As early as 750 AD, the Abenaki tribe lived along the shores of a cascading waterfall in a fertile river valley they called "winoskitegw", meaning “land of the wild onion”. Today, the community overlooking the waterfalls still bears the name of Winooski, and is affectionately known as the Onion City.
The first European settlement at Winooski was founded in 1772 by famous patriots Ira and Ethan Allen and their uncle, Remember Baker. Ira Allen harnessed the power of the falls and built several mills and a shipyard. His mills were the first of the many mill buildings that have defined the Winooski downtown cityscape ever since.
Many of Winooski’s old mills, and the offices and shops that served mill workers, still remain. These include the Woolen Mill, the Champlain Mill, and the Winooski Block. All are national historic register buildings, and will be a prominent part of the new Winooski Falls downtown development.
In 1954, the mills closed their doors, and within a decade, Winooski’s downtown was a shadow of its former self.
In the mid-1960s, a group of energetic young city leaders convinced the City Council to enroll Winooski in the federal “Model Cities” program. As part of the program, Winooski razed most of the buildings in the heart of the downtown area.
However, this “urban renewal” effort took place during the depression of the 1970s, and few developers were interested in the land. As a result, the land stayed nearly empty for decades, leaving a hole in the heart of Winooski’s downtown.
In 1999, Winooski Mayor Clem Bissonette and the Winooski Community Development Corporation began to outline an ambitious plan for revitalizing the Winooski downtown area through “smart growth” development.
To help carry out the project, Winooski chose developers HallKeen and the Braverman Company. HallKeen and the Braverman Company have an extensive background in mixed-use urban revitalization projects. With strong support from the State of Vermont, these private developers and City of Winooski are transforming Winooski’s historic downtown into a vibrant, thriving, 21st century city center.
Winooski Falls 25 Winooski Falls Way, Suite 105 Winooski, VT 05404 Phone: 802-655-3200 Fax: 802-655-3201