An Ongoing Study of the Shelburne Museum by the Students of Saint Michaels College
Buildings Topics Collections

The Electra Havemeyer Webb Memorial Building   

The Influences Behind the Shelburne Museum


The Electra Havmeyer Webb Memorial Building

Electra Havemeyer Webb

Louisine Elder Havemeyer

Mary Cassatt

Harry Havmeyer

J. Watson Webb


James Watson Webb (1884-1960) was born to Dr. W. Seward Webb and Lila Vanderbilt Webb at "Oakledge," his parent's first home in Burlington, Vermont. He was the second of four children and lived between family homes in New York City and at Shelburne farms in Shelburne, Vermont ( now an Inn.) The Webbs were extremely wealthy, partly attributable to the Vanderbilt rail road business' phenomenal economic success. The Webbs loved to entertain, and hosted the wealthiest socialites in the U.S. including the Havemeyers(The Havemeyers: Impressionism Comes to America.)


James attended Yale, graduating in 1907 and was employed by the Vanderbilts. James was inherently successful in rail management business (Notes By Electra Havemeyer...)  Family parties at Shelburne Farms attracted him to a certain Electra Havemeyer. The two met in 1905 and married in 1910.They first lived in Manhattan with James' parents where in 1910 their first child Electra was born. The new family then moved to Chicago for James' work in railway where second child Sam was born. After a job offer in the telephone industry, the couple moved back to Shelburne where the Brick House on the Shelburne Farms property had been restored for them (Electra's Cultural Jewel at Shelburne Museum), much to Electra's delight. James then accepted a position in the insurance business where he worked until retirement. Third child Lila was born in1913 followed by Watson Jr. in 1916, and son Harry was born in 1921 completing the family. James purchased several properties and fully endorsed Electra's collecting habits throughout the growth of their family and thereafter.

James Webb inherited several carriages from the Webb family Hackney horse breeding farm, and also passenger carriers after his mother's death in 1936 (Notes By Electra Havemeyer...) . This inheritance prompted the construction of the Shelburne Museum by wife Electra. The two retired and resided at their Vermont property, the Brick House, until both passed away in 1960 within months of each other.

Home Shelburne Museum Saint Michael's College Contact Us