Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller NHP: Billings Farm

Welcome back to National Parks and other public lands with T! 


The Billings Farm is next to Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park which 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.

Frederick H. Billings grew up close to the Marsh Estate in Woodstock Vermont. The writings of George Marsh, as well as time spent in the redwood forests of California, inspired Billings to actively advocate for conservation of the country’s natural resources. After making his fortune out west, Billings moved back to Vermont and found the land depleted. Deforestation and erosion reminded him of the Gold Rush devastation he’d left behind in California.

The Billings Farm►

Billings bought the Marsh farm and additional surrounding land. In addition to restoring the forests of Mount Tom, he developed a sustainable business model for agriculture. Vermont’s economy had been based on sheep farming, but sheep farming in the East was tough once the railroads made it easier to bring in livestock from the Western ranches. Billings established a scientifically managed herd of cows and hired George Aitken, an expert Scottish farmer, to run the dairy farm as an example to local farmers. Aitken continued to manage the farm after Billings’ death, along with Billings’ wife and daughters.

Eventually, one of the daughter’s daughters, Mary French Rockefeller, inherited the farm and estate. Mary and her husband Laurance Rockefeller, modernized the farm in the 1950s. In 1983, they converted it to an outdoor museum, The Billings Farm and Museum. The museum combines the working dairy farm with educational exhibits and events. The museum is operated separately from the National Park Unit, but in non-covid times, there are ranger-led sessions on the farm.

Being that this is an outdoor museum, it was open when we visited, in spite of Covid-19. The farm doesn’t allow dogs, so we couldn’t go in. We walked along the fence for a bit and admired the cows from afar before continuing on to our next adventure.

Woodstock Posts►

Location: 69 Old River Rd, Woodstock, VT 05091
Designation: National Historical Park
Date Designated/Established: August 26, 1992
Date of my visit: 7/30/2020

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