Vermont’s first national park, described at its opening as “an entirely new kind…one where the human stories and the natural history are intertwined,” was a gift of Laurance Rockefeller and his wife, Mary. In 1992 they paved the way for the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park by donating a pristine antique farm with a rich American history, one of the first managed forests in the U.S., and a mansion house with a rich collection of nature paintings by Thomas Cole, Albert Bierstadt, Asher Durand, and others. The gift was collectively valued at $21 million, and transferred with a $7.5 million endowment in addition.
The park operates in partnership with the nonprofit Woodstock Foundation, which manages the Billings Farm and Museum. The Billings Farm was a product of earlier philanthropy, established in 1871 by native Vermonter Frederick Billings after he made his fortune during the San Francisco Gold Rush. He built a model herd of Jersey cows and experimented with advanced agricultural processes, which he then showcased for others. While operating as a museum of rural heritage, the farm also remains a working dairy—every year producing prized Jersey breeding cows along with thousands of pounds of milk that is used to make Cabot cheese.
The Woodstock Foundation also owns the for-profit Woodstock Inn and Resort, likewise gifted by the Rockefellers, whose earnings are used to benefit the work of the foundation. Together, these institutions give thousands of annual visitors a detailed picture of New England nature, traditional agricultural work, and three generations of American history.