Mills & Factories

Manufacturing heritage sites in Burlington and Winooski, Vermont

Historic Burlington ProjectUniversity of Vermont Historic Preservation Program

Champlain Mill

For over two centuries, mills, factories, and workshops have supported the economy of the Burlington, Vermont area, while producing a wide range of products for local, national, and international markets. This history starts in the late 1700s with the first set of mills powered by a series of falls on the Winooski River, the largest stream that flows into Lake Champlain. During this period the mills supplied such local needs as lumber, flour, textiles, paper, and linseed oil.

But with the opening of the Champlain Canal between the southern end of Lake Champlain and the Hudson River in 1823, maritime trading soon connected Burlington to New York City and ports beyond. Then with the completion of the Chambly Canal in 1843 that by-passed rapids on the Richelieu River to connect Lake Champlain with the St. Lawrence River in Canada to the north, Burlington became a major international inland port and industrial center. And when railroad connections to Boston and New York and beyond were completed by the early 1850s (along with the newly invented "magnetic telegraph"), the Burlington-Winooski area was in a position to become one of America's important centers of industrial growth during the second half of the nineteenth century.

Despite advantages of power and location, the story of Burlington's manufacturing heritage cannot be told with recognizing the remarkable efforts of the entrepreneurs who developed a wide range of industries in collaboration with investors and public officials, as well as of the many workers who toiled in these mills, factories, and workshops. Yet as with many other manufacturing communities, Burlington also suffered from the impacts of fires, floods, bankruptcies, and business closures, as well as from the resulting periods of hardships and unemployment.

Today, the Burlington area is fortunate that so many of the mills and factories associated with this rich industrial heritage have been preserved and adapted for a variety of new uses that support the local economy and quality of life. It is these many factories and manufacturing sites that are the focus of this edition of the Historic Burlington Project. The research and documentation for this year's project was done during the fall 2013 semester by students as part of the HP 206, Researching Historic Structures and Sites course taught by Thomas Visser, director of the Historic Preservation Program at the University of Vermont.

Flynn Avenue Factories: From Film to Chocolate

By Frances Gubler

Flynn Avenue, a one-mile long road in Burlington's south end, was known as "Park Avenue" until 1934. Today, the street retains physical characteristics of a largely industrial past. Throughout the late nineteenth century and the majority of the twentieth century, Flynn Avenue became the home for a series of many manufacturing outlets. In this neighborhood, factories produced items imperative to Burlington's history and culture such as photographic materials, city waterworks supplies, structural steel products, shoes, and milk chocolate. More...

Lakeside Avenue Manufacturing

By Kyle Obenauer

Burlington's Lakeside Avenue has been home to the Queen City's largest manufacturing operations, Vermont's first factory housing complex, and is currently where the city's oldest continuously operating manufacturer, Blodgett Ovens, still produces cooking equipment not unlike that which was manufactured barely a mile away, over 165 years ago. Before 1894, Burlington's Lakeside Avenue area was considered to be a suburban area of fertile farmland on the banks of Lake Champlain. Since the end of the 19th century, Lakeside Avenue has been home to companies that have produced cotton textiles, airplane turrets, small machinery such as coin machines and small gasoline engines, and fully integrated land, sea, and air systems for the U.S. military. More...

From Cereal to Can Openers: Historic Industries along Pine Street

By Karyn Norwood

Stacks of sawn and planed lumber dominated the waterfront landscape of Burlington from the mid-nineteenth century to the early 1920s. Sprinkling the length of Pine Street by the turn of the century, a range of factories and businesses popped up, producing a miscellany of products including cotton cloth, brush fibers, maple syrup, kitchen utensils, and cereal. More...

Manufacturing in the Maple-Kilburn Area

By Kate Hovanes

Champlain MillBurlington's Maple-Kilburn neighborhood from Maple Street south to Kilburn Street and from St. Paul Street west to the Lake Champlain waterfront is an area with a rich manufacturing history. From before 1869 until the present, a wide range of companies have conducted manufacturing, in industries as diverse as spool and bobbin production, Venetian blind crafting, marble and granite finishing, and candy and cigar making. More...

Local and Global Manufacturers in the Heart of Downtown Burlington

By Egbert Stolk

Champlain MillThe main focus of this section will be the manufacturers, small and big, that had factories in the center of Burlington. The ones that will be discussed here are mainly centered around the corner of College Street and Pine Street and the corner of King Street and St. Paul Street. One manufacturer stands out as a big enterprise, the Wells & Richardson Company, which occupied almost an entire block. More...

Burlington's Manufacturing Heritage along the Winooski River

By Chris Witman

Champlain Mill The evolution of the built environment around this industrial center on the Burlington side of Winooski Falls from the early 19th century to the present is astounding. What started out as land granted to the Catlin family after a lawsuit, has evolved into an area that has witnessed the rise and fall of many individual companies. The history of this place is reflected in the Chace Mill and the small ruined examples of past structures, but they only represent a small part of what once was a large industrial center along the south bank of the Winooski River. More...

Manufacturing in Winooski, Vermont (East of Main Street)

By Ashley Phillips

Champlain MillIn the mid-19th century, Winooski, Vermont was home to some of the state's largest and most innovative manufacturing companies. Located just north of Burlington (and part of the town of Colchester until being incorporated as a separate city in 1922), Winooski offered mill owners ample land, railroad access, and most importantly, water power from the Winooski River. Whether manufacturing fine wools or state of the art machinery, the mills and factories in Winooski helped shape Vermont's industrial heritage. More...

Wool Manufacturing at Winooski Falls

By Matthew Goguen

Champlain Mill The mill buildings located on West Canal Street in Winooski, Vermont have undergone a long evolution from bustling wool production to modern apartments with numerous amenities. Through explosions of success, harsh depressions, cataclysmic flooding, and their eventual closing in 1956, these mill buildings have contributed to the character of Winooski. As they stand today, these mill buildings still contribute to Winooski and serve as an example of how re-use of historic structures can maintain a sense of place during a new downtown revitalization. More...

Manufacturing Sites along the Burlington Waterfront from College Street North

By Greg Jacobs

The area along Burlington's waterfront north of College Street was once the site of a major manufacturing district, producing a vast quantity of goods including lumber, wood products, refrigerators, and packaged meat. Originally the site of the Pioneer Shops, a collection of machine shops built beginning in the 1850s by E.W. Chase, the area grew quickly. J.R. Booth moved part of his enormous lumber operation to the site in 1878, taking advantage of both the ease of water transport from Canada and the growth of rail access granted by the Central Vermont and Rutland railroads. More...