Waterbury History


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If the town had a storyboard, it would chronicle the first footsteps of Native Americans, a town charter granted by King George III in 1763, and manufacturing of tools of the day such as scythe handles and children’s carriages. It would depict an early 1800s settlement of approximately 50 homesteading families in the forest that is now Little River State Park where you can still see evidence of lives as subsistence farmers. It would show that when the railroad arrived in 1849 regional commerce gained momentum and, subsequently, the sheep and dairy industry blossomed.

Flip the storyboard to the 20th century and you would see the work of more than 2,000 Civilian Conservation Corps men, who took three years to build the Waterbury Dam at Camp Smith beginning in 1935, the construction of Interstate 89 in 1960, and the current emergence of Waterbury as a four-season recreation destination which inspires world-class cuisine and beverages.

Main Street’s iconic Janes House is home to the public library as well as the Waterbury History Center. Born on the site in 1832, Dr. Henry Janes was a physician, soldier, farmer, and humanitarian. The museum features Dr. Janes’ collection as well as books, calendars, artifacts, clothes, shoes, photos, signs, advertising items, booklets, craft items, paintings from local artists, items related to the Waterbury and Harwood Union Schools, and more.

The Waterbury History Center displays Dr. Janes’ Civil War uniform and many military items from other local servicemen. Gravesites of local Civil War veterans (and governors) can be found nearby at Hope Cemetery. For more history, check out Bridgeside Books for noted historian Howard Coffin’s Something Abides, a chronicle of Vermont in the Civil War that features a robust section on Waterbury.

Train enthusiasts will want to stop by the Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Café and Visitor Center, located just down the road in an impeccably restored 1875 rail station at which the Amtrak “Vermonter” still stops today. Stop in to the Community Room, which features displays and murals depicting Waterbury circa 1930’s and an operating model railroad.

If you have the opportunity to enjoy a dining experience at Hen of the Wood, you’ll enjoy the atmosphere of the restored old grist mill, complete with stone foundation, powerful waterfall, and depression in the base of the building that held the stones that ground grain into flour.

For a roundup of Waterbury’s historic sites, embark upon the self-guided historic tour. Featuring 30 area sites, you’ll stroll past notable landmarks and learn about their uses and architecture. The tour will also guide you as you envision the occurrence of seminal events and important buildings no longer standing.