Waitsfield Historic District, circa 1908
Photograph courtesy of Vermont Historical Society

  Buildings of the Waitsfield Historic District
Photographs courtesy of the Mad River Valley Planning District and the Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce

The village of Waitsfield was established early in the 19th century as the commercial center for the rural farming communities of the Mad River Valley. The nucleus of this small village is the intersection of Route 100 and Bridge Street, the later of which is aptly named for the Great Eddy Covered Bridge spanning the Mad River just east of the intersection. Confined by the topography of the land, Waitsfield developed narrowly in the low lying valley bottom along the river. The Great Eddy Bridge is a major landmark of the district. As the oldest operating covered bridge in the State, the Great Eddy reflects the period of mass covered bridge construction in Vermont's transportation history. Unlike other towns in central Vermont, Waitsfield was bypassed by the railroad. As a result, the Waitsfield Historic District is reflective of the type of development experienced by small Vermont villages in the 19th century, without the prosperity, rapid expansion, and population growth of towns along railroad lines. In addition to supporting the local farming industry, Waitsfield was home to prosperous manufacturing, for which the Mad River supplied water power.

Today the Waitsfield Historic District is a combination of a small commercial core and broad tree-lined thoroughfares. Architecturally, Waitsfield contains examples of all the major 19th-century architectural styles and the Bridge Street/Route 100 intersection is bordered by some of the best of these. On the northwest corner stands the best example of an early Greek Revival commercial block in Vermont. The Bridge Street Market Place, the former village hotel and tavern built in 1840, stands on the southeast corner. The owners of this building recently took advantage of federal historic preservation tax credits in its renovation. The Neo-Classical Joslin Memorial Library, built in 1913 and donated by the son of early settler, Joseph Joslin, stands across the street. Today it houses not only the library but the Town Offices as well. Next to the library rises the spire of the Federated Church, the finest example of a Romanesque Revival church in the State. Farther away from this core stands the General Wait House, the oldest frame house in the village, portions of which date to 1793. Built by the town's founder, the house was moved to its present location in 1832 and was renovated in 1997. The building is now used as the Mad River Valley tourist center and Waitsfield municipal offices.

The heart of the Waitsfield Village Historic District is the intersection of Vermont Rt. 100 and Bridge St. The district is bordered on the west by a steep escarpment, on the east by the Mad River, and extends .4 mile north and 1/4 mile south on Vermont Rt. 100. Many of the buildings are private and not open to the public. Further information can be obtained from the Visitors Center, Sugarbush Chamber of Commerce and the Waitsfield Historical Society, all located in The General Wait House, Rt. 100, Waitsfield, open 9:00am to 5:00pm, Monday-Friday, 802- 496-3409.

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