St. Johnsbury Social Capital


St. Johnsbury Academy, a private school founded by the Fairbanks family in 1842, serves as the high school for the Town. The school provides college preparation and vocational training to local students, as well as a large number of boarding students from around the world. For the first thirty years the Fairbanks family met all expenses incurred for real estate, buildings, equipment, and annual arrears. In 1872, Thaddeus Fairbanks erected new and commodious brick buildings with new furnishings and equipment. He was also instrumental in securing from the Fairbanks Company an endowment of $100,000 for the institution.

The Academy's quasi-public nature is sometimes a troublesome issue. In 1994, a federal judge ruled that the school had to open its doors to a sixteen year old boy with severe cerebral palsy even though the administrators claimed they operate a private school not covered by state and federal laws protecting the rights of students with disabilities. (Burlington Free Press, 8/27/94, B1)

St. Johnsbury has several public elementary schools, pre-school through fifth grade, as well as a middle school for grades six through eight.

In December 1997, the Roman Catholic diocese gave permission to a St. Johnsbury group to open an elementary school in the fall of 1998. The Good Shepherd Catholic School will be housed at the St. John's Center and will join eleven other catholic elementary schools in the State. Supporters are delighted that the community will be given a choice for their children. (Burlington Free Press, 12/14/97, page 7B)

The Union Baptist Christian School and St. Johns Center are parochial schools located in St. Johnsbury.

The Community College of Vermont, Springfield College and the University of Vermont Extension Service also offer programs in St. Johnsbury.


Churches in St. Johnsbury include: Assembly of God, two Baptist, Beth El Synagogue, Catholic, Christian Science, Episcopal, Methodist, Mormon, Seventh Day Adventist, and four Congregational.

The North Congregational Church was built in 1878, designed by Lambert Packard using Isle La Motte granite. This was a rebuilding effort by parishioners with the assistance of Horace and Franklin Fairbanks, two of Erastus' sons.

A lovely Tiffany stained glass window graces Grace United Methodist Church on Central Street. Built in 1915, it was constructed of native granite indigenous to the area.

The South Congregational Church split from the North Church in 1851 due to the large congregation that had developed. Thaddeus and Joseph Fairbanks built a new church. The new building was made of wood, painted white with a conical spire, open bell tower with a square base and clock, and three tall entrance doors.

Post Office

The first Post Office was opened in 1802. The name was changed in 1827 to St. Johnsbury Plain and then changed back in 1836 (05819). St. Johnsbury East opened in 1826, and changed the name to East St. Johnsbury in 1952 (05838). St. Johnsbury North opened in 1827; the name was changed to St. Johnsbury Center in 1840 (05863).


The St. Johnsbury Athenaeum serves as the town library. See Municipal Buildings.

Historic Markers

On Route 5 in front of the Middle School is a marker that reads:
St. Johnsbury Trade School. Vermont's first and for many years only four year vocational school opened on Western Avenue on September 3, 1918. Needing skilled workers during World War I, Fairbanks, Morse and Company started an all-day cooperative school where young men could learn a skilled trade, earn money and obtain a high school education. The original building, known as the Casino, was partially remodeled in 1919 and completely remodeled in 1927. The first out-of-town students arrived for vocational training in 1927. The "new" Trade School Building, built in 1942 on the site of Thaddeus Fairbanks estate is currently the St. Johnsbury Middle School.

On Route 2 at the Fairbanks-Morse Company Office:
First Platform Scale. After experimenting with new types of farm equipment, plows and stoves, Thaddeus Fairbanks invented the platform scale here in 1830. With his brothers Erastus and Joseph, he founded the company, which still bears their names. Many St. Johnsbury public institutions were gifts of this talented family.


On Eastern Avenue is the Octagon House, a brick eight-sided residence built in 1852. Other noteworthy houses are the Jewett-Ide House, 1874, the Paddock Mansion, 1820, the Estabrooks House 1896, Stevens House 1890 and Brantview, 1883, the chateau style brick mansion of the Fairbanks family which now serves as a St. Johnsbury Academy dormitory.


St. Johnsbury was one of the more strict villages in the mid 1800s. The straight-laced were objecting to the loosening of morals. They did not object to baseball, roller skating, magicians, circus or exhibitions of war panoramas, but they did object to raffles, lotteries or females reading sketches or declaiming in public. In spite of the restrictions, a dancing school was established which ended its dancing season with a ball at the St. Johnsbury House. To register their dissatisfaction the pillars of the North and South Congregational churches, which were also town officials, shut off the water to the hotel the next day, causing it to close.

St. Johnsbury built the first YMCA building in 1884.

The St. Johnsbury Country Club is located five miles north on Route 5. The course has nine holes, par thirty-five and a clubhouse with showers, lounge, pro shop, caddies and is open 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. There is also a par three course, Blackberry Acres, on Route 2B.

Community Buildings

St. Johnsbury's movie theater is the Star on Eastern Avenue.


The Catamount Film and Arts Center, started by filmmaker Jay Craven in 1976, attracts top performers to the Northeast Kingdom. Catamount is facing financial troubles due to cuts from the National Endowment of the Arts and the Vermont Arts Council, but the Board of Directors is planning to raise some ticket prices and increase appeals for donations.

On November 7, 1993, after two years of touring through Vermont and beyond, "Journey into Courage" played at Catamount Arts, in its hometown. The award-winning (U.S. Dept. of Justice high achievement award) theater piece written and acted by six Northeast Kingdom women, who have survived domestic violence and sexual assault, was created in 1990/91 through an acting workshop that Bess O'Brien offered to women.

The first airplane flight in Vermont was in 1910 at the Caledonia County Fairgrounds in St. Johnsbury.

The St. Johnsbury Athenaeum serves as the town library. See Municipal Buildings.