Vergennes: Little City, Big Heart
Built in 1788, Vergennes was Vermont's first city and bills itself as America's smallest city at only two square miles in size with a population of 2‚700. Ethan Allen suggested the city’s name to honor the Comte de Vergennes who served as the French Minister of Foreign Affairs and negotiator of the Treaty of Paris.
You'll find the elements of both a vital city and neighborly town here. Within the three-block downtown area, traditional businesses mix with the new. Revitalization has attracted eclectic, locally owned shops and restaurants to become neighbors of deep-rooted Vergennes businesses. Main Street's 150-year-old commercial blocks built with local stone and eye-catching window displays entice people to stop and explore.
Just west of downtown are the scenic Vergennes Falls where Otter Creek traverses the city and water-powered sawmills once operated. A detour down the sidewalk-lined side streets takes one past houses that speak of the city's 19th century prosperity. The stately Federal homes, Greek Revival cottages, and Mansard-roofed and bracketed dwellings, feels like stepping back into the Victorian era.
Attractions within a short driving distance of Vergennes include:
- Button Bay State Park: Button Bay, a 253-acre park, is located on a bluff in Ferrisburgh along the 130-mile-long Lake Champlain.
- Lake Champlain Maritime Museum: Lake Champlain Maritime Museum opened its first building, a historic stone schoolhouse, in 1985 with the mission to preserve and share the cultural and natural heritage of the Lake Champlain region.
- Rokeby Museum: Rokeby is among the best-documented Underground Railroad sites in the country, one the National Park Service has described as: “unrivaled among known sites for its historical integrity and the poignancy of the stories it tells.”
- Vergennes Opera House: Constructed in 1897‚ the City Hall and Vergennes Opera House is still the center of Vergennes' business and cultural life. The beautifully restored‚ acoustically superb Opera House presents a year-round schedule of jazz‚ opera‚ folk‚ classical and theater performances.