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The Lincoln Family Home is a twofold treat, providing historical insight into the life of the Lincolns while escorting you through the lavish Manchester life of the 1900s. Abraham had only one son who survived to adulthood, Robert Todd Lincoln, who served as secretary of war and head of the Pullman Company. Robert bought the beautifully preserved 412-acre estate and built a 24-room mansion where he and his descendants lived from 1905–75. The entire grounds are open for exploration—you can hike, picnic, and ski; see the astronomical observatory; loll in beautiful gardens; and walk through the sturdy Georgian Revival house, which holds the family's original furniture, books, and possessions. One of three surviving stovepipe hats owned by Abraham, a Lincoln Bible, a gorgeously restored Pullman car, and Robert's Harvard University yearbook are among the treasures you'll find. When the 1,000-pipe aeolian organ is played, the music reverberates as though from the mansion's very bones.
Rising from a 10-acre meadow, the new Hildene Farm, which opened in 2010, is magnificent. The agriculture center is built in a traditional style—post-and-beam construction of timber felled and milled on the estate—and as an exemplar of renewable energy, from the closed-loop cord wood heating system to the solar panels covering the roof. A herd of goats and informative farming displays recall the Lincolns' use of this land. Best of all, you can watch goat cheese being made and take some home.
The highlight, though, may be the elaborate formal gardens: in June a thousand peonies bloom. When snow conditions permit, you can cross-country ski and snowshoe on the property. Robert's carriage house now houses the gorgeous museum store and visitor center—the nicest of its kind in the state—that showcases, among other things, a live bee exhibit and Mary Todd Lincoln's 1928 vintage Franklin car. Allow half a day for exploring Hildene.
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