Take a step back in time and stroll through Waterbury’s history. The earliest inhabitants of the land were Abenaki, likely drawn to the area by the abundance of water, timber, and fertile soil. Naturally, the resources attracted other settlers and in 1763, King George III of England granted a charter. Many people moved to the area from Waterbury, Connecticut, thus the town of Waterbury, Vermont was named. Waterbury’s early industries relied on the bounty of natural resources, and many townspeople made their living processing lumber, farming with sheep and cattle farming, and manufacturing leather products and scythe handles.
The town of Waterbury changed drastically in 1849, when the Central Vermont Railroad came to town and brought with it an economic boom. In 1927, however, Waterbury was devastated by a flood which reached as high as the second story of some downtown buildings. Waterbury was ravaged by water 84 years later in 2011, when Tropical Storm Irene again flooded the town with up to six feet of water. Thankfully, the community spirit of Waterbury could not be washed away and volunteers worked hard to rebuild the damaged downtown. As you tour through Waterbury, look for the high water level markers from both the 1927 and 2011 floods.
Portions of this tour through downtown Waterbury can be completed by foot, but other portions will require a car, bicycle, or transportation method of your choice. Click here to download the tour map and more detailed directions for following the route.
Further information about Waterbury may be found at the following locations:
Looking to add a few more stops onto the historical tour? Pair it with these other great self-guided tours!
One of the best ways to discover more of Waterbury is by winding along the waters and through the trees on a scenic drive. Stop and stretch your legs along the way, or just stick to the windshield tour. You can’t go wrong no matter how you decide to explore these vistas!
Waterbury has a myriad of public art, ranging from murals to miniatures, and sculptures to large-scale installations. The public art tour includes just a small sampling, so look high and low as you travel through town.
This is the home of Waterbury’s second permanent settler, Ezra Butler. This was the first frame house built about 1800. Ezra Butler was also the thirteenth Governor of Vermont.
The front brick portion of the Dr. Henry Janes House was built in 1890 and is typical of the Queen Anne style. The smaller wooden attached portion behind the house dates to the early 1800s. It was the home of two generations of the Janes family. The first Henry Janes, an early resident of the town, was a lawyer who was active in political and town affairs. He married Fanny Butler, the daughter of Governor Ezra Butler. In 1825 the Marquis de Lafayette on his final tour of the United States stopped here to pay homage to Governor Butler. The son of Henry and Fanny was also named Henry. He became a medical doctor, practiced in town and served in the Civil War. As head of Union Army hospital services immediately after the Battle of Gettysburg, Dr. Janes at 32 years old faced the challenges of caring for 20,000 wounded Union and Confederate soldiers. Following the war. he returned to his medical practice here and was active in town affairs. Upon his death in 1915, he bequeathed his residence as a site for a public library. In 2015, the main portion of the building was restored to house the Municipal Offices and History Center while the new building behind is now the public library.
The Old Stagecoach Inn was constructed in 1826 as a Federal style building. In 1895, it was altered by changing it to a Queen Anne house. The large three-story, five-bay structure keeps the one-room-deep profile of the Federal period on the first floor. The entry is surrounded by etched glass sidelights. Extensive porches on each floor add to the appeal of this building. For many years this was the home of Mrs. Annette Henry Spencer, a local woman of considerable wealth having residences in London, Paris, and New York City. It has reverted to its former role as a welcome haven for travelers.
United Church of Christ, known as the White Meeting House, was built in 1824. In 1860 it underwent alterations giving it a Gothic look. The frame church is divided into three bays, with buttresses ending in pinnacles at the corners. The double door entrance is enclosed in a double-tiered tower topped by a spire. The chapel was added in 1880 and the stained-glass windows in 1890. The church was built by the Carpenter brothers, who also built the Stagecoach Inn. Hope Cemetery, directly behind the church, contains the remains of many of the early occupants of the buildings described in this tour.
Built circa 1835, the Dillingham Home originally the home of Governor Paul Dillingham, and his son, United States Senator William Dillingham. The stepping stone out front, which aided people descending from carriages, bears the initials of a later owner, Dr. W.F. Minard. A Federal style, two-and-a-half story brick house, it has a side hall entrance with sidelights supporting a broad fanlight framed by an arch. The porch is a late 19th-century addition.
