In the rolling green hills just south of Burlington lives the Shelburne Museum. It’s a collector’s museum of folk art and Americana that’s been a part of Vermont’s cultural landscape since 1947. Founded by Electra Havermeyer Webb, a wealthy New York socialite and pioneering collector of American folk art, the museum began as a place to store a number of her collected treasures after selling one of her homes in Long Island that housed them.
She and her friends created a haven for sleighs and weathervanes, quilts and hunting decoys, cigar store indians and hand painted storefront signs. The collection grew to include grander collections, including 25 historic structures such as a lighthouse, general store, apothecary, meeting house and even a jail. They added a covered bridge to the collection, a railroad train, cars and the ticketing station. They relocated The Ticonderoga, a 1914 luxury steamliner.
The collections are arranged as a sort of village, complete with gardens and ponds, where one may stroll along from structure to structure to experience these bygone eras in the scenic beauty of Shelburne, Vermont.
The purpose of her museum was to enrich people’s lives through art, history and culture, and to celebrate American ingenuity, creativity and craftsmanship. Webb added a further endowment granting a discount to all visitors who are Vermont residents, a significant discount that is to remain in place as long as the museum shall stand.
The collections have grown significantly since Webb’s death in 1960, and continue to grow and evolve. In addition to the permanent collection, the museum hosts a number of concerts and events, one of my favorites being the exhibit of classic cars scattered throughout the museum grounds over Fathers’ Day Weekend.