Preserve America Community:
Brattleboro, Vermont (population 12,393), was built around the site of Fort Drummer, the first permanent English settlement in Vermont (1724). It served as a scouting post and trading center. The security of the fort attracted more settlers who cleared 200 acres surrounding it in 1752. A year later, King George II chartered this area as Brattleboro.
A gristmill and sawmill were soon built on Whetstone Brook, and a post office opened in 1784 at the Arms Tavern, the current site of the Retreat Farm. The first gummed postage stamp was later issued in Brattleboro. On a stagecoach route, Brattleboro’s economy benefited from the trade of grain, lumber, turpentine, tallow and pork.
Industry and commerce thrived in Brattleboro during the 1800s because the railroad ran directly through town, providing a vital link north. Brattleboro also became known as a resort town. Wealthy patrons came from the United States and abroad to plunge into the cold, pure springs, walk in the woods, and eat healthful food. The “water cure” spa operated from 1846 until 1871.
The Estey Organ Company, once the largest employer in town, produced over 500,000 church and parlor organs. Today the manufacturing complex is used for light industries, a day care facility, and assorted small businesses. Other adaptive reuses of historic properties include the 1883 high school, now the Municipal Center, and the Union Railroad Station, now home to the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center and the Amtrak station.
Both the village of West Brattleboro and Brattleboro's downtown are National Register Historic Districts. The Art Deco Latchis Memorial Building anchoring Main Street is being fully restored to its 1930's splendor and used as a hotel, a three screen theater, performance space, restaurant, and stores. The adjacent Wilder Building is being restored for mixed commercial and residential use.
Unique celebrations of local heritage include the Strolling of the Heifers, celebrating the family farm and the importance of sustaining rural farming culture, and Esteyfest, a gathering of antique organ enthusiasts.
For more information
Brattleboro Chamber of Commerce: www.brattleborochamber.org/visit/historyBrattleboro Historical Society: www.brattleborohistoricalsociety.org
Posted June 8, 2009