Out of the nine cities that are located in Vermont, Vergennes is both the oldest and the smallest in population. Located in the northwestern part of Addison County, the city is rectangular in shape and close to being a square, covering 2.5 square miles.
The population of the city is around 2,700 people, making it the smallest city in the state. Vergennes is located about 25 miles south of Burlington, Vermont and 12 miles north of Middle bury. The city is serviced by Route 22 A providing residents with access to the surrounding towns.
The main waterway in Vergennes is Otter Creek, which flows northward through the city . The middle of town features a 37-foot waterfall, which once supplied power for mills and factories, allowing industry to flourish. Its close proximity to Lake Champlain allowed for easy transport of goods.
Vergennes was first settled in 1766, but the oncoming Revolutionary War and boundary disputes with New York made living in this area of Vermont impossible for a time. Most of the inhabitants left until 1783, when the population began to grow rapidly. Due to the creek and its falls, Vergennes was quickly established as an industrial center, with the surrounding towns ceding land to the new city. Vergennes was incorporated as a city in September 1788, the third city to be incorporated in the entire nation, and the first in Vermont. It was named for the negotiator of the Treaty of Paris, the Comte de Vergennes.
Industry was the backbone of the city from its earliest days, due to the creek supplying power and access to Lake Champlain. Monkton Ironworks Company was founded here, with nine forges, furnaces, a rolling mill, and wire factory in operation by 1812. The city also boasted a shipyard, sawmills, and other industries.
The city flourished and grew up through the 1870s, with a wide variety of industries opening up shop in the Vergennes. The historic Main Street was established, which still thrives today. It wasn’t until the Great Depression of the 1930s that business began to falter. Though industry has declined, the city still cherishes its industrial history, turning into a tourist destination and residential city while still supporting its remaining businesses and revitalizing the downtown area.
The downtown of Vergennes is a memorial to its 200 years of industrial history. With dining, shopping, and access to the scenic Vergennes Falls, these 3 blocks provide a walkable area for residents and tourists to enjoy. Here you will find the Vergennes Opera House, the library and City Park.
Vergennes is a small city with a neighborhood feel. Each year, the city hosts a variety of events including the Arts Walk, City-wide Yard Sale, Farmer’s Market, Holiday Stroll, Memorial Day Parade and Vergennes Day. Locals and visitors can come to enjoy all the small city has to offer during these events and throughout the year.
Though the downtown boasts buildings that are 150 years old, the area has been revitalized and restored making it feel new again. The city has placed a great emphasis on honoring its heritage, taking pride in this historic area.
Vergennes, Vermont is the smallest and oldest city in the state. Though small in both area and population, the city holds a large place in the industrial history of Vermont. Today it honors its history and heritage while growing to meet the needs of modern society and business.