Wells River, Vermont

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Wells River is a village in the town of Newbury in Orange County, Vermont, United States. The population was 325 at the 2000 census. The village center is located at the junction of U.S. Routes 5 and 302.

The village center (the portion near the confluence of the Wells River and the Connecticut River) was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983 as Wells River Village Historic District. The district covers 84 contributing properties over an area of 390 acres (1.6 km2).[citation needed] It includes examples of Classical Revival, Federal, and Late Victorian styles.[3] The architectural character of the district represents the building traditions of nineteenth-century Vermont, showcasing a wide array of building styles.

Contents

History

The area was first called Governor's Right because 500 acres (200 hectares) were granted to Governor Benning Wentworth of New Hampshire. It was purchased by Er Chamberlin, who built a gristmill on the Wells River.[4] Located at the head of navigation for the Connecticut River, Wells River developed as a center for trade. Canal boats guided by long poles floated downriver laden with lumber, clapboards and shingles, returning with goods such as iron, salt, rum and molasses.[4]

On November 6, 1848, the Connecticut & Passumpsic Rivers Railroad opened to Wells River, rendering obsolete the river's barge traffic. In 1853-1854, the Boston, Concord & Montreal Railroad reached Woodsville, New Hampshire across the Connecticut River. It built division offices and repair facilities, transforming that village into a booming railway town. The line replaced the 1805 bridge over the narrows to Wells River with a two-level wooden span which combined a toll highway deck at the bottom of the truss, with railroad tracks on the roof. In 1903, a steel bridge of similar configuration replaced it. In 1873, the Montpelier & Wells River Railroad was completed, enhancing the region's position as a railroad junction.[5]

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