This Place in History: Queen City Park

Vermont Historical Society

SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt.

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

“We’re going to start back around the time of the Civil War when the Central Vermont Railroad was really expanding up and down Lake Champlain. Where we’re standing right now was all owned by the railroad. It was vacant. There really wasn’t much here. But the railroad said what a perfect place for a hotel or a resort. So, they built a hotel somewhat where we’re standing here and offered train service from the south and the north to have your lakeside vacation in their own hotel owned by the railroad. It started to become a little, tiny resort community way back right after the American Civil War,” began Perkins.

“You come across a one-way bridge and it opens up to this beautiful village. They used to call them cottages all along here and the people who stayed in this site were called ‘cottagers’ because they would pay a yearly fee for the ground rent where their cottage was located. The railroad didn’t own it for too long. Eventually, they decided they didn’t want to do the upkeep. They found a great partner. They sold the land and the idea of having this association to the Vermont Spiritualists Association,” continued Perkins.

“These are folks who said if you come together in nature and celebrate God in nature, it’s going to make you a better person and it’s going to make your community better and it’ll make a better future. Many, many people in the late 19th Century were part of spiritualist associations around the country.”

“Vermont had one and then a subset of it became the Queen City Park Association. They rented land. They either popped a tent here or they built a little cottage and they came here year after year.”

“They had a big auditorium. They had speakers come in. They would swim in the lake. They built a boathouse. They built a huge dock out where people could get off on steamboats. It really turned into a thriving summer community,” explained Perkins.

“In 1939, it all burned. If you can imagine this is a tiny little neighborhood, perched on the side of Lake Champlain. There’s not a good way to get in and out with fire trucks. It burned. There are very few buildings left from that initial summertime community.”

“It didn’t mean that it wasn’t still an attractive area. People from Burlington flocked to here to recreate for the summer and the city set up a trolley station here. It ran 20 times per day back and forth from the city of Burlington, so that people could swim in the lake,” said Perkins.

“Red Rocks, which is right next to us, was not a park. It was a private estate. But the folks that owned that estate allowed people to use the trails and walk on the cliffs. So they would ride the trolley to Queen City Park and then walk the trails at Red Rocks. Over time, there still is an association here. It’s still the Queen City Park Association. Folks who live here still pay dues to that association and now it’s a thriving little community. It’s beautiful here,” concluded Perkins.

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

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

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