging room. Powered by solar panels and heated with a wood burning furnace, the operation employs sustainable energy practices.
The Lincoln Family Home at Hildene is open daily year round from 9:30 am to 4:30 am. The home and grounds are also available for private functions corporate meetings and retreats, weddings and receptions. Larger groups, including schools and motorcoach tours are welcomed by reservation throughout the year. For more information visit www.hildene.org or like us on Facebook.