At ‘This Place in History’ we’re in downtown Burlington outside TD Bank, which used to be the Van Ness House Hotel and the birthplace of the Green Mountain Club.  

“At the time in 1910, this hotel was the most prominent hotel in Vermont. All the movers and shakers were here and then there was a guy named James P. Taylor. He was very interested in Vermont, promoting Vermont’s wilderness and the use of that wilderness. Mike Debonis, who is the executive director of the Green Mountain Club has come down here and tell us all the details of what happened,” said Steve Perkins, Executive Director of the Vermont History Society

“James P. Taylor was an interesting guy. He was a visionary, he was a renaissance man, he was a big thinker. He had this idea of a long-distance hiking trail, connecting the high peaks of the green mountains, being able to walk long distance over multiple days. It was a very new concept. In 1910, at this site in the Van Ness House, he gathered prominent movers and shakers in the state of Vermont to make that happen,” explained Debonis. 

“It was a lot of work from the tasting room at the Van Ness House in Burlington to the top of Mount Mansfield. But really, this was trigger,” added Debonis. “And then, oh gosh, it was such hard work: many years of flagging where the trail would go, rallying volunteers to build the trail – by hand with tools – carving it out in the woods and then linking it all together. That work finally got done in 1930. You had a trail 270 miles to the Canadian border, the first in the nation and now today the oldest.” 

After 111 years, the Green Mountain Club is still active today. 

“Once you build it, you got to maintain it. We have thousands of volunteers that support everything from clearing water bars to repairing shelters. It’s all of that work combined throughout the year that makes the trail happen. It keeps it there for everyone to enjoy,” said Debonis. 

“History is so important. You learn from history, and it has been around for over 100 years so all of us that work for the GMC are involved. We’re here for some time in history and our job is to steward the organization and the trail, and make sure it is there for the next generation to take over.” added Debonis. 

At ‘This Place in History’! 

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

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