This Place in History: Oakledge Park

Vermont Historical Society

BURLINGTON, Vt.

At ‘This Place in History’ we’re in Burlington’s South End at Oakledge Park with Executive Director of the Vermont Historical Society Steve Perkins.

“In 1793, the first Europeans ended up in this space and decided it was a really good spot for a farm. It’s a protected cove and eventually [made] a good spot for a shipyard. They started building boats in what’s now called South Cove, which is now private property, but just south of where we’re standing now,” began Perkins.

“Over time, it attracted some interest especially from a wealthy guy named William Seward Webb. You may know him as the owner or builder of Shelburne Farms. This was the first property that he bought because he was able to put his yacht in South Cove where the old shipyard was. He built a cottage, we would call it a mansion today, that he called Oak Ledge.”

“He lived there for a number of years before he decided the property on Shelburne Point was nicer and he started building Shelburne Farms. He gave the property to his daughter who lived here off-and-on until the 1920s. She was approached in 1925 by the founders of the Burlington Country Club. They were looking for a place for their club and thought this would perfect because they could have a golf club and a yacht club on one location. She turned them down.”

“Then, a year later [she] sold the property to a group of Burlington businessmen. They started to chop it up into housing lots and camp lots until a guy named Allen Beach ultimately decided to turn it into a resort. It became Oakledge Manor. They called it a ‘resort for all seasons’. You could come stay here. The mansion was turned into a clubhouse. There were cottages along the lake. You can see ruins of those now. There were stables, the old Webb stables, so people could take out horses. They had a golf course here, tennis and sailing. It served a resort until the early 1970s,” explained Perkins.

“I think in the late ’60s, people stopped going to these resorts. The ownership of the resort decided to sell it to the City of Burlington to turn into a park. The original acreage had shrunk considerably. A whole section of the old property was sold to gas companies and those gas tanks are still down there. A whole southern part of the property was sold to a Mr. Austin who had an estate there which is now Red Rocks Park.”

“The core here was sold to the City of Burlington. Unfortunately, a year before it was sold, the owner of the resort allowed the City of Burlington Fire Department to use the manor building and the stables and everything else as a training facility. They burned down all of the infrastructure that was here. But, if you go and walk around this park , there’s some great signage telling you what used to be here.”

“You also can see evidence. You can see foundations. You can see pins stuck in the rocks where boats where moored and even chimneys poking out of the woods. And so, that’s the history of this site. I think it’s pretty cool,” concluded Perkins.

At ‘This Place in History’!

To view a map of Vermont’s roadside historic site markers, click here.

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

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