Stunning landscapes, compelling history, and a stay at a 19th-century landmark property highlight a new twist on Sojourn’s award-winning Vermont bike tour in the Lake Champlain region. During one very special trip in July of 2015, Sojourn guests will experience one of the most majestic and beautiful properties in the United States.
Shelburne Farms, just a short bike ride from Sojourn’s Vermont headquarters, is the gorgeous 1,400-acre former estate of William Seward and Lila Vanderbilt Webb. Today, this visually stunning property with its Queen Anne and shingle-styled architecture reminiscent of the Gilded Age, is a working agricultural farm with an educational focus. With the slight tweak to what noted travel authority, Frommer’s called one of the World’s 10 Best Bike Tours, Sojourn has upped the ante to include a stay at Shelburne Farms in the new, one-of-a-kind Landmark Vermont Bike Tour.
During the Landmark Vermont Bike Tour, Sojourn guests will enjoy an exclusive stay at the Inn at Shelburne Farms. There will be opportunity to walk the farm’s beautiful and winding trails through it woodlands and open fields offering expansive views over Lake Champlain. Guests will also enjoy a specially prepared farm-to-table dinner in the inn’s award-winning dining room. The farm harvests much of the food they serve from the property itself.
As you may have surmised, Lila Vanderbilt Webb was of the famed railroad magnate Vanderbilt family. She met William Seward Webb while she was still in boarding school and though her father, William Henry Vanderbilt, did not initially approve of his daughter’s love for the young Dr. Webb, he eventually acquiesced. The couple married and lived for 30 years lived in a Vanderbilt family townhome on 5th Avenue in New York City They also acquired 4,000 acres of forest and farmland along Lake Champlain just south of Burlington, Vermont. The couple’s mutual love of the outdoors helped fuel their interest in creating an estate farm where they could live and where Webb could breed the harness horses that he envisioned would improve the prosperity of the local community.
In addition to breeding horses, the Webbs were committed to developing a park-like feeling on the grounds of their estate. Here family and distinguished guests, which included the likes of President Roosevelt and wealthy dignitaries, could relish in their love of the outdoors. They hired Frederick Law Olmstead, one of the most revered landscape architects in modern history, to design the layout of the farm’s fields, forest, and roads – all under the directive of creating a park-like feel. Prominent New York City architect Robert Henderson Robertson was hired to design a large home on a spectacular hillside point overlooking Lake Champlain and the highest peaks of Adirondack Mountains. He went on to design the magnificent collection of huge livestock barns and the coach barn that to this day artfully complement the stunning property.
The home, originally known as Shelburne House, is now the Inn at Shelburne Farms. It, along with all of the property’s buildings and gardens, has been painstakingly restored to original grandeur. Occupying the most visually stunning and dramatic location on the 1,400 acre estate, the inn is flanked by formal gardens and features one of the most commanding views anywhere on Lake Champlain. French doors open from common rooms onto covered patios which overlook the sprawling lawn and gardens, evoking the feeling of another era—one where the simple pleasures provided life’s greatest joy. The remote and peaceful location provide a quiet solitude, especially during evenings.
While the Shelburne Farms of today is unquestionably a beautiful and pristine estate farm, following the Great Depression it saw its share of hard times. The institution of a federal income tax proved a hardship for the Webbs, and Seward and Lila’s grandson, Derick chose to sell off parcels of the property in order to preserve his children’s inheritance. In 1964 when Derick passed, his children collectively took steps to preserve the farm, turning it into a self-sustaining non-profit educational center. Through a lengthy and painstaking fund-raising process, they have lovingly restored the entire property while opening its doors to the public and successfully developing a model educational estate.
Sojourn guests on the Landmark Vermont Bike Tour will enjoy a guided tour of the property in addition to lodging and dining at the Inn at Shelburne Farms. The tour is a special, one-of-a-kind adaptation of Sojourn’s award-winning bike tour of the Lake Champlain Valley. The tour runs July 12-17 of 2015.
Sojourn is a boutique tour operator offering bicycling and active vacations in the US and Canada. Based in Charlotte, Vermont, Sojourn is known for its one-of-a-kind itineraries, exceptional tour leaders, and personalized service.