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Manchester, Vermont
Bennington County Courthouse in Manchester Village
Bennington County Courthouse in Manchester Village
Manchester, Vermont
Manchester, Vermont
Manchester, Vermont is located in the United States
Manchester, Vermont
Manchester, Vermont
Location in the United States
Country  United States
State  Vermont
County Bennington
Communities Manchester
Manchester Center
Manchester Depot
Barnumville
Richville
Area
 • Total 42.2 sq mi (109.4 km2)
 • Land 42.1 sq mi (109.1 km2)
 • Water 0.1 sq mi (0.3 km2)
Elevation
899 ft (281 m)
Population
 (2020)
 • Total 4,484
 • Density 106/sq mi (41.1/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP Code
05254
Area code(s) 802
FIPS code 50-42850
GNIS feature ID 1462142

Manchester is a town in, and one of two shire towns (county seats) of, Bennington County, Vermont, United States. The population was 4,484 at the 2020 census.

Manchester Village, an incorporated village, and Manchester Center are settlement centers within the town.

Manchester has become a tourist destination, especially for those from New York and Connecticut, offering visitors factory outlet stores of national chain retailers such as Brooks Brothers, Kate Spade and Ralph Lauren, as well as many locally owned businesses, including the Northshire Bookstore, an independent bookstore.

The winter sports area of Stratton Mountain Resort is nearby to the east.

History

View of Manchester, VT
View of Manchester in 1913

The town was one of several chartered in 1761 by Benning Wentworth, colonial governor of New Hampshire. It was his custom to name new towns after prominent English aristocrats of the day, hoping they might adopt a patronly interest in their namesakes. Wentworth named Manchester for Robert Montagu, 3rd Duke of Manchester. First settled in 1764, the town was laid out in 1784. The land was better suited for grazing than tillage, so by 1839 about 6,000 sheep roamed the pastures and hillsides.

Other industries came to include iron mines, marble quarries and mills, and lumber companies. The arrival of the railroad from industrialized centers like New York City brought tourists, drawn by Manchester's historic architecture and beautiful setting among mountains. Following the Civil War, the town developed into an affluent resort area, which it remains today.

Between 1812 and 1819 Manchester was made famous by the Boorn–Colvin case, called "America's first wrongful conviction murder case", the subject of several books and still studied today.

In 1850 Ward Manor was built on the now Ward-Equinox Estate on the 200 Acre well known Equinox Mountain. Bought by Rutherford Ward from Poplar Bluff, Missouri he moved here as threats of a Civil War was being whispered through the south and the southern part of the mid-west. It is the only brick structure ever to be built in the town's history. It was abandoned until 1950 when Rutherford's grandson the well known Industrialist Farmer, Dewey H. Ward renovated it and called it home during the summers. When he passed in 2002 it was left to his daughter well known jeweler and founder of Marchesa Jewelry, Louise O'Kief-Trout and his great grandson Nicholas Silvestri.

Orvis is a family-owned retail and mail-order business specializing in high-end fly fishing, hunting and sporting goods. Founded in Manchester in 1856 by Charles F. Orvis to sell fishing tackle, it is the oldest mail-order retailer in the United States.

Jake Burton Carpenter, founder of Burton Snowboards, perfected snowboard design in his garage in Manchester. The company operated out of Manchester until 1992, when it relocated to Burlington, Vermont.

The town has three distinct state-recognized historic districts—the Depot district located on Highland Avenue and Elm Street, Bonnet Street, just north of Main Street, and Main Street itself.

Geography

Manchester is located in north-central Bennington County, lying between the Green Mountains to the east and the Taconic Range to the west. Equinox Mountain, the highest summit in the Taconics, with an elevation of 3,850 feet (1,170 m), is in the western part of the town. Manchester is drained by the Batten Kill, Lye Brook, Munson Brook, Bromley Brook, and Bourn Brook. The Lye Brook Falls Hiking Trail which leads to one of the highest waterfalls in Vermont is a popular local attraction.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 42.2 square miles (109.4 km2), of which 42.1 square miles (109.1 km2) is land and 0.1 square miles (0.3 km2), or 0.29%, is water.

