- Website link: Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park
- What is it: it was the home of three families who were passionate about preserving and protecting our lands and resources for future generations to enjoy
- Where is it: Woodstock, Vermont near the bank of the Ottauquechee River
- We recommend purchasing combination tickets for the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller estate and the also-must-see Billings Farm & Museum, which is across the street.
- Accommodations and restaurants in Woodstock, Vermont
- When to go? June through October. The visitor center is open and guided tours of the mansion are available 10:00 – 5:00 from Memorial Day Weekend to October 31.
What a beautiful property! Full of history and the stories of the three families that called this place home.
Charles Marsh (1765-1849), a Woodstock, Vermont lawyer and later a US Representative, built the original house in 1805. His son, George Perkins Marsh (1801-1882), was also a lawyer and member of the US House of Representatives. George was appointed as a US Minister to the Ottoman Empire and then to the Kingdom of Italy, where he died in 1882.
George Perkins Marsh was concerned with conservationism and land stewardship. He advocated passionately for preservation of the natural environment, and in 1864, published a book, Man and Nature, which spoke of the importance of minimizing man’s impact on our natural resources.
In 1869, the estate was purchased by another lawyer, Frederick H. Billings, who had gained his wealth by handling land claims during the California Gold Rush. Billings was also a founding partner of the Northern Pacific Railroad. The Billings family enlarged the home and transformed the previously boxy, Federal-style home into the trend-of-the-era Queen Anne Victorian that remains today. The Tiffany Glass Company designed several stained glass windows for the home as well as some of the wallpapers and fabrics that remain in the home today.
Billings, also a passionate conservationist, reforested the surrounding woodlands that had been stripped of their trees, and established the dairy farm that lies across the road from the mansion. While not part of the national park (although, they partner with each other in many ways), the Billings Farm and Museum is owned by the Woodstock Foundation, Inc., which was formed by Laurance and Mary Rockefeller.
Mary French Billings Rockefeller, the granddaughter of Frederick Billings, inherited the estate in 1951. She and her husband, Laurance, another passionate conservationist who was an advisor on preservation and conservationism to several presidents, were the last owners of the property. They donated the house and surrounding land to the National Park Service in 1992. Mary died in 1996, and Laurance died in 1997.
Trivia: Laurance’s father, John D. Rockefeller donated the land that would become Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Laurance donated the land, an 1,100 acre ranch that he and his father acquired over the course of several years, that is now the Laurance Rockefeller Preserve, which also lies within the boundaries of Grand Teton National Park.
Now for a few shots inside the mansion. General tours cover the first and second floors. Special tours, such as the “art tour”, are given during certain times on select days. Check the website link above for details of these additional tours.
The home remains as the Rockefellers left it when they donated the property to the National Park Service, even down to the family pictures sitting on the mantel in the library and Laurance’s pipe sitting in a tray in the bedroom.
The mansion is home to an extensive art collection. The collection contains paintings by renowned artists, such as Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Cole, who were associated with the Hudson River School art movement, which, through art and advocacy, promoted conservationism and also led to the establishment of the national park system.
Many other paintings, sculptures, and photography are also part of the extensive collection of art in the home. We were disappointed that the “art tour” wasn’t offered on the day that we were there. Perhaps another trip to Vermont is in order.
We’re going to wrap up here. Thank you so very much for touring the Marsh – Billings – Rockefeller National Historical Park with us. We love having you join us on all of our travels! Please stop by our site again for more exciting destinations, parks, or maybe just a Quick Stop. We appreciate your “likes” and comments.
We will close this post with a look at the Ottauquechee River as it flows through Quechee Gorge about five miles from the park.
Until the next trip…
Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road!
Mike and Kellye
As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.