This Place in History: Morrisville Depot

Vermont Historical Society

At ‘This Place in History’ we’re in Morrisville, Vt. with Executive Director of the Vermont Historical Society Steve Perkins.

“We’re going to be talking about trains and depots and what that can do for a community, way back in the day. The Morrisville Depot is just behind us. We’re going to go talk to Todd Thomas, who is a board member with the Morrisville Historical Society, to learn all about it,” began Perkins.

“This is the Morrisville Depot and this depot and the coming of the train to Morrisville had a transformational impact, not only on this part of town but in the town itself. The depot coming here, instead of another part of town, which was originally planned, changed the entirety of downtown Morrisville and the history of it going forward,” explained Thomas.

“It even changed the entire architecture of the town. Look down Portland Street, which is named for the rail company that came here, Portland because of the connection to Portland, Maine and the timber industry and the lumber that was here. The street itself is called Portland Street and the architecture of the street, and of larger Morrisville at this point, has taken on what was the architecture of the railroad.”

“Like in western towns, you see the walkthroughs and the saloons and the false fronts with the third story, that’s here. That Italian architecture was brought to Morrisville by the railroad. It’s actually all throughout Morrisville, not only on Portland Street which was built to connect the railroad to downtown, but you can find it on Main Street, as well. It’s a great piece of history, how our town got its architecture and its culture. It’s because of the railroad here,” said Thomas.

“Now, the railroad has transformed many, many towns in Vermont. And certainly, it helped define the village of Morrisville. So, we’re in Morristown, the town’s name is Morristown. The center of town didn’t used to be here,” said Perkins.

“It was Morristown Corners. It wasn’t Morrisville,” agreed Thomas.

“The coming of the train changed all that. And, I think for most Vermonters, they know Morrisville as the area that you travel to,” added Perkins.

“Unless you actually live here and know the difference between Morristown and Morrisville, everyone just calls it Morrisville and we’re okay with that. That’s fine, too. That is the downtown and we’re hoping that the train itself, though the train stopped running in the 70s, we’re hoping that the train will still have a transformational impact on our downtown,” explained Thomas.

“A couple of years ago, the train tracks were officially turned into a rail trail, the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail. We’ve seen a dramatic uptick in the number of cyclists and runners and walkers and snowmobilers in the winter. That’s had an impact already economically in the downtown. They come up, they get gas, they go to dinner. They patronize our stores.”

“As the rail trail gains in popularity and as it is extended further throughout the state, which it’s supposed to be, we’re the main hub on the rail trail. We’re the only downtown it goes through. Even though the railroad is not here anymore, we expect to benefit from the railroad for years to come through the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail.”

“There’s a tour that we give on the third Thursdays of each month, a walking tour. There’s the History and Art Walk in Morrisville. And, if you just take the rail trail, you noticed that on the back of 10 Railroad right here, the restaurant in the old rail station, there’s a map of downtown and there’s a plaque about the railroad and the Morrisville Depot sign. A lot of the history you’ll stumble across just recreating in town when you come here and use the rail trail.

At ‘This Place in History’!

For more from our ‘This Place in History’ series, click here.

For a map of Vermont’s roadside historic markers, click here.

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