Weekend getaway

The Round Barn at Shelburne Museum

Sunday through Wednesday of this past week was spent in Shelburne, Vermont, two of those days with the express purpose of visiting the Shelburne Museum. A huge collection of art and artifacts from American history are exhibited here in 39 buildings, 25 of which are relocated, historic New England structures set on 45 beautifully landscaped acres. The buildings recreate a New England town reminiscent of the 19th century.


Shelburne Museum’s founder, Electra Havemeyer Webb, created this place to display her vast collection of American folk art. It began in 1908 when 18-year-old Electra one day announced to her mother: “I’ve bought a work of art!” — and showed her a cigar-store Indian she had just purchased for $25. Mom, on the other hand, thought more along the lines of “art” being the original Degas hanging in the sitting room.

Elaborately decorated walls in the Stencil House

And her collections grew. “The rooms were over-filled,” she later wrote. “Then the closets and the attics were filled. I just couldn’t let good pieces go by — china, porcelain, pottery, pewter, glass, dolls, quilts, cigar-store Indians, eagles, folk art. They all seemed to appeal to me.”

Carousel horse

Today the Shelburne Museum collection contains more than 150,000 items. In addition to the Monet, Manet, Degas, and Cassatt paintings, there is also American folk art from the 18th and 19th centuries on display, including weathervanes, scrimshaw, carriages, quilts, and one house dedicated solely to bird decoys (who knew there were that many different kinds??).

Decoys in the Dorset House

Unique structures include a covered bridge, a circus building with carousel, a general store, a jail, a lighthouse and a National Historic Landmark, the steamboat Ticonderoga.

The 220' steamship Ticonderoga

Truly a wonderful place, Shelburne Museum is captivating even on a cold, rainy Vermont spring day. I would love to visit it again in the summer when the gardens are in bloom – especially the 400 peony plants. Somehow they seem to go just right with hatboxes, weathervanes, and all those decoys!


3 responses to “Weekend getaway

  1. Ilene Fiedler

    Ahhhh – had forgotten about the round barn, which we loved when we saw it years ago, and the Ticonderoga. Maybe I should go back and check it all out again. Preferably without rain.

  2. I want to go see that place! Maybe on our next trip out there you can remind of this place. It sounds fascinating! Beautiful pictures, as always, Paige. What a wonderful collection!

  3. The barn is very neat ….and nicely painted.
    I like the carousel horse too ….but I need to tap your knowledge on cropping. I notice that you sometimes crop little things, when (to me) it would be an obvious choice to not crop. Like the carousel horse’s ears, or the swan decoys tail. Help me here. D

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