Monday, July 29, 2013

The Shelburne Museum and Shelburne Farms

Shelburne Farms, The Farm Barn
Disclosure: Unfortunately I am not related to a single person in this blog post.  … sigh… This is unfortunate because they are all millionaires!

Shelburne Farms, the Inn was the former family mansion

We recently visited Vermont, and spent the day at the Shelburne Museum and the evening at the Shelburne Farms Inn where we had a lovely dinner of local foods from the farm and nearby farmers in the area. The Shelburne Farms was the estate of Dr. William Seward Webb and his wife, Lila Vanderbilt.  It was on 3,800 acres along the shores of Lake Champlain just south of Burlington, Vermont.  They constructed a model farm and estate between 1880 and 1905, with some help from Frederick Olmsted.  In 1969, one of the grandchildren, Derick Webb, and his own children decided to create a non-profit to preserve the farm for the future. It was in danger of being sold off in parcels for redevelopment.  Today you can visit the farm, stay or dine at the Inn (the former mansion), or participate in many activities on the grounds. It is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit educational organization and National Historic Landmark.

At the Inn, family photos from the Webbs and Vanderbilts
decorate the library
I love that the Webb family had the 1900 census on their bookshelf!

The daughter-in-law of Dr. Webb and Lila was Electra Havemeyer Webb.  She was an art collector, and lived on Park Avenue in Manhattan with a collection of Impressionist paintings in the winter, and in a Vermont farmhouse filled with antique collections in the summer.  In 1947 she created the Shelburne Museum, south of the Farm.  She began to “collect” buildings to move there to house her collections.  Today you can visit the museum and view her fine art and folk art. 

The museum is one of my favorites in New England, full of folk art, and “collections of collections” ranging from stuffed trophy animals, farm tools, winter sleighs, weather vanes (of course!), toys, porcelains and household items from all  over New England.  The collections are housed in restored homes and other buildings moved on site.  These include unusual barns, general stores, a school house, a jail house, a light house, a train station and a variety of other structures.  The Webb private train car, that used to bring the family from Manhattan to Vermont in luxury, is installed nearby the Ticonderoga, a ferry that plied Lake Champlain 100 years ago. 

This is one of two horse shoe shaped barns at the Shelburne Museum,
which houses a large collection of circus memorabilia 
Lila’s brother, George Washington Vanderbilt (1862 – 1914) created the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina with the assistance of Frederick Law Olmsted.  The grounds are extensive, and reach from downtown Asheville to the top of Mount Mitchell.  It was originally 125,000 acres, and in 1914 85,000 were sold to the federal government to form Pisgah National Forest.  The estate today sits on 8,000 acres and is owned by the Biltmore Company.  It is open to the public as a historic house, Biltmore Farms, and Biltmore Winery.  The grounds include 75 acres of formal gardens and a 213 room hotel.


The Webb Family Genealogy:

William Seward Webb, son of James Watson Webb and Laura Virginia Cram, grandson of Samuel Blachley Webb, aide to Generals Putnam and Washington, born 31 January 1851, died 29 October 1926; married in 1883 to Eliza Osgood Vanderbilt, known as Lila, daughter of William Henry Vanderbilt  (1821 – 1885) and Maria Louisa Kissam, and also granddaughter of “The Commodore” Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794 – 1877).


1. Frederica Webb, b. 1992 married Ralph Pulitzer, married second Cyril Hamlen James

2. James Watson Webb (1884 – 1960) married Electra Havemeyer (1893- 1966).  Five children: Electra, Samuel, Lila, James Watson Webb, Jr, and Harry.  Electra Havemeyer Webb founded the Shelburne Museum to house her “collection of collections”

3. William Seward Webb married Gertrude Gaynor

4. Vanderbilt Webb married Aileen Osborn

For the truly curious:

Electra Havemeyer Webb’s papers are stored at the Frick Collection, chiefly materials about the Shelburne Museum (correspondence, reports, speeches, articles, clippings, financial papers and scrapbooks).

Shelburne Farms

Shelburne Farms: The Spirit of the Agricultural Estate, by Shelburne Farms, 2011

Shelburne Museum

Biltmore Estate, North Carolina

For a peek at the Vanderbilt family tree, check this Wikipedia article:


Copyright 2013, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful grounds, and famous names. There is even a carousel. Lovely.

    No need to wish you were related to millionaires. Having an interesting and comfortable life, with love all around, is surely worth many millions. : ))