In 1886, Dr. William Seward and Lila Vanderbilt Webb began acquiring farmland on the shores of Lake Champlain to create a model agricultural estate. Landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr. created conceptual designs for the landscape. Prominent architect Robert H. Robertson designed four major buildings: The Farm Barn, Breeding Barn, Coach Barn and Shelburne House. By the early 1900s, the Webb’s 3,800-acre farm was renowned for its innovative practices, hackney horse breeding enterprise, and grand family residence.
The heyday was short-lived. Beginning around 1910, farming operations and other activities began to shrink, and subsequent generations struggled to find a workable future for this singular farm.
Shelburne Farms began a rebirth in 1972, when family descendants founded a nonprofit organization of the same name, dedicated to conservation education. For 40 years, the organization has offered educational opportunities for children of all ages to learn about sustainability and their connections to the natural and agricultural world. As stewards of the property, the nonprofit has placed much of the land under conservation easements, and preserved and rehabilitated the buildings to new uses. In 2001 the property became a National Historic Landmark