Dr. William Seward Webb and Eliza Osgood Vanderbilt Webb founded Shelburne Farms in 1886 during the Gilded Age. They sought to make the farm a model agricultural estate. To build the farm, they utilized money received from railroad magnate William Henry Vanderbilt. The Webb’s hired landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted to plan the 3,800-acre farm, field, and woodland. To build the structures, they hired the New York architect Robert Henderson Robertson. The large farm was made possible by the acquisition of over 30 large agricultural properties in Vermont. The farms were all combined into Shelburne Farms using existing roads and lanes. The Webb’s originally wanted to close off the roads to the public, but they faced backlash for this.
Shelburne Farms was incorporated as a nonprofit educational organization in 1972 by descendants of the Webbs. Today, it is open to the public to provide education and enjoyment.
Shelburne Farms’ education activities and nonprofit administration are housed at the Farm Barn. It has a five-story main portion and an approximately 2-acre courtyard. It was built between 1886 and 1890 to house offices, workshops, farm machinery, stables, and crop storage chambers, and was designed by architect Robert H. Robertson. The facility was first occupied by a new nonprofit in 1972. The barn was then renovated for $3 million between 1990 and 1993 to become an educational facility.