After enjoying another sumptuous breakfast prepared by our hostess, Charlotte, it was time for us to pack our things and say goodbye to the lovely Ardmore Inn.
Our plan for the day was to take a bit of a scenic drive (although all drives in Vermont are scenic) and then visit the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park.
My maiden name was Billings, so when I read in the tour book about Billings Farm and the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller mansion tour, I knew I had to plan it into our trip! Unfortunately, I don’t remember any Rockefellers listed in the family genealogy my Grandfather Billings put together many years ago. It would be nice if I could find a way to be related to this family!
Mark had seen on the local tourist map that there was a “scenic view” not far from the Billings farm, so we drove up that way first. It was a nice view – maybe not the most spectacular we’ve seen, but still pleasant.
We then went back down the hills toward town and stopped to admire the Taftsville Covered Bridge. There is a dam here and an electrical transformer, so not the most scenic place. I had to crop all the power lines out of the photo.
We then followed the river back toward Billings Farm. We saw a group of six female ducks floating along in the river’s current. I believe these are female common mergansers. (?) There were no males with the group. (This photo is fairly terrible. 😦 )
We arrived at Billings farm with plenty of time to spare before our 1 o’clock mansion tour. We had two choices: we could tour the Billings Farm first, or we could hike some of the miles of trails in the historical park. I am a farm girl and would have LOVED to tour the farm, but Mark is a city boy originally from the Baltimore/Washington DC area, and he wasn’t the least bit interested in the farm. Since the mansion tour was my idea, I decided to concede to his wishes and we hiked instead.
I did manage one photo of horses before we left the farm. This picture is for my sister, Beth, because these horses look like her horse, Hope.
Mark drove around the outskirts of Mount Tom to a parking area at a trailhead and we hiked back to The Pogue, which I assume is another word for pond.
It was a pleasant walk, although most of it was uphill going to the pond. Thankfully it was mostly downhill going back to the car! There was some woodcutting going on, so we felt right at home, but at least they only selectively harvest the trees here, no clear-cutting.
We made it back to the park just in time for our mansion tour. The history of the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller families was very interesting and starts with the devastation of clear-cutting the mountain forests back in the 1800’s and what it did to the land.
The land where the farm and mansion reside was originally the family farm of George Perkins Marsh – a child prodigy, diplomat and conservationist. He began replanting trees and trying to restore the land to its former glory. In 1869 the Marsh farm was bought by Fredrick Billings, a Vermont native and wealthy lawyer who made his fortune as an attorney in San Francisco during the California gold rush. Billings continued Marsh’s practice of restoring the forest and created a farm that modeled good stewardship of the land. Billings wanted his farm to be used as an example for generations to come – and it is!
Eventually Billings’ granddaughter Mary French would marry Lawrence Rockefeller in 1934. She would go on to inherit the estate from her Grandmother Julia and went on to keep the mansion almost the exact same as her grandmother. When Mary passed away, she had bequeathed the estate to the state of Vermont on the condition that nothing was to be changed. As we toured the mansion (which Mary and Lawrence used only as a summer home) everything was the exact way she had left it when she passed away in 1998, and really since her grandmother had passed away!
No photography of any kind was allowed inside the mansion, so you’ll have to take my word for it that it was very grand, although nothing like the Vanderbilt estate. Still, very impressive, and the house boasts quite a valuable art collection.
I was able to take photos of the outside of the mansion.
And of the pool house.
And the garden.
Leaving the historical park, we headed north to Lyndonville where we will be staying the next three nights at the LynBurke motel. Let me just say that the LynBurke is several leaps down the scale from the Ardmore Inn. It’s a real 1970’s throwback economy motel, the kind of place Mark or I would have stayed when we were growing up and traveling with our parents. It has an ancient push-button desk phone and no three-pronged outlets. The only one that I could plug my laptop into is in the bathroom and you have to keep the light turned on to keep power going to the outlet. Oh well, it’s clean and has an air conditioner, so we are fine. (If I were related to the Billings-Rockefellers I could afford something much nicer, LOL.)
Please join me on our next adventure as we take the harrowing Mt. Washington Auto Road to the “worst weather in the world”!