A Crazy Lady

August 26, 2021

Today (actually last Thursday) we visited the Shelburne Museum, one of the hotspots to visit around Burlington, Vermont. The woman who started the museum, Electra Havemeyer Webb, liked to collect things; dolls, dishes, quilts, decoys, paintings, carts, buildings, trains and boats…. She was the daughter of a Domino sugar tycoon who married the Grandson of William Henry Vanderbilt. Electra’s parents were also collectors of Asian and Impressionist art, and clearly the Venderbilts had “stuff.” There was money a plenty. Shelburne, just south of Burlington was a summer home or something that she turned into a museum to house her collections.

A round barn. Apparently an efficient way to store hay, feed the stock and then clean… on three floors. But, this one had wagons and carriages.

Electra founded the Shelburne Museum in 1947, originally to preserve the family’s horse drawn carriages.

There were two or three buildings of coaches, carriages, etc. There was a guy who looked like an Amish guy carefully studying tack and rigging of carriages to model horses. Lots to learn.

She is not really a crazy lady, but clearly she was enthusiastic. First it was a historic building to be demolished, then starting to think about the history of New England and how to preserve it. There were lots of fun signs talking about buying this building and moving it, or a bridge, or a boat and the discussions with her husband about the purchase.

A one room schoolhouse moved to the property.

Let me show you a few parts of the museum via pictures. A pretty incredible place. Pic your topic and there is likely a collection. And great exhibits showing printing, blacksmithing, school life, small farmers, rich people, and on and on.

A waterwheel powered plainer for smoothing and evening boards.
This covered bridge was scheduled for demolition. She bought it, has it dismantled, moved to the Museum and rebuilt.
I have seen one or two sleighs in my life. Not much use for them in New Mexico. There much have been 20 or 30 in the museum. If one was into sleighs, you could learn about all the styles and naming conventions.
The general store. The store was moved, but they had to add all the parts to make it a general store again.
There is a railroad station, engine and a few cars, plus the push carts as well.
Electra had lots of circus paraphernalia. Quite a few circus carousel horses. Some were quite expressive.
I would love to ride the giraffe! Very cool!
This is only a part of the hand carved circus. Carved by had between 1910 and 1956! Done by Edgar Decker Kirk for his children (who were obviously adults when he finished. It is a 3-ringed circus, you only see part of one ring. The whole circus is 3500 pieces. Wow!
Yes, this is a real paddle wheeler that used to ply Lake Champlain starting in 1906 until about 1950. The boat is 220 feet long and 56 feet wide. The signs told quite the story of the boat being moved over newly created railroad tracks to get it inland to the museum. It is one of two side-wheel paddle steam ships in existence.
The Ticonderoga was quite luxurious but was mostly a day cruiser. it did have a few staterooms however and a fancy dining room.

Jim and I are afraid to try these bell signals to run our boat. Although our boat is very slow, this seems way to slow to communicate between engine and bridge.

And the carousel. Had not ridden one in so many years! It is vintage, but not sure how old. I laugh every time I hear me say “Jaime” in the video. Jim hears it and says, “what?”

Comments

A Crazy Lady — 4 Comments

  1. And I have a picture of Jim and Sylvia riding the carousel and of the view from the carousel going round and round and round … sort of makes one a bit dizzy

  2. Thank you so much Sylvia for these amazing photos and more amazing story and mental images of this “collector”! I can’t imagine having this kind of money, but I’m so glad she did! Mike and I love to explore places like this!

  3. Soooo many carriages – three buildings full If I remember correctly. I particularly liked the child sized sleighs