September 1, 1929

This is the earliest of the dated photographs taken by McAllister of the street work along Colchester Avenue. The image was shot from the intersection of Colchester Avenue with Riverside Avenue (called Lower Winooski Road in 1929) to the west and Mill Street to the east. The entrance to Barrett Street is visible in the left middle ground of the print.

The abandoned street car tracks in the foreground bear witness to the changing transportation infrastructure taking place in Burlington during this period. From 1893 to 1929, the Burlington Traction Company provided electric street car service along the principal routes in the city. J.A. Powers from New York state transformed the horse-drawn car system, begun in 1885 to an electrically powered one. Power for the trolleys was generated from a hydroelectric station at Otter Creek Falls in Vergennes.[1]

Perhaps following the lead of major urban centers throughout the United States, the Burlington Public Service Commission gave approval in 1929 for gasoline engine buses to open public service routes in the city. The Burlington Rapid Transit Company, owners of the buses, bought the assets of the Traction Company the same year. The electric car system came to a swift end a few months later. “On Sunday, August 4, 1929, a symbolic funeral was held for street cars all draped in black which met by City Hall Park and one car was set ablaze before the Hotel Vermont… Bus service offered a bit more flexibility and comfort for passengers.”[2]

The plan to end trolley service must have been in the works for a long enough period of time to allow the city to plan the street improvement project that McAllister documented. It seems more than a coincidence that the electric car service ended in August 1929, less than a month before McAllister took this photograph of the abandoned street car tracks.

[1] Robert B. Michaud, Salute to Burlington: An Informal History of Burlington, Vermont (Lyndonville: Lyndon State College, 1991), 132.

[2] Michaud, 133.



October 11, 2005

(18T 0644188   UTM 4927711)

One can only wonder how the streetscape might have looked today had the city or, for that matter, the country, developed a transportation system less dependent on oil.

Colchester Avenue east of East Avenue, Barrett and Mill Streets

Historic Burlington Project
Burlington 1890 | Burlington 1877 | Burlington 1869 | Burlington 1853 | Burlington 1830

Produced by University of Vermont Historic Preservation Program graduate students
in HP 206 Researching Historic Structures and Sites - Prof. Thomas Visser
in collaboration with UVM Landscape Change Program
Historic images courtesy of Louis L. McAllister Photograph Collection University of Vermont Library Special Collections