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Manchester Village

Manchester Village Hall is located at 45 Union Street, Manchester Center VT 05255; phone: 802-362-1515.

Beginnings [1]

Manchester was formally organized in 1764 pursuant to a charter granted by Benning Wentworth, the Governor of New Hampshire. This grant, like most of those made by the Governor, was made to his friends for speculative purposes. The Governor's friends subsequently sold their rights to a group from Amenia, New York. This group, seeking an alternative to the land system of New York which concentrated land ownership in large tracts unavailable to commoners, moved to settle Manchester in 1765. Wentworth was later removed from his office for corruption in connection with these grants. The first thirty years of the Village, and of Vermont as a territory, were marked by confusion and conflict due to competing governance claims between New Hampshire and New York. Not until Vermont became a State in 1791 were these claims settled and clear ownership of the land by its residents confirmed. The Village was legally a part of the Town of Manchester until 1900 when it was granted a separate charter by the Vermont legislature. In 1975 an initiative was launched to reunify the Village with the Town of Manchester. Political unification was rejected by the voters, but police, fire, water supply, and sewer services were taken over by the Town.

Manchester Village is a separate entity within and entirely surrounded by the Town of Manchester, located in the Northshire of Bennington County. The Village lies on the western side of a broad valley which runs north and south, and is bounded along the east by the Green Mountains and along the west by the Taconics. Through the center of this valley flows the Batten Kill, which forms the easterly boundary of the Village.

Straddling one of the principal eastern foothills of Mount Equinox, which rises 3,000 feet behind the Village to a total height of 3,800 feet above sea level, the Village stretches along U.S. Route 7A, the area's principal north-south arterial corridor, and spreads out along several secondary Village streets. The Village center lies at the crest of this foothill.

Manchester Village represents a rural Village which has changed into a leisure and retirement oriented community over the past century and a half. The architecture of the Village presents an unusually complete and well preserved record of the development of a resort community between 1850 and 1925. This record shows changing tastes in architecture, significant architectural examples, and a wide range of adaptive uses.

The development of the Village can be divided into three distinct phases. From 1761 to 1850, the Village was primarily a crossroads featuring numerous taverns and inns. From 1850 to about 1900 the Village entered its resort phase with the most notable contributor being the Equinox Hotel. The cities of the Northeast were growing explosively. The population of New York exceeded one million by the 1850s and it had become a noisy, dirty and unhealthy place. Attracted by the very lack of development which so discouraged Manchester's citizens, tourists and seasonal residents began to appear in numbers in Manchester in the 1850s. From 1900 to the present, the Village evolved into a mixed resort and retirement community.

  1. Village of Manchester, Vermont, Plan of Development, 2004, www.villageofmanchester.com, accessed June 2010.
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