Main Streets 2016: Vermont
Montpelier, Vermont’s capital, is surrounded by farming communities, and local food is celebrated on Main Street, home to many of the restaurants for which this small, friendly city is well-known. The local eateries include NECI on Main, a restaurant that doubles as a working classroom for the New England Culinary Institute, whose main campus sits atop a hill above town. It’s NECI that has attracted so many chefs to Montpelier over the years, and its students in their kitchen whites are frequent sights on the downtown streets.
With the “Best Small Town Downtown in America,” according to Best Choice Reviews, Montpelier is the nation’s smallest state capital. It has just 8,000 residents, yet it’s a lively community that strongly supports music and the arts. You can hear live music in several venues on most weekend nights, and the two-story, independent Bear Pond Books is an institution on Main Street. So is the Savoy Theatre, an independent movie house where you can watch first-run features from the U.S. and around the world. The Italian Renaissance-style City Hall is home to Lost Nation Theater, an innovative regional theater company whose productions often feature homegrown talent.
Montpelier is proud of its history, and offers a series of historic walking tours. Many buildings have small granite plaques that note when they were built, often in the middle or late 19th century. Among the city’s historic structures are two Main Street churches whose soaring steeples serve as landmarks.
And although the small plaza in front of City Hall is often the site of political gatherings, in many ways Montpelier’s town green is the long, beautifully kept lawn that descends gently from the State House, with its distinctive gold dome on neighboring State Street. The gold dome is back-dropped by wooded hills that display the scenery of Vermont’s changing seasons, and the State House lawn is home to festivals, demonstrations, holiday gatherings and pickup Frisbee games.
A popular local gathering space is the Main Street Pocket Park, whose benches and plantings draw everyone from schoolchildren to state workers taking a break from the labors of government. And on Saturday mornings from spring through fall, residents and visitors throng Capital City Farmers’ Market. Here, foods grown on nearby farms, plus those who harvest it and turn it into delectable treats, once again become the city’s stars.
Pocket Park photo courtesy of Ward Joyce Design