Two North Main Street, a Federal/Greek Revival style building constructed in 1834, is a two-and-a-half story gable front structure of common bond brick with a header every ten rows. Granite was used for door and window jambs and divides the storefront into five bays. Note the unusual recessed gable. For a major portion of its existence, this building was a drug store.
One South Main Street was one of the earliest business structures in town, built in 1834. It is a larger version of 2 North Main Street. This Federal/Greek Revival, five-bay building shows early window features on the second- and third-floors. The top gable treatment differs from that of 2 North Main. In the 1860s it contained the first Masonic Hall. In later years, Smith and Somerville’s Hardware provided the town with a variety of materials.
As you proceed down Main Street, you will enter the original business area of the village. Bank Hill is a much gentler hill today than it was in the early days, when there were steps near the top of the hill to aid ascent. Commercial buildings on the left side of Main Street were built in the late 19th century. Over the years they housed banks, millinery shops, grocery stores, clothing and shoe stores, poolrooms and public baths (25 cents a tub). The buildings on the right side of the street are recent, as the older buildings on this side were destroyed by fire. Until the 1950s, a tower-like structure, called the “dummy policeman,” stood in the middle of the Stowe and Main Street intersection to serve as a traffic stop sign. On your right, notice 3 Elm Street where you can see the high-water marks from the 1927 flood and 2011 Tropical Storm Irene.
At the corner of Main and Foundry Streets sits Perkins Parker Funeral home, originally the town hall.
The Methodist Church dates to the late 19th century.
The Foundry Street area has been home to many manufacturing businesses including Cooley-Wright Mfg. Co., granite companies, and the original Green Mountain Coffee roasting facility.
The Carpenter House is a fine example of early Federal style. It was built around 1816 as the home of Dan Carpenter, Waterbury’s first lawyer. Carpenter built his first house about 1805 which is said to be the rear of the existing house. The two-and-a-half story, five-bay house, has a shallow, pitched roof. The front entry is topped by a semicircular fanlight with an elaborate surround of two pairs of broad fluted pilasters, each pair enclosing double-hung six over six sidelights. The interior was converted to office space in 1995, but the exterior is maintained in its original 1816 style.
This replica of the circa 1832 Greek Revival style house was rebuilt in 2006 after the original Wells-Randall house was destroyed by fire in December 2002. It was the home of the Civil War General William Wells and later to George W. Randall, lumberman and land owner.
At the corner of Main Street and Park Row stood the Waterbury Inn, a four-story Victorian hostelry built by William Deal and dedicated March 5, 1865. Visitors spent vacations there availing themselves of the croquet court and deer park at the back of the Inn. The Inn’s golf course was located on Blush Hill and is now known as the Blush Hill Country Club. This landmark, then encompassing most of Waterbury Square, burned on November 3 and 4, 1953.
Starting at Rusty Parker Memorial Park, named for the WDEV radio legend, you will see the Central Vermont Railroad Station. The original 1850 station was replaced by this building in 1875. A jewel of Victorian Italianate style, it was completely restored in 2006 by a group of dedicated Waterbury citizens.
The Amasa Pride House was the home of Waterbury’s first merchant, who arrived here in 1802. He was a successful merchant and innkeeper, and a political force in the community. Originally only one story high, this house, built circa 1845, sat diagonally across the street and was moved to this location in 1858. Later, a second floor was added to the Greek Revival style home. The entrance, flanked by sidelights and framed by granite posts and lintel surrounds, is original.
The C.C. Warren House is the Victorian Italianate grande dame of the town. Built by William Deal and completed in 1875, this two-story structure of running bond brick is topped by a hip roof with a deck. Each side of the house has a broken roof line with a gable-roofed pavilion. The added north entry has an unusual corner window with beautiful stained glass (notice the bull’s eye). In earlier days, conservatories ran obliquely from each side of the house, terminating in a gazebo-like room with an impressive concave roof. Two large stone mastiffs guarded the lawn, seeming to warn passers-by to stay away. The adjacent carriage house was altered in 1900 to house Mr. Warren’s Hames-Apperson gasoline-powered automobile, which bore Vermont license plate number 1. As the car had no reverse gear, a turntable was installed in the garage so that it could be driven out of the building.
