Welcome back to National Parks and other public lands with T!
The Legacy of Three Conservationists►
Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park preserves a site which witnessed the birth of the American conservation movement. George Perkins Marsh, the first American environmentalist, grew up in the mansion here. Marsh’s father, Charles, built the house in 1805. Later, Frederick Billings expanded the mansion and established a managed forest and a progressive dairy farm on the estate. And finally, Billings’ granddaughter Mary, along with her husband Laurance Rockefeller donated the property to the federal government in the 1990s, creating Vermont’s only National Park Service Unit.
When Charles Marsh built the original home in the early 1800s, it was a Federal style brick building. His son George grew up there before attending Dartmouth. He became a lawyer and then a congressman. After spending time in Europe, George developed a philosophy of land stewardship. He then published Man and Nature in 1864, a warning about humanity’s impact on nature. This work laid the foundation for the conservation movement in the United States. Conservationists advocated for the responsible and sustainable use of natural resources. President Theodore Roosevelt is one of the most prominent champions of that movement.
Frederick H. Billings, a financier and president of the Northern Pacific Railway Company, purchased the property in 1869. He then expanded the mansion and transformed it into a Queen Anne Victorian. Billings commissioned landscape designers to create formal gardens around the house. He also added a Swiss cottage style summer home called the Belvedere, along with other outbuildings.
The Rockefellers inherited the estate in 1954. They took care to preserve the heritage of the mansion while adapting the home to modern specifications. First Lady ‘Lady Bird’ Johnson presided over the dedication of the site as a National Historic Landmark in 1967. She returned again to rededicate Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller as a National Historical Park in 1998.
Because of Covid-19, we could not tour the house when we visited. But the gardens were open to us (and our dogs), so we explored the grounds. After we enjoyed the serenity of this lovely place we hiked into the park’s managed forest via the old carriage roads.
- Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller: Mansion
- Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller: The Pogue
- Billings Farm and Museum
- Ottauquechee River
Location: 54 Elm St, Woodstock, VT 05091
Designation: National Historical Park
Date Designated/Established: August 26, 1992
Date of my visit: 7/30/2020