Little City on the Falls
Location in the United States
Vergennes (the United States)
|Incorporated as a city||1788|
|• Mayor||Lynn Donnelly|
|• City Council|
|• Total||2.55 sq mi (6.62 km2)|
|• Land||2.48 sq mi (6.42 km2)|
|• Water||0.08 sq mi (0.20 km2)|
|Elevation||194 ft (59 m)|
|• Density||1,000/sq mi (390/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC−5 (Eastern (EST))|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−4 (EDT)|
|GNIS feature ID||1460018|
Vergennes // is a city located in the northwest quadrant of Addison County, Vermont. The municipality is bordered by the towns of Ferrisburgh, Panton and Waltham. As of the 2020 census, the population was 2,553. It is the smallest of Vermont's nine cities in terms of population, though the city of Winooski covers a smaller area. It was the first city chartered in the state of Vermont.
Vergennes was settled in 1766 by Donald MacIntosh. It was established as a city in 1788, the only one in Vermont not to have been first chartered as a town or independent village. Instead, intersecting portions of the pre-existing towns of New Haven, Panton and Ferrisburg at the Otter Creek Falls were combined to form Vergennes. It is the smallest city by population in Vermont.
The city is named for Frenchman Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes, who greatly aided the rebel colonial effort in the American Revolutionary War.
Here, Thomas Macdonough built and armed the fleet that defeated the British on Lake Champlain during the War of 1812. The Monkton Iron Company (which was at the time the largest iron works in the nation) manufactured the fittings for Macdonough's fleet, as well as most of the cannon shot used by the United States Army in the north. The ore used was mined in nearby Monkton. USS Saratoga, USS Eagle, USS Ticonderoga, and USS Preble were built or refitted in Vergennes as a part of that fleet.
Organizers chose a city form of municipal government in anticipation of developing the area as an industrial center. The Otter Creek Falls provided power for mills and factories, and the close access to the Lake Champlain waterway was ideal for transportation both north and south. Industry boomed in the late nineteenth century; in particular, shipping connected to the Champlain Canal and wood-finishing related to lumber imported from Canada. As railways supplanted and bypassed the canal system, manufacturing declined in the city. A railroad spur from Ferrisburgh to the base of the falls proved a failure, as the grades were too steep for practical operations.
Commercial decline continued in the twentieth century, narrowing down to a few surviving companies. In the early years of the 21st century, a group of civic boosters and merchants improved the downtown area along Main Street and reconnected the city to its waterways. The resulting development, catering to tourists and transients, is hampered by centralization of land ownership and escalation of commercial rents.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 2.5 square miles (6.5 km2), of which 2.4 square miles (6.2 km2) is land and 0.1 square miles (0.26 km2) (4.0%) is water.
Otter Creek flows north through the town. In the middle of town is a 37-foot (11 m) waterfall, with a large basin which occasionally floods.
|U.S. Decennial Census|
As of the census of 2010, there were 2,588 people, 979 households, and 632 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,141.1 people per square mile (441.0/km2). There were 1,032 housing units at an average density of 429.6 per square mile (166.0/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 92.8% White, 3.0% African American, 0.3% Native American, 0.9% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.7% from other races, and 2.3% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.6% of the population.
There were 979 households, out of which 34.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.8% were married couples living together, 11.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.4% were non-families. 28.2% of all households were made up of individuals, and 12.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.47 and the average family size was 3.02.
In the city, the age distribution of the population shows 28.4% under the age of 18, 13.1% from 18 to 24, 27.8% from 25 to 44, 19.3% from 45 to 64, and 11.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females, there were 100.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.8 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $37,763, and the median income for a family was $48,155. Males had a median income of $33,669 versus $20,527 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,465. About 8.1% of families and 17.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.5% of those under age 18 and 16.0% of those age 65 or over.
Collins Aerospace (formerly UTC Aerospace, BF Goodrich Aerospace, and Symonds Precision) is the major employer in the community.
Vermont Route 22A runs through the city, and makes a junction with U.S. Highway 7 on the northern outskirts of Vergennes.
Until 1953 the Rutland Railroad ran passenger service on the Green Mountain Flyer (New York City - Montreal), making stops in the city. It is anticipated that Amtrak's Ethan Allen Express will service the city at the new Ferrisburgh–Vergennes station when the train is extended to Burlington by spring 2022.
Vergennes has four schools: Vergennes Union Elementary School, Vergennes Union High School, Champlain Valley Christian School, and Northlands Job Corps Center, the former Vermont Industrial School, later known as the Weeks School, which served as an orphanage and juvenile delinquent home until the late 1970s, in the same facility.
Vergennes Union High School also offers an alternative public program, the Walden Project, available to area students.
The city features the Vergennes Opera House, which has weekly events involving the community and special guests, bands, singers, politicians and theater groups. The city has a library, the Bixby Memorial Free Library. Bixby Memorial Library hosts a variety of events such as a book club, writing workshops, children's story hour, and bridge club.