Note from Sandra: I’m pleased to share with you a piece written by my husband, Mark Frost, which appeared in the June 1 issue of The Chronicle Newspaper.
By Mark Frost; Photos by Sandra Hutchinson
Last year by chance, my wife Sandra and I happened on Community Day at Hildene in Manchester, Vermont. It was great, and it was free. The 2017 Hildene Community Day is Sunday, June 11, from 9:30 to 4:30.
Here’s some of why we loved it:
1. This is the house that Robert Todd Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln’s son, and his family lived in and where he died in 1926. The home looks as it did at that time.
2. There is a small but significant Abraham Lincoln museum in a room of the house. You see notes hand-written by our greatest President, a top hat he wore, a newspaper clipping with a nine-deck headline that starts “Terrible News” and ends “Very Latest—The President Is Dying.”
3. The garden and grounds and surrounding Green Mountains are gorgeous.
4. Hildene in recent years has added a handsomely restored Pullman (sleeper) train car to the grounds. Why? Because Robert Todd Lincoln served as the Pullman Company’s president.
The handsome Pullman isn’t just here to be admired for its looks. Hildene takes the opportunity to delve into complicated history. The men who worked on the Pullman cars were Negroes. They were precious jobs, but the museum dispels the notion that it was wonderful employment.
Wall murals tell of bitter strikes and labor strife. A book excerpt superimposed on a life-size photo reads: “Long hours, poor pay, and in some instances, inhuman treatment are three ruling features of the position as far as the porter is concerned.”
That the grievances were against the company headed by President Abraham Lincoln’s son adds layers of complexity.
5. The Community Day is staffed by a bevy of grass-roots Manchester volunteers — knowledgeable, enthusiastic, rooted, regular people that you might forget populate a city better known for well-heeled seasonal condominium owners and upscale outlet shops.
I was really impressed by the genuineness of the volunteers we met last year, and we learned that it was these locals who saved Hildene turned into this ongoing not-for-profit historic site.
It’s an important, evocative place — and a worthy community endeavor. Admission is ordinarily $20 for adults — and worth it. But Community Day is free. Click here for Hildene’s Web site.