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Bellows Falls, Vermont
Village
Bellows Falls in the early spring, viewed from Fall Mountain
Bellows Falls in the early spring, viewed from Fall Mountain
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Coordinates: 43°8′0″N 72°26′38″W / 43.13333°N 72.44389°W / 43.13333; -72.44389Coordinates: 43°8′0″N 72°26′38″W / 43.13333°N 72.44389°W / 43.13333; -72.44389
Country United States
State Vermont
County Windham
Incorporated 1909
Area
 • Total 1.39 sq mi (3.59 km2)
 • Land 1.37 sq mi (3.55 km2)
 • Water 0.02 sq mi (0.05 km2)
Elevation
312 ft (95 m)
Population
 (2010)
 • Total 3,148
 • Estimate 
(2019)
2,965
 • Density 2,165.81/sq mi (836.19/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code
05101
Area code(s) 802
FIPS code 50-04225
GNIS feature ID 1456381

Bellows Falls is an incorporated village located in the town of Rockingham in Windham County, Vermont, United States. The population was 3,148 at the 2010 census. Bellows Falls is home to the Green Mountain Railroad, a heritage railroad; the annual Roots on the River Festival; and the No Film Film Festival.

History

The falls were once a fishing place for the historic, nomadic Abenaki tribes, who were part of the Algonquian language family. They caught plentiful salmon and shad. Indigenous peoples had fished at the falls and inhabited the area for thousands of years before European arrival. They carved two sets of faces in the rocks just below the falls (see Bellows Falls Petroglyph Site (VT-WD-8)).

Rockingham Town Hall, Bellows Falls
Rockingham Town Hall, built in 1926 (2016)

The community was settled in 1753 by colonists of English descent, who called it Great Falls. Later the settlers named the town for Colonel Benjamin Bellows, a landowner. In 1785, Colonel Enoch Hale built at the falls the first bridge over the Connecticut River. It was the only bridge across the river until 1796, when another was built at Springfield, Massachusetts. The bridge was later replaced. Two bridges currently link Bellows Falls to New Hampshire: the New Arch Bridge (also called the Church Street Bridge), which replaced the Arch Bridge in 1982, and the Vilas Bridge, which was closed due to safety concerns in 2009.

The Bellows Falls Canal, built in 1791-1802, lifted boats 52 feet (16 m) in eight locks around the gorge. It tapped the water power of the falls for industry, which spurred the industrialization of the town.

In 1802, entrepreneurs built the first paper mill in Windham County. Two railroads converged in 1849 at Bellows Falls, helping it develop into a major mill town. By 1859, a woolen textile mill was operating, in addition to factories that produced furniture, marble, sashes and blinds, iron castings, carriages, cabinetware, rifles, harness, shoe pegs and organs. The principal products, however, were paper and farm machinery. Bellows Falls was incorporated as a village in 1909.

The years of industry created wealth in the town, and substantial Victorian houses and mercantile buildings were constructed. Bellows Falls today attracts visitors through heritage tourism based on its historic Victorian architecture. The commercial town center, along with the power canal, the bridges spanning it, and the historic railroad station, were listed as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Geography

The village is located within the town of Rockingham. According to the United States Census Bureau, the village has a total area of 1.4 square miles (3.6 km2), all land. Bellows Falls is bounded on the east by the Connecticut River.

Demographics

As of the census of 2000, there were 3,165 people, 1,329 households, and 782 families residing in the village. The population density was 2,286.1 people per square mile (885.5/km2). There were 1,443 housing units at an average density of 1,042.3/sq mi (403.7/km2). The racial makeup of the village was 97.28% White, 0.35% African American, 0.16% Native American, 0.51% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.22% from other races, and 1.45% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.14% of the population.

There were 1,329 households, out of which 32.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.0% were couples living together and joined in either marriage or civil union, 14.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 41.1% were non-families. 34.5% of all households were made up of individuals, and 16.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.35 and the average family size was 3.01.

In the village, the population was spread out, with 26.1% under the age of 18, 7.8% from 18 to 24, 28.3% from 25 to 44, 21.5% from 45 to 64, and 16.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females, there were 94.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.6 males.

The median income for a household in the village was $29,608, and the median income for a family was $45,688. Males had a median income of $29,137 versus $22,340 for females. The per capita income for the village was $15,276. About 5.6% of families and 12.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 14.3% of those under age 18 and 15.9% of those age 65 or over.

Transportation

See also: Bellows Falls (Amtrak station)

Amtrak, the national passenger rail system, provides daily service through Bellows Falls, operating its Vermonter between Washington, D.C. and St. Albans, Vermont. The Bellows Falls Station, on Depot Street, also serves as the headquarters for the Green Mountain Railroad. Greyhound, the nationwide intercity bus service, also serves Bellows Falls from this same rail station.

Connecticut River Transit, a private, non-profit personal mobility specialist, provides scheduled bus service with local and direct buses linking Bellows Falls, Brattleboro, Springfield, Ludlow, the White River Junction and Lebanon, New Hampshire areas and other local communities as needed by private arrangement.

Green Mountain Railroad, a part of the Vermont Rail System, operates seasonal and holiday scenic train excursions between Bellows Falls and Chester. The New England Central Railroad also serves Bellows Falls.

The village is crossed by Interstate 91, U.S. Route 5, and Vermont Route 121.

Gallery

Listed on National Register of Historic Places

Miss Bellows Falls Diner, Bellows Falls, Vermont crop
The Miss Bellows Falls Diner, with the Rockingham Town Hall in the background

Sites of interest

Notable people

  • Donald H. Balch, general in the United States Air Force
  • Colleen Barrett, president of Southwest Airlines
  • Sean O. Cota, businessman and financial commentator
  • Carlton Fisk, catcher with the Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox baseball teams
  • Jay H. Gordon, Vermont Auditor of Accounts
  • Warner A. Graham, Associate Justice of the Vermont Supreme Court
  • Hetty Green, businesswoman, known as the richest woman in America during the Gilded Age, and called the world's greatest miser by Guinness World Records
  • Henry Alfred Hosking, member of the House of Commons of Canada
  • James F. Howard, Jr., professor of neurology and medicine
  • Michael Palma, poet and translator
  • Charles Henry Robb, federal judge
  • Roger Robb, federal judge
  • Thomas M. Salmon, Vermont Auditor of Accounts
  • Thomas P. Salmon, 75th Governor of Vermont
  • Jennie Maria Arms Sheldon, entomologist, science educator, historian, author, and museum curator, born in Bellows Falls
  • Gary Smith, record producer
  • Ernest Thompson, playwright (On Golden Pond) and actor
  • Todd T. Semonite, Chief of Engineers for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

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