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A note from the writer: Do we locals ever act as tourists at home? A tourist dives into some of the best spots of a place, eager to experience what it has to offer. Too often, we locals — OK, I’ll speak for myself — too often, I settle into a routine and skip the places tourists travel hours to seek out. I decided to be a tourist in the Northshire, and see what I was missing. This is a part of an occasional series.

Abe Lincoln haunts Hildene, the Lincoln Family Home.

Not in the sense of a ghost on Halloween, but a presence and a promise, sadly unfulfilled. I’m sure it’s partly me, born in Illinois, land of Lincoln, who longs for a link to a leader I’ve always revered. It’s not too far-fetched to think that Lincoln could have retired to Vermont. His wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, had stayed at the Equinox Hotel and had booked a family vacation for Manchester in summer 1865 — only weeks after his unspeakable assassination. After his death, Mary did stay at the hotel, with her boys, Tad and Robert, and Robert formed an affection for Manchester.

Some 40 years later, Robert built a home here — Hildene (joining the old English words for “hill” and “valley with a stream”).

With a little fine-tuning, Abe’s initials suggest the flourish of an H for Hildene’s logo, another hint of his presence. For the Lincolns, much had happened by 1905. Robert’s brother, Tad, had died at 18. (Their brother Willie had died in the first year of the Civil War, a pivotal action in the brilliant “Lincoln in the Bardo” by George Saunders.) Robert had attended Harvard, become a lawyer, served three presidential administrations and later stepped in as president of the Pullman Co., the largest manufacturing company in the world at the time. (He had agreed to serve one year, but when he tripled profits, company directors insisted he stay on. Imagine a person taking over for Steve Jobs at Apple and tripling profits, and you have a rough equivalent to his accomplishment in following George Pullman as president.) At 5-foot, 9-inches and 190 pounds, Robert inherited not his father’s physique, but his intelligence.

Drive up the long driveway, park and then enter the Welcome House at Hildene. (In December, it will be decorated for Christmas, gift choices galore, and the house itself will be decorated as it was in 1912, a year when the entire family was present.) Walk out the side door and over to the large, stately family home. Enter and gain a glimpse of tasteful wealth from the turn of the last century, complete with buttons to call the 15 servants, and rooms replete with pianos and leather-bound books. Bedrooms have canopied beds and adjoining bathrooms — unless you’re a servant: monastic single bed and bathroom in the basement for you. A large, electricity-powered dumbwaiter links the basement and attic, perfect for transporting dishes — or moving furniture.

There is plenty in the house to appreciate, but one object in particular fascinated me: a mirror, supposedly the last one Lincoln looked into before his death. Yes, I might have a morbid streak, but could such a mysterious object hold deep within some vestiges of Abraham Lincoln? No, science says, but as I glimpse my own poor reflection in the same mirror, I imagine it mingled now with Lincoln’s forever: Why not? Imagination can be more powerful than science.

Outside the house, a formal garden is hushed up in late fall reticence, readying itself for the glory of spring and summer. Back toward the Welcome House, crews are digging, preparing the soil for the foundation of Lincoln Hall, a permanent meeting space that will be replacing the tents used in the past. Once completed (projected date: May 2024), Lincoln Hall will hold up to 220 people for weddings and other programming, Hildene President Brian Keefe told me.

On the other side of the family home, a small observatory attests to Robert Lincoln’s passion for astronomy. (In his study, he had a black globe, which projected the constellations in the night sky.) Supposedly, Robert liked to stroll down and gaze at stars before making his way back to his room and drifting off to sleep.

A trail of about one-third of a mile leads to the Pullman train car. (Wear comfortable shoes! This is no time for stilettos, people. If you need assistance getting around Hildene’s 412 acres, trams transport people in summer. At other times, Polly Raine, creative and marketing director, urges people to reach out at the Welcome Center, and the staff will make whatever accommodations are possible.)

Why is a fancy Pullman rail car perched on rolling hills on a track that dead-ends in the woods? In true Vermont fashion, the Hildene site is cobbled together — house, train, farms — in this case, to engage locals and tourists. If you’re looking for a pristine, unified experience — well, I’m sure there are untouched waterfalls deep in the mountains, just waiting for you. Although Robert Lincoln led the Pullman Co., no trains ever rumbled through the property.

Gary, the guide stationed at the Pullman exhibit, noted that some 15 years ago, Hildene conducted a wide search for a car that was built during Robert’s tenure as president of Pullman. The 1903 Sunbeam 18-bed, executive charter car was discovered in a dilapidated state along the banks of the Savannah River in South Carolina. It was meticulously refurbished over four years, Gary says, for $2 million, and transported to its current resting place in 2011.

