This Place in History: Button Bay

Local News

FERRISBURGH, Vt.

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

“We’re standing right on the shores of Button Bay here in Addison county. The name actually comes out of a geologic feature more than anything else. We’re going to go back 30,000 years. All of this area was covered by a glacier. When the glacier receded, it created a large freshwater lake and then later a sea as it pulled back into Canada and connected this area to the St. Lawrence Seaway. Then again, we turned back into a freshwater lake,” began Perkins.

“So all of that water, that rising up and down and all the silt pulled back and forth by the glaciers created a lot of cool geologic features. This particular bay, right on the shores of Lake Champlain has a lot of clay in it. Various parts of the lake, you’ll find that, especially in Addison county, as that clay compacts and settles, it creates cool stuff.”

“And in this particular bay, the clay settled around ancient reeds. When the reeds rotted away, the clay hardened and it created little geologic features. I brought one. They look like buttons. And so the earlier name of this was Button Mould Bay, but it was shortened to Button Bay and you can still find these here today. It looks man-made, but you can see how the clay formed around the reed and thousands of years ago, the reed went away and the clay hardened and that’s Button Bay,” exclaimed Perkins.

“We’re in Addison county and it’s a lot of farmland. This big open field, fronting on Button Bay, it became a perfect place for camping. There’s a state park here and it’s a perfect place for say, the Girl Scouts to get together.”

“In the 1960s, the Girl Scouts had these things they called ‘Round Ups’ where Girl Scouts from all over the country, and even the world, would come together in one place. And in 1962, that Round Up took place right here in Button Bay. There were 9000 Girl Scouts camped here. And they created an amphitheater on the grounds and they had tents set up.”

“The army came in and created feeding stations for all of them. It was amazing. Special newspapers were printed during that Round Up just for that event and it led to a lot of the infrastructure we now have as Button Bay State Park,” said Perkins.

“Another, I think, interesting feature that visitors can check out is Button Island. It’s owned by the state of Vermont as part of the state park. You can come to the boat launch where we’re standing today and take your canoe over to Button Island. It was owned by the Avery family at the end of the 19th Century, and they built this huge summer home with breakwaters and terraces and places they could put their yachts. It’s really kind of interesting to think about that.”

“It’s all gone now, but you can still climb all over that island and check out the terraces and the foundations and how this grand Adirondack-style home was, built a few yards of the shore of Button Bay,” concluded Perkins.

At ‘This Place in History’! 

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

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

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