Our group of 21 boarded the very nice bus in the ASC parking lot at about 7:30 PM, having been treated to a pre-departure breakfast by Laura and Steve Marshall. The trip in the high tech bus (WiFi, AC sockets, …) took a little under 2 1/2 hours, getting us to the Billings Farm Visitor Center in plenty of time for the morning’s activities. We divided into 2 groups, with some exploring the farm and the rest taking off on a ranger-guided walk, where we learned that the National Historic Park is actually a kind of laboratory for sustainable and efficient energy use, including an advanced high-temperature wood-burning furnace. The ranger combined descriptions of techniques being used in the Park with related techniques he has applied to his own home.
After a picnic lunch just outside the Carriage House (which is the visitor center for the National Historic Park), some of us went on a tour of the adjacent mansion. There we learned about the 3 families who had lived there, and the modifications done by Frederic Billings, and later by Laurance Rockefeller, who had entered the picture by marrying the Billings’s granddaughter. One of the interesting changes that Billings had done was to move the mansion’s entrance 90 degrees to the left so that it looked out over the farm, while the original entrance had reflected Marsh’s desire to look onto Woodstock’s Main Street. Our ranger guide emphasized that this change was in part intended to make a point, to be noted by Billings’s contemporaries about what he thought was important.
Before heading home, the full group gathered on the lawn across from the Carriage House for prayer, reflection and a chance to share how we were affected by the day’s experiences. After getting the full group (even myself) onto the bus, we returned to ASC in comfort and style.