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Hildene (Robert Todd Lincoln Estate)
One of the state's great early-twentieth-century summer estates, Hildene was built by a youthful visitor who returned to Vermont as an adult. Chicagoan Robert Todd Lincoln, son of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, had vacationed at Equinox House (BE6) with his mother in the 1860s. Decades later, after he had become a lawyer, secretary of war, minister to the Court of St. James, and president of the Pullman Company, he determined to summer in Manchester. Lincoln acquired four hundred and twelve acres at the southern edge of Manchester village and commissioned a twenty-four-room house from Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge, whose Chicago projects, such as the Art Institute, would have been known to him. The firm designed a stuccoed frame Georgian Revival mansion with wood quoins, modillioned cornice, and a central pilastered pavilion with a pseudo-Palladian window above an attached porte-cochere. Quietly dignified, the house is notable for its siting at the head of a winding mile-long drive and view of gardens at the brink of a high ridge that drops precipitously to dramatic views of the Batten Kill Valley and the Green Mountains. Its long, fourteen-by-two-bay format, which consists of a central hipped block with lower wings, maximizes the exposure of the main rooms and the southwest porch to the terrace, formal gardens, and view. The house also is notable for the quality of its detailing. Ionic columns and leaded sidelights surround a main door that opens onto a full-depth living hall with a grand scrolled and spindled staircase and flanking dining room and parlor with elaborate fireplaces and friezes. The house, gardens, and outbuildings, which include a carriage barn and an observatory, remained in the hands of Lincoln descendants until 1975. The buildings have been restored and opened to the public by the locally organized Friends of Hildene.
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