History of The Region
Today, the Green Mountain Byway is a well-traveled stretch of highway. But its historical significance as a transportation hub predates today’s automobile traffic.
Innovation in Transportation: From Trolleys to The First Paved Road in Vermont
Waterbury and Stowe share a unique history along Route 100 due to the electric train that traveled daily between them for over 25 years. The Mount Mansfield Electric Railroad, chartered in 1894, improved access to seemingly distant markets. Stowe pledged $40,000 of town funds and enlisted Boston investors to build the “Trolley” from the Waterbury Railroad Station to the Depot building.
For 35 years, passengers and freight were carried on five cars to Waterbury Center then along the current roadbed of Route 100 to Stowe’s Lower Village. From finished wood products to butter tubs filled-to-brimming for Boston, the hard-working system was a link for the booming central Vermont economy, historians said.
In 1932, the right-of-way was passed to the state which turned much of the rail bed into the first concrete paved road in Vermont, Route 100.
History of the Railroad in Northern Vermont
A detailed history of the Railroad in northern Vermont, including a tragic accident, can be found at the Cambridge Junction Trail Head of the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail. Nearby is a covered bridge.
All Byway Downtowns are Registered Historic Sites
The Green Mountain Byway historic villages include: Waterbury Village, Colbyville, Waterbury Center, Moscow, Stowe Village and Lower Village, Morrisville, Hyde Park, Johnson, Jeffersonville, and Cambridge. All of these population centers are included on the Vermont State Historic Register for their significance to architecture and the building trades, the history of transportation and recreation, and for people and events important to the state’s history.
The vision for the Green Mountain Byway is a balance between the preservation of valued scenic and cultural resources with the community’s social and economic well-being.
Main Street in Stowe
South Main Street in Waterbury
Farms and Food
Walk along any of the trails in forests near the Byway will reveal stone wall testimonials to land-clearing and pastures dating from the nineteenth century. Farms in Vermont produced much of the wool, grains, and dairy products that clothed and fed early settlers and served as cash crops.
Early Subsistence Farming
Had you been standing in the vicinity of the Little River Historic Area in the late 1800s, you would have been in the midst of a thriving farm community. At that time, families raised crops and livestock on the hillsides, since valleys were prone to flooding.
Self-sufficient farming was important to early settlers though it eventually gave way to commercial agriculture, the rise and fall of “sheep mania”, and the dairy industry.
Lumber and agriculture have been the essential industries of the Green Mountain Byway during most of its history. In particular, dairy farming has been the principal way in which the cleared land has been used.
Though many farms have been sold, there are still several working farms along the corridor. The four working dairy farms in Stowe currently produce more milk than any other time in history.
Local Food Resurgence
Though a variety of economic and social factors continue to threaten local food sourcing that was common in the past, new economic and social forces have shaped a renewed role for local food production. Farmland conservation has contributed to the long-term viability of agriculture along the Byway, bolstered by the work of Stowe Land Trust, Vermont Land Trust, and farmers/property owners committed to preserving the working landscape into the future.