Hildene tour opens the door on Lincoln family life

Associated Press Modified: November 20, 2012 at 12:16 pm •  Published: November 20, 2012
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Music from the home's 1,000-pipe organ draws visitors in at the first step into the entry foyer. The parlor, which looks out onto a beautiful east-facing patio and garden with vistas of the Taconic and Green Mountains, could easily be the gathering spot for a modern martini party, book club meeting or holiday meal. Like much of the 8,000-square-foot home (almost 750 square meters), the room's traditional yet tasteful decor seems grand but not showy — very New England.

The walls, for example, were made to look like mahogany but were really made of poplar. "Robert was like his dad, he counted his pennies," Maynard said.

The kitchen includes the latest in 20th-century gadgetry and is next to a lovely dining room with a table that could sit about 12 but no more for a formal meal. Across the hall was the servants' dining room, another comfortable room that would probably be the hub of the house if it were lived in now.

The tour also includes a look at the Victorian-style master suite, the guest room where President William Howard Taft stayed and an office with an early predecessor to the copying machine. A luxury Pullman Sunbeam travel train car sits along the winding driveway.

Also located on the estate is an observatory with telescope, an agricultural center and many trails that can be used by day hikers, picnickers and, in the winter, snowshoers and cross-country skiers. Throughout the year there are programs on topics such as composting and butterfly gardens.

During the holiday season, the home is decorated as if it were Christmas Eve 1912. That was a year Robert Todd Lincoln was being heavily courted to run for president, said Maynard.

He chose to stay home.

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If You Go...

HILDENE: 1005 Hildene Rd., Manchester, Vt.; http://www.hildene.org/ or 800-578-1788, Open daily for self-guided tours 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. except Thanksgiving, Dec. 24, Christmas and Easter. Adults, $16; youths, $5; children under 6, free. Guided tours are an additional $5, but reservations must be made in advance November-May.

WELCOME IN WINTER: Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are allowed on the grounds, weather permitting. The home is decorated as Christmas Eve 1912 with Victorian ornaments and holiday music playing from the pipe organ from Dec. 1-Jan. 2.

GETTING THERE: Manchester, Vt., is about 200 miles (322 kilometers) from New York City, 160 miles (257 kilometers) from Boston, 100 miles (161 kilometers) from Burlington, Vt., and 60 miles (97 kilometers) from Albany, N.Y.