The making of potash, primarily for the making of fertilizer, was the first industry in St. Johnsbury.
The Paddock Iron Works was established in 1828. The foundry used iron ore from Troy, bog iron from Lancaster, New Hampshire, and charcoal produced from St. Johnsbury trees. Stoves, plows and milling machinery were made.
Major Joseph Fairbanks and his three sons came from Brimfield, Massachusetts in 1815 and built a sawmill on the Sleeper's River. The next year a gristmill was built and the sons employed themselves in a small wheelwright and foundry business, which made carriages, plows, hoes, and pitchforks. In 1834 the brothers, Erastus and Thaddeus, with Joseph P., founded the firm of E. & T. Fairbanks & Company. Thaddeus Fairbanks invented the platform scale, originally used to weigh hemp. As a result of Thaddeus' aggressive marketing of the company's innovative products, the company's volume of business doubled every three years.
St. Johnsbury expanded as the scale, maple, and wood products industries expanded. The quick growth of St. Johnsbury resulted in its becoming the county seat in 1856, a railroad junction, and an industrial, commercial and cultural crossroads of the region. It remains so today.
The Ide Company (now Blue Seal Feeds) is the Town's oldest business and the oldest Grain Company in New England. The company started out in Passumpsic in 1813 and moved to St. Johnsbury in 1879. For 164 years the business remained in the Ide family.
George C. Cary founded the Cary Maple Sugar Company in 1904. He was successful in promoting the use of maple sugar for flavoring plug tobacco and as a moisturizing and non-fermenting flavoring agent in cigarettes. Mr. Cary built a large plant on Portland Street as well as an adjoining facility, known as Maple Grove Farms of Vermont. The company operates a museum and sugarhouse on the site. St. Johnsbury became known as the maple center of the world.
After 84 years on Railroad Street, the Hovey retail clothing empire is going out of business. Founder Carl Hovey sold his share of the business in 1945 which is located in three historic buildings. This large business retained its rural character; the owners know many customers by name and sometimes by inseam. Other business lost in recent years: St. Johnsbury Trucking, Mardon Industries, and North East Tool. (Burlington Free Press "No Room For Small Retailers" by Molly Walsh, 10/22/95, 1-8A.)
Other major manufacturers in St. Johnsbury include EHV-Weidmann Industries.
The Central Vermont Public Service Company provides electricity to St. Johnsbury.
The "Caledonia Record" provides daily newspaper service. Also published are the "New England Farmer" and "Turf Magazine".
St. Johnsbury radio stations are: WSTJ 1340 AM , WNKV 105.5 FM and WSHX FM.
Railroads became a major factor in the growth of St. Johnsbury starting in 1850, at one time four rail lines merged here. Presently St. Johnsbury is served by the Vermont Northern, Maine Central and Canadian Pacific. The former St. Johnsbury and Lake Champlain Railroad was known locally as "St. Jesus and Long Coming".
The Civil War monument in the Main Street Courthouse Park, dedicated in 1868, is an original Italian marble figure designed by Vermonter Larkin Mead and sculpted in Florence, Italy.
Arnold Park, a small triangle on Main Street, is the site of Jonathan Arnold's home, the first frame building in St. Johnsbury.
The St. Johnsbury House on Main Street, built in 1851 as a hotel, now serves as senior housing.
The Athenaeum was built as a public library and presented to the town by Horace Fairbanks in 1871. John Davis Hatch of New York designed the elegant Victorian building. The building has high cathedral ceilings, tall windows that brighten the interior, elaborate woodwork, floors with alternating strips of ash and walnut and spiral staircases. In 1873 the Art Gallery was added. Horace Fairbanks collected works by contemporary American painters and the design of the gallery was determined by his purchase of the enormous ten by fifteen-foot painting by Albert Bierstadt, "The Domes of the Yosemite". Critics saw the painting's removal from the New York area to St. Johnsbury as a profound loss to civilized culture. In 1965, Time magazine described the gallery as "the United States' oldest unaltered art gallery still standing". The permanent collection of paintings number one hundred and the library includes approximately 45,000 volumes. The library also has magazines, newspapers, records, video and audiotapes, reproductions of famous paintings and original works by local artists which can be borrowed for hanging in homes, a complete collection of the local newspaper, pamphlets and paperbacks. The library is run by an independent private corporation, but receives an annual appropriation from the Town and in effect serves as the public library for St. Johnsbury. Library cards are available to residents of other towns. Hours are: Monday and Wednesday 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Franklin Fairbanks built the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium, a museum of natural science and history, in 1891. Lambert Packard in the massive, horizontal and rough-textured style of Richardson Romanesque designed the building. In addition to designing industrial buildings for Fairbanks, he also designed six public buildings, two theaters, five schools, three churches and seventeen residences.
Franklin Fairbanks founded the museum to house his collections of rocks, shells, fossils, birds, animals and artifacts from around the world and to put them to active service in the educational life of his community. The museum has the largest display of mounted birds and mammals in northern New England and collections and exhibits related to the history of St. Johnsbury. The museum also houses the Northern New England Weather Center, a Planetarium and offers educational services to over 25,000 children annually.
If you want to learn more about the Fairbanks Museum please visit their website at: fairbanks.org.
There is a clock on the corner of Main and Eastern Avenues which once was in Grand Central Station. It tells time, from time to time.