Burlington is Vermont's largest community, with a population of just under 40,000. The town was settled in the early 1770s on a slope rising above Lake Champlain. Though many of Burlington's earliest residents left to fight in the American Revolution, the town's development resumed after the war. Wharves and warehouses were established on the shoreline, with a commercial district above, and residences on the highest level.

Burlington, Vermont, boasts 12 historic districts and 14 individual properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places. (Photo courtesy of City of Burlington)

With the opening of a shipyard in 1772 and saw mills soon after, followed by the founding of the University of Vermont in 1791, Burlington continued to grow economically and culturally. It became an important trading center, with Canadian fur and timber from the north passing through Burlington on the way to markets in the South and West.

The coming of the railroad led to a mid-century boom, when many of the grand residences and public buildings that enhance the community today were constructed.

The historic Burlington Breakwater was built in 1837 to accommodate the increased commercial traffic on Lake Champlain that followed the opening of the Champlain Canal in 1823, connecting Lake Champlain with the Hudson River.

In 1826 the first Federal lighthouse, Juniper Island Light, was erected to guide mariners into Burlington's port. Additional lighthouses were added to the north and south ends of the breakwater in 1857 as aids to navigation. Several successive wooden lighthouses were destroyed by the elements over the years, eventually being replaced by economical steel towers.

As part of a recent waterfront redevelopment, a public/private partnership involving the City of Burlington, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, the Preservation Trust of Vermont, and the Vermont Division of Historic Preservation undertook the replacement of these steel towers with historically based lighthouses designed to withstand environmental challenges.

This project promotes heritage tourism and the continuing economic vitality of Burlington's harbor, interpreting the history of aids to navigation and their socioeconomic impact. Related educational materials were also created for the public schools and for a Web site.

Burlington boasts 12 historic districts and 14 individual properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places, as well as several community museums including a shipyard and the Ethan Allen Farmstead.

A local bicycle advocacy group and the Church Street Marketplace, recipient of the National Main Street award, offer guided historic interpretive tours of the downtown and the waterfront.The non-profit Preservation Burlington organization actively promotes historic preservation through walking tours, lectures, awards, and markers for historic buildings.

Designated a Preserve America Community in March 2004.

For more information

City of Burlington Historic Preservation

Preservation Burlington

Burlington Breakwater Project