Driving through the scenic New England town of Shelburne, visitors will notice something unique as a steamboat and a covered bridge can be seen along Route 7. The steamboat, Ticonderoga, and the covered bridge are all part of the Shelburne Museum, which was founded in 1947.
Electra Webb, who married into the Vanderbilt fortune, is largely responsible for this unusual museum, which includes a collection of buildings, history, artwork and antiques, mostly attributable to New England. For history-buffs or fans of art, this museum is a must.
Roughly thirty-five buildings are scattered around the property. These buildings include anything from a brightly painted round barn, a horseshoe barn, a log cabin, coal-burning engines, the Ticonderoga, a one-room schoolhouse, a typical 1840s meeting hall, a lighthouse to even a mansion (the Webb Memorial Building), which is filled with priceless artwork by Monet and Mary Cassatt. The interior of the Webb Memorial Building has even been rebuilt to resemble the Webb family’s New York City apartment.
Some of the buildings are deceptive as the insides do not in any way resemble the outsides. For instance, walking into the round barn, visitors will find carousel horses inside. Walking inside the lighthouse, there is an exhibit of well-designed pop-up children’s books. The horseshoe barn includes an exhibit of sleighs and carriages. I thought entering each building was like opening a present as I never knew what would be inside.
Many of the buildings are staffed with enthusiastic guides. I especially enjoyed hearing the history of some of the sleighs on display at the horseshoe barn. It was a little scary to imagine what traveling in them would be like in the freezing New England winters.
Exhibits and live demonstrations are scattered around the grounds. On my visits, I’ve seen everything from a quilt exhibition to a fashion show. Included among the grounds are a cafe, gift shop and even a pricey art gallery.
Admission for non-Vermont residents is twenty dollars and the tickets are good for two days. While this may seem a little high at first, this museum is totally worth it. I have spent three or four hours at a time and barely scratched the surface. There is so much to see that it’s almost overwhelming.
Be sure to bring comfortable, waterproof walking shoes and dress for Vermont’s weather as much of this museum is outdoors. The grounds are much bigger than they look from the road which I quickly found out.
The museum is open May through October. I have visited in both the spring and fall and have been told that summers are especially busy when schools are out.
I first stumbled upon this museum purely by accident as I was interested in the round barn, as my grandparents owned a farm when I was little. For visitors in this part of Vermont, all I can say is go to the Shelburne Museum. This museum rivals museums I’ve seen in major cities around the world and the exhibits are impressive. As one Vermonter told me, many visitors don’t realize how good this museum is.
Anytime I am in this part of Vermont, I will be stopping here.
6000 Shelburne Road
Shelburne, Vermont 05482