Winooski, Vermont, a small city of just 6,500 residents is located in Chittenden County, right on the mouth of the Winooski River. Winooski, meaning “this is where the wild onions grow” in the Abenaki tribal dialect, recently became somewhat famous when a 5,000 year-old prehistoric campground was uncovered within its borders. The remains of a single family of paleolithic native Americans who had come to the city more than 5,000 years ago has become one of Vermont’s most significant archaeological sites.
Winooski has its original colonial roots in trading; however, the town’s waterfalls would quickly lead to its industrial growth as a center for wool processing. Soon after the war for independence, a dam was built across the Winooski River, providing power to two sawmills and leading to the founding of Winooski’s first mill company. Although the milling industry fell on some hard times, its eventual success led to Winooski’s incorporation as a city in 1922, allowing it to break away from the town of Colchester, Vermont.
Since Winooski became its own city, the mills have closed and now serves as the city’s vibrant center. With the help of federal money from the Model Cities program, a number of revitalization grants and private investments, Winooski converted two old mills into new commercial and residential real estate in the 1980s, helping the city to revitalize itself. Today, the old mills house more than 160 apartments and almost 200,000 square feet retail commercial and office space.
Revitalization continues in Winooski as plans to build more office space and retail in the city’s center are made. Currently, it hosts the headquarters of the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation, which has been a large part of the city’s downtown redevelopment project. The city is building a blended commercial and residential area with restaurant space, a fitness center, hotels, and several hundred apartments and condominiums.