1890 Farm House Fact Sheet
The historic 1890 Farm House at the Billings Farm was built as a multi-purpose addition to Frederick Billings’s expanding farm operation in Woodstock, Vermont. Fully restored to its late 19th century heyday, the house contains a business office, a spacious apartment for the farm manager and his family, a creamery, and an adjoining ice house. It was a “model” farmhouse, incorporating state-of-the art creamery equipment, as well as many indoor conveniences. The house exemplified the farm’s role as a model dairy operation in Vermont, reflecting Billings’s determination to apply progressive solutions to practical agricultural problems.
The farmhouse examines the beginnings of the Billings Farm, when Frederick Billings and his first professional farm manager, George Aitken developed one of the finest agricultural operations in Vermont and triumphed at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. This drive toward excellence continues today at the farm with its fine herd of Jersey cows and other livestock.
The 1890 Farm House also expands our interpretation of late 19th century Vermont, a time when Vermont farm families’ way of life was threatened by shifts in the agricultural economy. The farmhouse illustrates the progressive solutions that Frederick Billings introduced to help maintain that way of life and ensure the survival of Vermont’s agricultural heritage. Through self-guided tours and intensive “live-in” experiences in the farmhouse, visitors and students are educated about daily life on this farm a century ago.
Original Construction and Restoration
The construction of the house began in 1889 and was completed a year later. Boston architect Frederick W. Stickney designed the building. The first occupant of the house was George Aitken, Billings Farm’s first professional farm manager, who lived in the house with his wife and four daughters from 1890 until his death in 1910. Thereafter, the house continued to serve as a residence for managers of the Billings Farm and other farm staff into the 1980s. The creamery remained in operation into the 1930s.
The restoration of the farmhouse began in 1987, as a collaborative effort of tradesmen, conservators, curators, and researchers. The project involved building analysis, as well as the examination of historical material related to the construction and early years of occupancy. Extensive physical and documentary evidence was used to restore the building to its 1890s appearance and scientific paint analysis revealed the house’s original paint colors. Receipts in the Billings family archives confirmed the specific colors chosen. Architectural books and trade journals of the period outlined 19th century aesthetics.
The same attention to detail and historical accuracy also guided the interior restoration. The creamery was thoroughly examined to determine the location of the original equipment. Bills and receipts from the Vermont Farm Machine Company outlined the exact creamery equipment installed in 1890.
The result of this meticulous restoration effort is not only an authentic Victorian-era building complete with a restored office, creamery, and living quarters, but a unique multi-faceted farmhouse that provides educational opportunities to examine and experience daily elements of life on the Billings Farm in the 1890s.