Billings Farm & Museum 25th Anniversary
To Celebrate and Commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the Billings Farm and Museum in 2008, the Vermont Standard created a special supplement which is available to view and download by clicking on the links below. Also below is the Foreword written by Publisher Phil Camp and found on page 2A.
Billings Farm and Museum History
The tale of the Billings Farm is an oft-told story around Woodstock. And thanks to some people gifted with long-range vision and the means to protect a legacy, the story will unfold before the eyes of visitors for many years to come.
The Land in Prehistory
The land that became the Billings Farm anchors the north side of the village of Woodstock – a village characterized by its surrounding bowl of verdant hills with a river running through it. The farm lies in the intervale meadow, separated from the village by the Ottauquechee River.
George Perkins Marsh in Woodstock
In 1789 Charles Marsh, a 23-year-old lawyer and farmer, acquired the farm (then 50 acres) from James Cady and moved his family into the small frame house he had built on the knoll overlooking the meadow.
Frederick Billings’s Vision and his Farm in the 19th Century
In 1869 Frederick and Julia Billings bought the Marsh estate and farm. As the wealthiest inhabitant of Woodstock by far, it seemed suitable that he should acquire the town’s most prominent piece of real estate. However, in 1869 the Marsh property gave only a glimmer of its potential. Billings immediately set about a thorough campaign of remodeling, landscaping, and construction.
Billings Farm and Dairy in the 20th Century
With help from George Aitken and others, Julia Billings carried on Frederick’s work for many years after his death. After her death in 1914, the children of Frederick and Julia Billings, maintained the estate in the tradition of stewardship that they had inherited from their parents.
Mary and Laurance Rockefellers’ Billings Farm and the Farm & Museum
In 1934, Mary French, a granddaughter of Frederick Billings, and Laurance Rockefeller were married in the old white Congregational Church in Woodstock. Mary had grown up spending summers in Woodstock, living in the mansion, and roaming the Mount Tom forest on her pony. With their marriage, Laurance adopted Woodstock as his summer home, and as the years passed his affection for the Vermont town grew.
Billings Farm & Museum: A Gateway To Vermont’s Rural Heritage
In the summer of 2003, Governor James M. Douglas congratulated the Billings Farm & Museum on its 20th Anniversary: If farming is to have a future in this state, indeed if Vermont is to have a future with farms, the Billings Farm & Museum will help to lead the way.
Savoring The Rewards Of Our Forefathers’ Foresight
It is incumbent on us humans to occasionally lift ourselves from our daily routines and give thanks for the wonderful things around us. If you live in or around Woodstock and love it, you should be filled with gratitude. Much of this should be directed toward the people who have worked hard to preserve the 150-year-old legacy of the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller saga of foresight, preservation and standards of excellence.
With this in mind, we salute the 25-year history of the Billings Farm and Museum with this special supplement. Those of us who drive past this wonderful institution each day might occasionally lose sight of its vast importance as an economic engine in the local economy as well as a vital repository of Vermont history.
We hope this commemorative edition will help remind you of its significance.
We would like to thank those who assisted in its creation. David Donath and Darlyne Franzen of the Woodstock Foundation generously shared their inspired views of the farm and museum. Susan Plump of the museum staff displayed her usual patience, thoroughness and good humor as she helped us gather and verify necessary data and photos. Master photographer Charlie Parker allowed us to use his beautiful photo that graces the cover. Many of the museum scenes inside come from the talented work of noted Upper Valley photographer Jon Gilbert Fox.
We reserve a special note of gratitude to those who supported this special project with their advertising messages. We urge readers to take special note of these community-minded businesses and patrons.
As always, it is a pleasure and an honor to create something that will hopefully become a valuable piece of local history.
Phillip Cabot Camp, Sr., Publisher
Thursday, October 8, 2008