This Place in History: The Dairy Center

Vermont Historical Society


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

“We are at The Dairy Center, one of the iconic businesses here. We’re going to go inside and talk to the owner Lise Gates and she’s going to tell us how this got started and all the really cool stuff they’ve done throughout the years,” began Perkins.

“Originally, The Dairy Center was a farm. My dad owned five farms in the area and he just got up one morning and said that he didn’t want to do this anymore. So, he just started building buildings and started opening up these businesses,” said Gates.

“When the restaurant opened in 1962, Enosburg Falls was called ‘The Dairy Center of the World’. It had more cows per capita than any other place in the United States and that’s where the name Dairy Center came from. There was one restaurant in town. There was no lodging, no entertainment. There was nothing for anyone to do,” added Gates.

“He opened the motel in 1960. In 1961, he put in an Olympic-sized swimming pool, which is still there, but it’s covered by a virtual game room now. [It was] 14′ deep, at the deepest part, and it was 60′ long. Down the road, he built a catering hall over it, called the Mermaid Room. It had windows in the middle of it, so when you were up there dancing or having your banquet, you could actually see people swimming and you could see them jumping off the top diving board.”

“Then the restaurant came in 1962 and we’re sitting behind what used to be the famous lobster tank. People would come in and pick out their lobster, tell them how you wanted it cooked and it would happen. Then, in 1964, they started the Bowling Center. But, they had a problem. A big huge wind storm came and knocked it all down as it was being built. So, it didn’t open until 1965.”

“In between the Bowling Center and the Mermaid Room, he built the barn. He took the old hay barn and he made it into a banquet hall and a dance hall. Downstairs he had an automated bar. The waitress would come to your table and she had a little transistor radio and she would say ‘two CC and Gingers please on table eight’. And the bartender would make it. My dad had made these trays with holes that fit our glasses and he would put the drinks in it, put it on the belt, push table 8 and your drinks would slide out on the table. Then, when your table got full of glasses, you’d put them on and back to the bartender they would go,” explained Gates.

“This sounds really busy. At the height of operation, how many people were here, say on a Saturday night?” asked Perkins.

“So, I’m going to say maybe 500-600 people here on a Saturday night,” answered Gates.

“Today, we have the restaurant. We do a lot of catering. The Bowling Center and the virtual game room are very, very busy, There are two ball fields. The town of Enosburg uses those for little league and then once that season is over, we have coed softball that comes in,” explained Gates.

At ‘This Place in History’!

For more information on The Dairy Center, click here.

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

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

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