Four Delicious Stops On The Vermont Cheese Trail
In the spring 2017 issue of Preservation magazine, writer Jason Wilson takes readers on a tour of rural Vermont creameries that are preserving history by utilizing historic structures and keeping traditional cheesemaking methods alive.
Several of the creameries mentioned in the story are stops on the Vermont Cheese Trail, a 280-mile network of 55 artisanal creameries throughout the state that encourage visitors to sample their wares and experience the magic of cheesemaking firsthand. Here, we round up a few more sites with particularly rich histories.
Robert Todd Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln’s son, became the chairman of the Pullman Car Company in 1897, and he built this Georgian Revival mansion in Manchester, Vermont, eight years later. He and his wife Mary Harlan Lincoln spent summers there for the rest of their lives, and the house was inhabited by descendants of the Lincoln-Harlan family until 1975. Today, the estate is cared for by the Friends of Hildene, a nonprofit organization, and the house is still furnished almost entirely with Lincoln family furniture.
In 2008, the Rowland Agricultural Center at Hildene Farm opened, featuring a cheesemaking facility and a herd of Nubian goats. In between tours of the house and the restored 1903 Pullman railroad car that’s parked on the premises, visitors have the opportunity to observe each step of the cheesemaking process.
The Billings Farm was founded in 1871 by Frederick Billings, a native Vermonter. He worked as a railroad builder and lawyer, and was known as a pioneer in scientific farm management and reforestation. Starting with 270 acres, Billings set out to establish a farm that would be a model dairy operation for farmers in the region.
Since 1983, the Billings Farm & Museum has been owned and operated by the Woodstock Foundation, a non-profit educational institution, to “preserve the historic Billings Farm as well as the character and heritage of rural Vermont.” From April to October, the farm is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for tours and demonstrations, including cow milking and butter churning. Check out special events, like the Memorial Day Cheese & Dairy Celebration, for a slice (or a wedge) of local culture.
The Plymouth Cheese Factory prides itself on being the second-oldest cheese factory in the country. It still occupies the same building as it did when it was built in 1890 by Col. John Coolidge, the father of Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President of the United States. John, a dairy farmer, developed the Plymouth Cheese recipe to give extra milk from the family farm's dairy cows a longer shelf life, and he based it on the same recipe that the first European settlers brought with them to the New World. Today, the original Coolidge family recipe is carefully replicated by cheesemaker Jesse Werner.
The Coolidge Homestead is a state historic site encapsulating the village of Plymouth Notch, Vermont, Calvin Coolidge's childhood home. The homes of Coolidge's family and neighbors, as well as the community church, one-room schoolhouse, cheese factory, and general store have all been carefully preserved.
Nestled in the Champlain Valley and founded in 1864 by Consider Stebbins Bardwell, Consider Bardwell Farm was the first cheesemaking co-operative in Vermont. Today, under the ownership of Angela Miller and Russell Glover, two New Yorkers who split their time between the city and the farm, Consider Bardwell prides itself on producing organic, small-batch cheese using both cow and goats’ milk. The self-serve farm store and tasting room at Consider Bardwell are open year-round, and the farm is available for visitors to walk and tour.