Where To Live: When You Live In Vermont (That Isn’t Burlington)
by Ayla Yersel
Looking for an apartment? Maybe you’re just looking for a fun place to visit this summer—or you think rent in Burlington is just too expensive for your budget? NextUp staff has profiled a few Vermont towns that might appeal to young people (without breaking the bank).
The Breakdown: What You Need to Know About...
1. Brattleboro, VT
Average Income: $38,478 (2011)
Median rent: $850
Located in southeastern Vermont, Brattleboro is in “very easy striking distance” of New York and Boston, making it a sweet spot for commuters, said Danny Lichtenfeld, director of the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center.
"I know several people whose primary work is in Boston or New York and they go back and forth at least once a week," he said. "People who are choosing to live around here, you know, they're maybe also looking at Amherst or Keene... That's sort of the region we're in. But for some people, you know, being just over the border in Vermont is a real plus."
It also offers a lot of affordable housing, said Kate O’Connor, the executive director of the Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce.
"We're close to major cities, so you can live in a great place like Vermont, but get to Boston or New York in a relatively short period of time," she said. “It’s really where you live, where you want to live, the proximity to downtown. But we do have a lot of affordable housing.”
In Brattleboro, the community is welcoming and “progressive,” with a business culture focused on sustainability, O’Connor said.
"I think we have one of the best downtowns in the state," she said. "I think it goes really unrecognized because we're in the southern part. People focus on the northern part-- Chittenden County and Burlington-- in Vermont a lot, because that's where the population is. And I think they miss the opportunity to come down here and realize this is really a great place."
“We have people who are conservative and liberal, but everybody respects each other’s opinions,” she said. "Whatever you're looking for, you can find it here.”
Events and Recreation
If you’re around during the summer, you can always check out the Strolling of the Heifers Parade. It’s an annual three-day festival modeled off of the Running of the Bulls event in Spain. What began as an effort to promote the local agriculture industry has since become "a huge attraction," Lichtenfeld said, drawing 50,000 people every year.
Or, if cows aren’t really your style, you can always head into the great outdoors.
"There's great outdoor recreation opportunities around here, with the Connecticut River and the mountains and the West River Valley," Lichtenfeld said. "I think that's a draw for a lot of people too."
2. Saint Albans
Median Income: $45,712
Median rent: $820
A bedroom community for Chittenden County, Saint Albans is cheaper than living in Burlington-- and Saint Albans is still building new apartments, according to Tim Smith, executive director of the Franklin County Industrial Development Corp (FDIC).
“A number of people who work in the Burlington area who are looking to get more for their dollar in Franklin County,” Smith said. “There’s been extensive growth in apartment construction... There’s an opportunity for developers, and there’s been a number of large-unit apartment complexes they constructed.”
When asked to describe the town in a few words, Hannah Lyford, the owner of The Traveled Cup coffee house used the word “energetic”.
"It's a small town, but it's, you know, it's not as rural. There's a lot of well-traveled people around here too," Lyford said. "It really is a city/community that wants to support itself, while growing at the same time.”
"I would say that it's supportive," she said. "It's energetic, it's a bit of a throw-back town, but yet it's not. It's got character."
Smith, who was grew up in Saint Albans, said that the town stands out in terms of its community environment.
“I was born and raised here, and my wife’s from Charlotte,” he said. “A lot of community activities that people can congregate and meet their neighbors.”
From half-marathons to wine and cheese festivals, there’s something happening in Saint Albans “almost every week,” Smith said.
“I think we’re almost to the point of one [event] a month,” he said.
And there’s a pretty wide diversity of events, too. The Running of the Bells, an annual one-mile walk or run that takes place in downtown Saint Albans on a chilly night in December, attracts roughly 500 people, most of whom are dressed up in holiday garb, as reindeer, Santa Clauses or elves.
“It’s a quick one-mile jog, but very festive,” he said.
Then there is the local Wine and Cheese Festival, which has already sold out for the year, with about 250 spots.
"There's more to do now. It's become a fun little city, but yet it's also a community. There's some rich culture and it's [got] a beautiful farmer's market."
Fun Fact: 2015 marks the 150th anniversary of the Saint Albans Raid, which was the northernmost confrontation in the Civil War. Saint Albans celebrated with a three-day event and a reenactment, said Smith.
Sources: for city data: City of St. Albans 2014-2015 Housing Study and Needs Analysis, 2009-2013 ACS.
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Average Income: $39,536
Median rent: $800-$899
Located in Washington County, Barre has “always been one of the more cosmopolitan areas of Vermont,” said Todd Paton, Director of Visitor Services at Rock of Ages Quarry and Visitors Center. The city’s school system and good medical care are also a draw for younger families, he said.
“Folks are able to come here and get a start,” he said. “It’s a fun place to be, with a really great history and culture.”
Paton, a native and current resident of Barre, said that Barre’s culture is “very working class... and overall very inviting.”
"There’s been a resurgence in downtown, and we see very good restaurants,” he said. “I think that it’s a city that’s very proud of its history. It’s very proud of its artistry and culture.”
Barre also has a few claims to fame-- it’s the “Granite Capital of the World”, with its well-known Rock of Ages Quarry and Visitor’s Center. The city is also home to the historic and beloved Barre Opera House, which attracts around 20,000 visitors a year, and whose stage has been graced by renowned public figures, such as Helen Keller, John Philip Souza, and others.
"We've had many political speakers here over time, and that includes Eugene Debs," said Dan Casey, the director of the Opera House. "It also includes others like Ira Goldwin, who was maybe one of the most famous anarchists in American history."
With five amateur opera companies working out of the Barre Opera House at a given time, as well as the Vermont Philharmonic and the Barre Players, the Opera House continues to be “a busy place”, holding 50 to 60 events a year, said Casey.
"For our more successful shows, we fill the local restaurants, and we fill local motels, and [have] a considerable impact economically on the town."
"The place has a great history to it. Today, we continue, in its second life, the opera house continues to be a busy place, and we're doing fifty to sixty events here every year."
But the Opera House is not the only thing that draws people to Barre. Here are a few more things the city has to offer.
Other Cool Places to See in Barre
Hope Cemetery. The 65-acre memorial attracts visitors from around the world, “a world class living museum of unique Granite Monuments,” said Steven Mackenzie, Barre City Manager. The cemetery is filled with monuments from the traditional to the artistic-- one monument features a cube balancing on one corner; another, an airplane taking flight.
Rock of Ages Quarries and Visitors Center. From sandblasting your own piece of granite to bowling down a granite bowling lane, there are a variety of options at the Rock of Ages. Take a self-guided tour around the quarry to see the Rock of Ages Vermont Factory, where hand tools and modern equipment work in turn to produce granite pieces, according to the Rock of Ages website.
You can learn more about Rock of Ages, or any of the locations mentioned here, by going to their websites:
Barre Opera House: http://www.barreoperahouse.org/history.html
Hope Cemetery: http://www.central-vt.com/web/hope/
Rock of Ages Quarries and Visitors Center: http://www.rockofages.com/
Sources For Barre City Data: American FactFinder.com. http://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_12_5YR_B25061 HYPERLINK "http://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_12_5YR_B25061&prodType=table"& HYPERLINK "http://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_12_5YR_B25061&prodType=table"prodType=table
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