The History of Ethan Allen Park *

 

 

On Memorial Day, 1905, Burlington residents were invited to the opening ceremony of Ethan Allen Park-a beautiful, sixty-seven acre tourist attraction with a panoramic view of Lake Champlain, the Adirondack Mountains, the Winooski River Valley, and the gorgeous Green Mountains of Vermont. At the time, this park was one of the foremost jewels in the heart of Queen City. Set on a two hundred-foot bluff, the park has an intriguing history that goes back farther than the Revolutionary War.

Before this war, a group of people called 'Tories' owned a two century-old farm near "central Vermont". It wasn't until later that the property was confiscated by the Republic of Vermont who sold the land to a man named Ethan Allen.

Years after Allen's death (1789) Vermont's first Governor, Cornelius Van Ness, inherited three hundred acres from his heirs, and in 1862, Alfred Brookes of New York bought the land from him. This land was in this Brookes family for only about forty years before it was sold to William J. Van Patten.

Van Patten deeded all but fifteen acres of the most scenic uncultivated land to his wife as a wedding present. He wished that this fifteen acres be made into a public park. He and his Morgan horse, "old Mattie"-as well as a large crew of men-cleared underbrush, fallen or dead trees, and timber. They created a "scenic beauty", lush with growing wildlife and four winding paths called 'Table Rock Drive', 'River Bank Drive', 'Eastern Drive', and 'Pinnacle'. It was in 1905 that the opening ceremonies took place at the park.

In appreciation for his associations for the river, Van Patten offered twelve acres of the park land-from the river to the road-to t he Sons of the Revolution. However, they could only receive this land under one condition; they were to erect a stone tower with a path leading to it as a memorial to the great hero of the Green Mountain Boys, Ethan Allen, on Prospect Rock. Van Patten's Champlain Manufacturing Company did just that, and on Bennington's Day, 1905, a stone tower, designed by Manager R. C. Cottom, was formerly dedicated. This tower is on the highest pinnacle of land, which once was part of Ethan Allen's farm. For two centuries, this pinnacle was a lookout for Indians and Caucasian settlers who were looking for enemies who used Lake Champlain and the Winooski River as water routes leading north, south, and east.

In the Burlington Free Press from 1920 (the year Van Patten died), an article written in memory of William J. Van Patten reads, "No man in Burlington from its earliest days of settlement ever gave so much to good causes as Van Patten."

The Burlington Traction Company soon extended the trolley line to accommodate for the fascinating new attraction. To this day, residents from Burlington, as well as many tourists, have been enjoying the scenic paths and blooming wildlife which make up the Ethan Allen Park.

 

*Information gathered from BLOW--Guide to Burlington Neighborhoods and Vermont History News.