History of Essex Junction
Originally part of the Essex Township decreed by the English Crown in the 18th century, modern Essex Junction traces its roots back to a time shortly after the American Revolution when Ira Allen, brother of the more famous Ethan Allen, constructed a dam at a bend and natural water fall in the Winooski River between what is now Essex Junction and Williston. A saw mill adjacent to the dam sent logs down the Winooski to Lake Champlain. The falls, known as Hubbells Falls, became a site of early industry and economic growth in the Essex Town area.
An oil painting of a later version of the dam titled “Hubbells Falls in Essex Junction” adorns the lobby of the Vermont Statehouse. Today, Green Mountain Power Corp. operates a hydroelectric station at the site of the dam.
A short distance from Hubbells Falls, two roadways connecting Burlington to points east and north formed an intersection known today as Five Corners. The City's municipal office building, Lincoln Hall, began as an early 19th century tavern and rest station at the intersection.
By the 1850s, the land adjacent to the road intersection formed a railroad junction connecting six different lines, including the Burlington to Northfield rail line constructed by Governor Charles Paine. When a rail station was built to accommodate passengers, the area around the station was formally named Painesville. However, conductors on trains pulling into the station would announce to passengers that they were approaching Essex Junction, to let them know that this was the place to change trains.
The railroad commerce and falls spurred development in the area and the population grew. In 1873, residents built the Park Street School, Vermont’s first brick schoolhouse. The need to build additional schools and provide municipal services that the surrounding town of Essex, still largely undeveloped and could not provide, prompted residents to petition the Vermont Legislature to allow them to incorporate their community into a village. In 1892, the Legislature approved a new charter for the Village of Essex Junction. In doing so, the Legislature continued a uniquely Vermont practice of allowing developing areas of former townships to become incorporated municipalities with their own taxing authority. Incorporated villages could raise taxes to pay for their own services without assistance from their affiliated towns.
Essex Junction’s incorporation as a distinct municipality and school district was quickly followed by a period of expansive growth:
In 1893, the Essex Junction Volunteer Fire Department was established and electricity was brought to Essex Junction.
In 1895, trolley service was brought to Essex Junction from Burlington.
In 1896, the Essex Junction police department was created.
In 1899, the Essex Junction library was created.
In 1900, public water was made available and, in 1914 the Essex Junction water district was formed.
In 1912, another large brick school was constructed on Prospect Street which later served as Essex Junction High School and now serves as the Fleming Elementary School.
In 1922, the Champlain Valley Exposition relocated to Essex Junction. Today, the Champlain Valley Exposition hosts Vermont's largest agricultural fair and numerous events throughout the year.
In 1926, the Essex Junction sanitation department was created. Also in 1926, Samuel Brownell built and donated the present library building. Two additions to the Brownell Library were completed in 1970 and 2001.
In 1953, the Maple Street Park was opened and the Essex Junction Recreation and Parks Department was created. In 2000, the pool was removed and replaced with a children's pool with water slide, a six lane lap pool with diving boards and a multi-purpose recreation building.
In 1955, the Village hired its first professional manager.
1957 marked the arrival of IBM.
In 1970, Essex Junction finished construction of the Essex Junction Educational Center and Vocational Center, which later became Essex High School and the Center for Technology, Essex. In 1973, an indoor skating rink opened at the Educational Center. In 1994, due to growth in the Essex Town population and their need for a high school, Essex Junction and Essex Town formed the Union 46 School District to allow shared jurisdiction over the schools. They are now the largest high school and secondary technical school in Vermont.
In 1983, Essex Junction constructed the present wastewater treatment facility to serve the tri-town communities of Essex Junction, Essex, and Williston. The facility has won national recognition for quality and energy efficiency. It recently underwent a major reconstruction to meet the needs of the growing communities.
In 2015, GlobalFoundries took over the IBM facility.
In 2018, the Essex Junction Trustees and Essex Town selectboard began working on a new plan for merging the Village and Town.
In November 2020, the Village voters passed a merger plan and charter proposed by the Trustees by a vote of 3,453 to 1,205. However, in March 2021, Town voters, including those in the Village, rejected the merger plan and charter proposed by the Selectboard, 3,737 to 3,756. A reconsideration vote held on April 2021 failed again by a vote of 4,200 to 4,225. Prior to the April reconsideration vote, Village of Essex Junction voters presented a petition to the Village Trustees to place a non-binding advisory vote on the 2021 Village Annual Meeting ballot advising the Trustees to draft a charter to create the independent City of Essex Junction for consideration by the Village of Essex Junction voters no later than November 2021, should efforts seeking a vote for reconsideration on the issue of merger fail.
In November 2021, the Village of Essex Junction passed a City Charter with 88 percent of community support to separate from the Town of Essex. Bill H. 491, an act relating to the creation of the City of Essex Junction and the adoption of its charter, was then passed in the Vermont Legislature. Gov. Phil Scott signed the bill into law in April 2022.
Essex Junction is an enjoyable place to live, work and play. In the whole world, there is only one Essex Junction!