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Montpelier History

While “warm” and “dry” do not always describe Vermont’s weather today, that was the climate around modern-day Montpelier about 6000 years ago, when settlements began to appear around the Winooski River and its floodplains. By the late 1700s, European settlements had displaced Native Americans, and Montpelier was chartered in 1781 as a grant to Massachusetts settlers. After years of shifting political power in Vermont, in 1805 the state’s capital was permanently moved to Montpelier thanks to its geographical position in the center of the state and along the Winooski River. As the railroad came to town in the mid 1800s, the city boomed as a financial center, too, for a while, attracting insurance companies and witnessing stately homes built around downtown. Eventually, Burlington would surpass Montpelier as Vermont’s biggest city, leaving Montpelier to grow slowly, and recover from fires and floods that beset the city. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the strongest thing around here was the granite, which drew thousands of immigrants to the quarries around Barre. Today, the Montpelier Alive network of businesses, politicians and residents have helped to preserve some of the city’s rich history while also keeping its cultural and artistic sides strong. This initiative, combined with Montpelier’s natural assets for bikers, hikers, skiers and paddlers, have made the city one of Vermont’s most hospitable places—even if not always warm and dry.

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