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1790 1,276
1800 1,397 9.5%
1810 1,502 7.5%
1820 1,508 0.4%
1830 1,525 1.1%
1840 1,599 4.9%
1850 1,782 11.4%
1860 1,688 −5.3%
1870 1,897 12.4%
1880 1,928 1.6%
1890 1,907 −1.1%
1900 1,955 2.5%
1910 2,044 4.6%
1920 2,057 0.6%
1930 2,004 −2.6%
1940 2,139 6.7%
1950 2,425 13.4%
1960 2,470 1.9%
1970 2,919 18.2%
1980 3,261 11.7%
1990 3,622 11.1%
2000 4,180 15.4%
2010 4,391 5.0%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census of 2000, there were 4,180 people, 1,819 households, and 1,156 families residing in the town. The population density was 99.0 people per square mile (38.2/km2). There were 2,456 housing units at an average density of 58.2 per square mile (22.5/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 97.87% White, 0.38% Black or African American, 0.17% Native American, 0.31% Asian, 0.43% from other races, and 0.84% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.75% of the population.

There were 1,819 households, out of which 28.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.5% were married couples who were living together, 9.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.4% were non-families. Of all households 30.5% were made up of individuals, and 14.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.26 and the average family size was 2.81.

In the town, the population was spread out, with 23.1% under the age of 18, 4.0% from 18 to 24, 25.0% from 25 to 44, 28.8% from 45 to 64, and 19.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 44 years. For every 100 females, there were 87.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.3 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $47,196, and the median income for a family was $59,191. Males had a median income of $36,453 versus $26,017 for females. The per capita income for the town was $30,499. About 2.2% of families and 4.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 1.9% of those under age 18 and 6.5% of those age 65 or over.

Transportation

Manchester is crossed by four highways, including one Super-2 freeway. They are:

  • US 7.svg U.S. Route 7 (Exit 4 serves the town)
  • Vermont 7A.svg Historic VT Route 7A
  • Vermont 30.svg Vermont Route 30
  • Vermont 11.svg Vermont Route 11

Green Mountain Community Network's Orange Line bus and MVRTD "The Bus" Manchester-Rutland Connector serve the town with public transit commuter connections to Bennington and Rutland, respectively. The closest major airport is Albany International Airport in New York, although three daily round trip flights from Rutland to Boston are available via Cape Air from Rutland – Southern Vermont Regional Airport. Greyhound, the national intercity bus system, also serves Manchester through Premier Coach's Vermont Translines with an intercity bus connection between Burlington, Vermont and Albany, New York.

Rail

Manchester has several Amtrak passenger train connections within a one-hour drive.

  • Rutland station to the north, the closest, served by the Ethan Allen Express
  • Bellows Falls station to the east, served by the Vermonter
  • Fort Edward station to the west, served by the Adirondack and Ethan Allen Express

VTrans and NYSDOT have shown interest in restoring passenger train service to Manchester on a new Amtrak route between Albany and Burlington via Rutland, also linking up nearby Mechanicville, New York and North Bennington, Vermont. The new train would share much of its route with the Ethan Allen Express, likely running beyond Albany to New York City. As of 2021, the idea is listed simply as a "potential initiative" in the Vermont Rail Plan.

Notable people

  • Elfriede Abbe, sculptor
  • Charles Augustus Aiken, clergyman; president of Union College; professor at Princeton University
  • Joseph Sweetman Ames, physicist; president of Johns Hopkins University
  • Frank C. Archibald, Vermont Attorney General
  • Edmund Bennett, judge and educator
  • Myra Bradwell, first American woman to become an attorney
  • James M. Clarke, US congressman
  • Sarah Norcliffe Cleghorn, poet and social activist
  • Jeremiah French, soldier, judge and political figure in Upper Canada
  • Jonathan Goldsmith, actor ("The Most Interesting Man in the World" from Dos Equis advertising)
  • John Irving, novelist and Academy Award-winning screenwriter
  • Edward Swift Isham, Chicago attorney and law partner of Robert Todd Lincoln
  • Pierpoint Isham, Justice of the Vermont Supreme Court
  • Robert Todd Lincoln, first son of Abraham Lincoln
  • Richard Wall Lyman, president of Stanford University; president of the Rockefeller Foundation
  • Ahiman Louis Miner, US congressman
  • Elizabeth Page, author
  • Benjamin S. Roberts, Civil War general
  • Robert Roberts, mayor of Burlington, Vermont
  • The Samples, alternative rock band
  • Clara Sipprell, photographer
  • Richard Skinner, jurist, US congressman, Governor of Vermont
  • Joseph Dresser Wickham, headmaster of Burr and Burton Academy
  • Treat Williams, movie and television actor

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