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St. Johnsbury History & Heritage Center: Railroad Street

Guest article by Andy Dussault

A conversation with a gathering of friends recently, included discussion about the original location of Railroad Street. Unknown to some of the group was that today’s Mill Street was a portion of yesteryear’s Railroad Street.

“The triumphant arrival, in November of 1850, of the first train from Boston over the newly-completed Connecticut & Passumpsic Rivers Railroad was a most important step in the growth of E. & T. Fairbanks Co.” (CDJ=Clair Dunne Johnson’s book, the first volume, I See By The Paper). Prior to the advent of the railroads entry into St. Johnsbury the commercial district of the village was on Main Street. Edward T. Fairbanks informs us in his 1912 history of St. Johnsbury, “The first dwelling house on Railroad street was built March 1850, by Amos Morrill. At that date there had been neither road nor building east of Main street except the little farm house lower down where the first pitch had been made in Nov. 1786.”

The H.F. Walling map of 1858 depicts the southerly terminus of Railroad Street at about 1,000 feet southerly of Eastern Avenue. In fact, at that period in history, Pearl Street ran much further south than Railroad Street. Then it traversed northerly to the point, where today, a traveler would turn right onto Mill Street, then turn left at Concord Avenue to continue northerly onto our current Railroad Street.

“Getting the railroad as far north as St. Johnsbury was only a first step in fulfilling the transportation needs of E. & T. Fairbanks Co. The push went on, to get the line completed all the way to Montreal, to the north, and with that feat accomplished, St. Johnsbury eventually became the half-way point between Montreal and Boston, a point which was often mentioned in publicity.” (CDJ) The C. & P.R. RR.’s Sheet No. 62 of Valuation Section No. 43 informs us that various portions of property, in the area of Mill Street, were conveyed from 1856 to 1858 to allow extension of the railroad to Montreal.

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