Set back from South Main Street along the horseshoe drive is the original central building of the Vermont State Asylum for the Insane. This section was completed in 1891. Flanking the center entry are two long symmetrical wings each terminating with two 2 1/2 story cylindrical buildings. The Hospital closed in 2011 after 120 years as the state’s primary mental health institution. At one time, it was a nearly self-sufficient entity and a major employer for the area. After flooding by Tropical Storm Irene, the oldest core buildings were restored while some buildings were demolished to make way for a more efficient office complex. Walk the grounds to view an interesting mix of architectural styles, from 19th century institutional to 21st century contemporary office building.
Not far from the Winooski River, you will see the William Deal House, built in 1871. William Deal was the premier builder of Victorian structures in Waterbury. This two-story frame house with its slate hip roof was his last residence. The doorway has paneled pilasters supporting a pediment with a fan light, and four-paned sidelights flank the entrance. The great-grandchildren of Mr. Deal reside here today.
On the corner of Stowe and Main Streets is the Old Corner Store, where locals gathered for the latest news and for political debate. The earliest of the remaining business buildings was built by early merchant Leander Hutchins after 1833. The Main Street side has housed a variety of businesses over the years. The building was restored in 2006 with the addition of the front porch.
The WDEV Block, also built by the prolific William Deal in 1879, has three sections, each with a four-bay unit. The building is very similar to its neighbor, so again note the upper stories for interesting brick and stone work. Various commercial enterprises have been located here. The farthest bay was a marvelous ice cream shop, complete with marble fountain, homemade ice cream, and rows of penny candy.
The Stimson & Graves Building was built in the mid 1800s. Previously known as the Knights of Columbus Building, it was totally renovated in the 1990s. This three-and-a-half story, thirteen-bay Italianate structure originally housed Richardson and Fullerton Dry Goods, the Post Office, a stationery store, and a hardware store. Over the years, a host of businesses were located here. The most interesting was Nap Deguise’s Beauty Shop; originally a barber shop where Nap and Jenny Deguise barbered while a pool room operated in the back. Nap was an unschooled but excellent oil painter, carver of folk art figures, and writer of poetry. He was known to issue passports allowing out-of-state friends to enter the state of Vermont.
The American Legion Hall is located on the site of the old Waterbury Opera House. From 1928 to the late 195s it housed “The Rialto,” Waterbury’s first movie theater. The original building, built about 1890, burned in the mid 1980s.
Another William Deal structure, this block was built in 1879 in the Victorian/Italianate style and housed the F.C. Luce Department Store for nearly a century. Note the windows with brick surrounds on the second and third floors and the cast iron Corinthian column pilasters at street level.
Minard's Block, now the Masonic Lodge Hall and Stowe Street Emporium, was built in 1894. It has a two-story, three-bay facade of running bond brick with brick corner pilasters. In the 1930s and 40s this building housed the second movie theater in town, complete with the Prescott sisters dispensing goodies at the curb from their brightly colored popcorn machine. Although alterations have been made over the years, it continues to shine as a grand old building.
On the Main Street side of the Dry Bridge at 29 Stowe Street sits a building with an unusual corner door. A great many commercial enterprises have been located here, including a fruit market operated by an accordion-playing proprietor who entertained all of Stowe Street with his music. In the late 1930s Mid-State Alleys, a popular candle pin bowling alley and entertainment center, was added to the back of the building. Today the original bowling lanes can be seen on the floor.
The railroad bridge is known locally as the “Dry Bridge.” The present Dry Bridge, dedicated on December 24, 2004, is a replica of the 1914 structure.
This trio of connected brick buildings comprises Thatcher Brook Primary School. Previously these buildings housed Waterbury High School (until 1966) and Waterbury Elementary School (until 1997). The central structure was built in 1898 of running bond brick with a hip roof. Originally there were two towers. Note the center building entrance, recessed into a wide semicircular arch topped by a large fanlight. The section to the left was built in 1912 to resemble the 1898 portion, enriched with denticulate brickwork at the roof line. The third (right-hand) section, added in 1936, is narrower but similar to the earlier parts. This complex is an outstanding example of public school buildings in the late 19th to early 20th century. It was completely renovated in 2007.
