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Area History

Burlington was a small town on the shores of Lake Champlain until around 1830, when it transformed into the largest city in Vermont amid a period of quick growth, which would continue on for more than fifty years. In 1823, the Champlain Canal opened, providing a water route between Lake Champlain and the Hudson River, and thus New York City. The connection to New York City brought thousands out to Lake Champlain and turned the city into a center of commerce, trade, and industry. This boost helped to make Burlington into the city which it is today.

As one of the older cities in the United States, Burlington provides historians with an excellent opportunity to study the differences between the federal style of architectural design and the Greek Revival style of architectural design—this change in architecture, which took place largely during the 1830's and 1840's is easy to see in Burlington with examples of each style of building standing side by side, providing a glimpse of American architectural history.

During the later part of the 19th century, post Civil War, Burlington and all of Vermont continued to grow at a rapid rate. The rail system linking cities and towns grew substantially and gave it even better connections to nearby New York and the surrounding states. With the rail system connecting Vermont to the rest of the nation the agricultural output of the Burlington Vermont area soared. Exports of all kinds from Burlington started to make their way to the rest of the country and the income of the local citizenry rose.

Vermont was one of the first states in the United States to develop modern thinking about the rights of citizens, and one of the causes which was first championed in the state of Vermont was Women’s Suffrage. The first election which allowed women to vote was in 1880. More recently in 2000, Vermont was the first state to provide the same civil benefits to same sex couples as were provided to opposite gender marriages with the civil union law. The state of Vermont is thus well known for its sense of progress in the field of civil liberties.

Burlington has become a more and more popular place for vacationers and travelers with the rise of the national tourism industry over the past century. The shores of Lake Champlain and the variety of surrounding parks and natural features have made it a popular summer destination, and for those who are interested in exploring the history of the country there are numerous local cultural events, as well as attractions, such as the sunken ships discovered below the waters of Lake Champlain, a popular destination for scuba divers.

Those interested in learning more about the history of the area are encouraged to try one of the historical tours in the area, with tour boats and city tours providing a sense of where the city fits into the history of the state and of the nation.