Chartered in 1761, Brandon is a study in early American architecture and Vermont history. When the first settlers came to the area in the mid-1770s, they established the village of Neshobe. The area was rich in natural resources with excellent farmland along the rivers and abundant supplies of timber and minerals. The Town grew and flourished during the 1800s with several industries relying on the key resources of waterpower, iron ore and marble. The coming of the railroad in 1849 enabled the manufacture and shipping of iron-based products such as the Howe scale, as well as Brandon paints, wood products and marble.
During its century of rapid growth, Brandon Village evolved a unique village plan. The historic Crown Point military road came through Brandon to connect Lake Champlain to the east coast. The Congregational and Baptist churches were built on either side of the Neshobe River, each with its own green laid out at a bend in the road. In the ensuing decades, government, commerce and prominent individuals developed commercial streets at the core which radiated out from the greens lined with residences leading to farms, mines and quarries in the Town. Pearl and Park Streets were laid out to be suitable for militia training, resulting in broad, tree-shaded streets with deep front yards.
Famed 19th century statesman Stephen A. Douglas was born in Brandon and his birthplace is now the Brandon Museum as well as the town’s Visitor Center. Thomas Davenport, who is said to have invented the electric motor although he never achieved fame for his invention and died penniless, also was born and lived in Brandon.
As the early industries began to decline, dairying, stockbreeding and tourism became increasingly important and ensured the vitality of Brandon in the 20th century. The establishment of the Brandon Training School in 1915 was a significant event, providing many employment opportunities for area residents. At its height, the Training School served over 600 Vermont residents. Changes in policy and social service practices lead to closing the facility in November 1993. The campus, now called Park Village, is used for a variety of purposes including residential, industrial, and institutional uses.
Today Brandon is a thriving, diverse community offering a full range of services for its citizens. Several industries, a variety of shops and services provide many opportunities for town residents and surrounding communities. Brandon’s historic downtown with its entire core of 243 buildings is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Brandon’s Self-Guided Historic Walking Tour is available here as a PDF download. If you print the two pages, you can place them front to back and fold into a tri-fold.