The skies in Warren were leaden and threatened rain; and the humidity was near 90%. But, 75 of us piled into two motor coaches and headed north on route 91 to Manchester, VT. By the time we reached our destinations, there was still mist shrouding the surrounding mountains, but the sun was shining and spirits were high. We were met by Paula, group coordinator at Hildene and groups of us were sent in different directions.
So, what’s Hildene? It’s a house built in 1905 on 500 acres for Robert Todd Lincoln, the only surviving child of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln. His father was born in a log cabin and became the 16th president. In the next generation, Robert Todd Lincoln, president of the Pullman Company, the largest manufacturing corporation in America, built his ancestral home in this scenic village of Manchester in the “Shires of Vermont.” Hildene sits on a promontory with breathtaking views of the valley and surrounding mountains: the quintessential Vermont landscape.
Some of visited the spacious and comfortable mansion; some headed for the farm; and others went in the direction of Sunbeam, a i903 Pullman Palace car built during Robert’s tenure as president of the company. The beautifully restored Pullman car tells the stories of many voices – those of the company, society, and of the Pullman porters. Sunbeam is the finest example of a restored Gilded Age Pullman car.
Each of the areas at Hildene are connected by a series of trams that move visitors seamlessly from the Visitor Center to the Pullman car, and from the farm to the mansion. Each stop is completely different and is punctuated by stunning first-growth New England forests. A series of woodland hiking trails provide links to points of interest on other parts of the estate.
Our group enjoyed lunch at the Pavilion at Hildene where we hired a caterer for an innovative sandwich buffet. The sandwiches were tasty and Erik, our host, kept making more so that everybody got their fill. We all loved our lunch.
When we were finished eating, we boarded our coaches and headed for Manchester Center which is populated with what seem like hundreds of upscale outlet stores. Most of us did just a little shopping with many heading for the almost famous bookstore in the center of town. It’s one of the largest I’ve ever visited.
After about two hours, we got back on our coach and went to visit one of my favorite Vermont stops, the Vermont Country Store. Did you know that this purveyor of old-fashioned and hard-to-find items is family run since 1946? We loved checking out the penny candy, the 100% cotton flannel nighties, the local cheeses, the venison sausage, and the traditional foot wear.
We got back to Warren in record time with no traffic issues and one and all vowed to join us again and again for our mystery tours.