Just past Thatcher Brook Primary School are areas known as Burleigh HIll and Tannery Flat. For many years, there were mills here processing animal hides and William Wells and C.C. Warren had tanneries located across Thatcher Brook. On this flat stood the first two houses to be demolished in the 1927 flood.
Mill Village is the area of Stowe Street just north of three overpasses of Interstate 89. The outstanding natural feature of the district is Thatcher Brook, which drops approximately 50 feet in a very short distance. The buildings date mostly from the mid- to late-19th century when Mill Village was an active industrial area. There were three dams on the brook to power a number of industries. Today, it is a quiet residential area.
The Grist Mill, recognizable by the name Waterbury Feed Company painted on the building, is the only remnant of the industrial past of this neighborhood. The former grist and feed mill was built around 1835. This squarish brick building has been recently restored after a long period of disuse and deterioration. Remnants of the dam and penstock are at the rear of the building although the first mill on this site was built in 1807.
At 103 Stowe Street is the Ryder-Bakery House, built about 1850. This Greek Revival house has also been restored following a disastrous fire. Stylistic highlights of this house are the three-bay portico, temple front and recessed second floor porch. It is the finest design example in the district.
Seabury-Jewett House, 100 Stowe Street, is a neo-colonial of wood frame and brick veneer with wood shingles above. Note the brick porch with battered piers supporting the roof, a two-story bay, and a roof dormer.
First settled in the 1780s, where two waterfalls provided power for a variety of industries beginning about 1800 when a wool carding mill at the lower falls and a potato whiskey plant at the upper falls existed. Later the Colby brothers began the manufacture of willow ware – largely baby buggies. In the mid-1800s this area included 15 buildings and employed between 60-100 men.
The Colby Mansion, built by George Colby about 1871 is an unusual high-style structure. It followed Colby’s theory of architecture, which fostered local climatic conditions over classical orders. The Mansion’s appearance has been revived. The interior contains largely original design and woodwork while the exterior also maintains its original charm.
As you continue north on Route 100, you will be paralleling the tracks of the Mount Mansfield Electric Railroad which was completed on December 18, 1897 and ceased operation on May 2, 1932. The route was 11.9 miles long running from Waterbury to Stowe carrying freight, passengers and mail.
The Guptil Farmhouse, second building on the right, is an excellent example of a Greek Revival farmhouse built circa 1845. A classic cottage, this five-bay one-and-a-half story structure has twin interior chimneys. The unusually elaborate central door is framed by pilasters and Doric columns, three-quarter sidelights, and a full transom. The barn across the road, now ZenBarn Restaurant, replaced an older barn in 1944. The 131-acre farm ceased operations in 1961, yet sixth- and seventh-generations of the original family still reside on the property.
This historic eight-bay brick farmhouse and barn is known as the Minott House.
Beyond the green on Hollow Road stands the Green Mountain Seminary building. It was completed in 1869 as the Free Will Baptist Seminary, with an entering class of “106 gentlemen and 104 young ladies.” The two lower floors were used as classrooms with the third and fourth for “gentlemen’s rooming.” Note the entrances on intersecting wings and on the gable ends of the main structure. A belfry tower and walkway were removed in 1941; the exterior of the building is largely in original condition and was restored and converted to housing in 2001.
Completed in 1833, this building contains timbers from the Lyon farm and bricks four layers thick to support the walls. In 1858 a second floor was added. This is now the sanctuary, reached by stairways on either side of the double-door entrance. During the Iranian hostage crisis (1979-1981), the marvelous old bell, brought from Boston in the 1880s, was rung once daily for each day the hostages were held in captivity. On the day of their release the bell pealed 444 times.
The Waterbury Reservoir near Little River State Park covers what had been some of the area’s most fertile farmland. Take a hike to the “ghost settlement” on Ricker Mountain or the historical walk through the CCC Camp Charles M. Smith site. Information can be obtained at the Park Ranger Station, online, or by reading informative panels along the trails.