Attracted by the fast water and waterfalls along the Winooski River as it rushes down to Lake Champlain, the first settlers established small wooden mills for grinding grain and sawing lumber. Later, large brick mills were built, and their massive water-wheels powered looms to weave cotton and woolen cloth. Over the years waves of immigrants worked in these industries, including the Irish coming from other New England states, and French Canadians coming from Quebec.
After the mills closed during the 1950s, Winooksi slowed to a virtual standstill with no new engine to power its economy. But today the mills and historic downtown buildings with their ornate Victorian trim still stand, and have been re-purposed as shops, restaurants, condominiums, health clubs and offices. These include the Woolen Mill, the Champlain Mill, and the Winooski Block. All are National Historic Register buildings.
About ten years ago an ambitious plan was launched to revitalize the remaining core of the downtown. The award-winning redevelopment is nearly complete -- transforming the historic downtown into a vibrant, thriving,city center with parks and public squares, and the popular Riverwalk promenade.
Today, Mill Park serves as festival space and features the Winooski Farmers Market in season, and the family-friendly Winooski Riverwalk Festival each June. There is a canoe launch right in downtown, or, if you would prefer a riverside view, there are great views from the Champlain Mill, also home to a museum about Winooski’s history. Local restaurants deservedly have a great local following, including Sneakers, well known for its breakfast, weekend brunch and evening entertainment. Papa Frank's Italian Restaurant has an enduring reputation as a delicious, inexpensive, and a cheerful restaurant.
For more information: www.winooskidowntown.com .