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Pullman cars played a vital role transporting summer guests up to Manchester. Visitors will not only be drawn to the Sunbeam’s history, but its beauty. You need not be a train fanatic to be fascinated.

Duck your head into the car, and you are greeted with deep, rich swirls of Cuban mahogany and the mellow glow of Tiffany stained glass windows. The Sunbeam’s amenities are state-of-the-art for 1903: hot and cold running water, central heating and electricity. Riders used to horse and carriage in the 1900s would have “absolutely no complaints” about this transportation, says Gary. (Actually, if I were to ride in it today, I would have no complaints, either. Who needs Wi-Fi?) Presidents William McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt used this very car.

Seeing such glimmering beauty, cynical readers might suspect that the Pullman car has a troubled past — and they would be right — with Robert Lincoln smack in the center of it. When Lincoln tripled profits in his first year as president of the company (1897 to 1898), he did so on the back of the Pullman porters, African American men not even one generation away from slavery. The porters lived in the cars, working 100 hours a week; for the privilege, they were charged to board and to rent their uniforms. They received a pittance of a salary, relying on tips from passengers. Despite deplorable working conditions, historians note that the jobs gave African American men a foothold in the middle class, and led to a labor union formed in 1925, which in turn helped support the civil rights movement.

Hildene does “not shy away” from the exploitative role Robert Lincoln played, says Keefe. A contemporary cartoon titled “And His Father Set the Negro Free!” is enlarged in the exhibit. Is wealth juxtaposed next to exploitation an example of the paradox of America — or its hypocrisy? How do I reconcile appreciating the sheer beauty of the Sunbeam, but knowing abuse allowed its creation? As a visitor, I appreciate that Hildene highlights the complexity, leaving it to each of us to consider.

If this part of Hildene is rife with moral uncertainty, the path to the dairy opens a different kind of experience. To me, the walk through the woods and past a small pond suggests the amorality of nature. Or to quote Van Morrison from the last century: “It ain’t why, why, why, why, why — it just is.”

The goat farm and dairy represent another kind of challenge: Take 10 acres and see if it can prove sustainable. The land supports milk, cheese, soap and meat, as well as crops to feed the goats. The energy comes from solar panels and wood to heat efficient furnaces.

At the goat farm, I met volunteer Carol Gottlieb, one of 100 volunteers and 33 full-time employees at Hildene. Carol tells me that Nubian goats from Egypt were brought to Hildene, chosen for their high butter content, which, in turn, produces delicious milk and cheese. Obviously, the climate would not be especially amenable to this breed, but the barns have heated floors to make the goats comfortable in winter.

One gallon of milk yields one pound of cheese. Hildene produces two artisan goat cheeses: a tomme, aged four to six months in the farm’s cave; and a chevre, a fresh cheese. When I visited, the Welcome Center was sold out of tomme (the cave is being repaired, so no inventory), but I bought a small wheel of chevre. (I tried it that night: It was delightfully mild and creamy.)

The day was drawing on, so I needed to save a visit to the farm across River Road for another day. Also, 12 miles of trails criss-cross the property, each beckoning. For the adventurous and energetic, a visit could last the day. The visit deepened my connection to this part of Vermont, appealing to my sight and senses, prompting examination of moral issues of past and present. I’m embarrassed not to have gone earlier. (I don’t always agree with Tripadvisor, but Hildene’s number-one ranking on “things to do in Manchester” makes sense.)

One practical suggestion: If you’re a local or if you visit the area fairly often, consider a membership as opposed to simply buying tickets. Note, too, that if a single adult buys a membership, the individual pays $60 but receives two guest passes and free member entrance, so it’s cheaper than three adult tickets at $23 apiece — and the member continues with the benefits for a year.

I’m going to end with words from President Lincoln, calm, firm, conciliatory words that closed his Second Inaugural Address only a month before being assassinated. Note the balance and the way words are parceled out, opening new vistas of thought. Note the phrasing of “bind up the nation’s wounds,” taking a wound of a soldier as metaphor for the country and emphasizing the healing of that wound. Note, too, the sad, realistic acknowledgement of lives lost — of suffering — an acknowledgement that deepens the longing for peace that flows out at the passage’s end:

“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan — to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”

Gordon Dossett taught writing and literature in California, England and Ireland over four decades before settling in Vermont.