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25 Things You Should Know About Burlington, Vermont

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It may be the largest city in the Green Mountain state, but to residents and visitors alike, Burlington feels more like a small town. Situated on the shores of Lake Champlain, it’s home to just under 43,000 residents along with a thriving collection of local businesses, from cozy cafes to arts and crafts stores and brewpubs. Even a now-famous ice cream parlor started by two childhood friends still maintains its local flavor. Here are a few things you might not know about Burlington, Vermont.

1. It was established as part of the New Hampshire Grants, which colonial governor Benning Wentworth doled out beginning in 1749 as a way to alleviate overcrowding in Massachusetts and Connecticut. The Burlington grant recipients, which included 64 families, began settling the area in 1763 but were interrupted by the outbreak of the Revolutionary War.

2. Nobody’s really sure where the name came from. One theory holds that Wentworth named the town after Richard Boyle, the 3rd Earl of Burlington, as a way to gain favor from the powerful Englishman. Another holds that it was named for the wealthy Burling family, who owned land throughout New York.  

3. One of the first naval battles of the Revolutionary War took place nearby on Lake Champlain. The Battle of Valcour Island pitted a colonial force of 15 ships, led by none other than Benedict Arnold, against 25 British ships. The outgunned Americans were defeated, but their resistance stalled the British expansion into the Hudson Valley. If Arnold had died during that skirmish, historians believe, he likely would be considered a war hero.


Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Burlington was home to Ethan Allen, a folk hero credited by many as the father of Vermont. Born in Connecticut, Allen and his Green Mountain Boys defended land established by the New Hampshire Grants against competing claims from New Yorkers. In 1775, Allen and his militia captured Fort Ticonderoga from the British, securing a decisive early victory in the American Revolution. A fierce fighter and leader, Allen was a philosopher and a published author, to boot.

5. During the War of 1812, Burlington served as a base for nearly 4000 U.S. troops. The influx strained the city’s resources and increased tensions between soldiers and citizens. After town officials arrested several soldiers on charges of theft, a band of their comrades marched on the jail and freed them.

6. In 1813, British ships fired upon an American fleet docked in Burlington. The ensuing naval duel, which lasted only 20 minutes and had zero casualties, marked the only battle ever fought within city limits.

7. The 1823 opening of the Champlain Canal, which connected Lake Champlain to New York’s Hudson River, signaled the beginning of Burlington’s prominence as a port town. By the mid 1800s, the city was the third largest lumber port in the nation.

8. To expand their bustling port system, Burlington officials created more space. Over the course of a century, 60 acres worth of fill from construction projects went into Lake Champlain, expanding the shoreline further out into the water.

9. The University of Vermont, founded in 1791, declared support for freedom of religion in its charter, making it the first institution of higher learning to do so. It was also one of the first universities to admit female students, in 1871.


Billings Library at the University of Vermont, c. 1895 // Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The university’s designation, UVM, does not stand for “University of Vermont,” as many believe. Rather, it stands for the Latin “Universitas Viridis Montis,”or “University of the Green Mountains.”

11. The Church Street Marketplace, Burlington’s busy pedestrian shopping walk, was inspired by a market in Copenhagen called the Stroget. A local architecture student observed the Stroget in 1962 and began lobbying officials to create something similar in Burlington. In 1980, Burlington closed off two downtown blocks along Church Street to traffic, and a year later the Church Street Marketplace officially opened.  

12. The Fletcher Free Library, established in 1871, lets residents check out gardening tools in addition to books, CDs, and DVDs.

13. Every summer, Burlington hosts the Festival of Fools, an event dedicated to “the age-old tradition of busking” that features world-renowned street performers along Church Street and in City Hall Park. 


It was the site of the world’s first international hockey match, in 1886, between the Montreal Crystals and members of the local Van Ness House hockey team. The game, which took place during the Burlington Winter Carnival, resulted in a 3-0 win for the Canadians.

15. Its nickname, “the Queen City,” originated with a speech given by Burlington’s first mayor more than 150 years ago. “We represent a young city, which may in time be known and distinguished as the Queen City of New England,” said Albert L. Catlin during his 1866 commencement address, establishing a lofty vision for the northern outpost.

16. In 1978, childhood friends Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield opened an ice cream shop in a renovated filling station. Despite having no experience besides a $5 correspondence course in ice-cream making, the two established what quickly became a local favorite. The rest is sweet, sweet history.


Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield serving ice cream at Occupy Wall Street, 2011 // Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

The band Phish formed at the University of Vermont in 1983. Their first gig was at the university’s Harris-Mills Cafeteria.

18. From 1981 to 1989, Burlington was feeling the Bern—Bernie Sanders, specifically, who served four consecutive terms as mayor.

19. The tallest building in Burlington, Decker Towers, is just 11 stories. It’s also the tallest building in the state, making it the shortest-tallest building of any state in the nation.

20. For five years, Burlington played partial home (along with the city of Barre) to a semi-pro basketball team called the Frost Heaves. Owned by Sports Illustrated writer Alexander Wolff, the Heaves won the American Basketball Association title in its first two seasons, then folded in 2011 after declining attendance.

21. There aren’t enough cooks in the kitchen—literally. Burlington’s labor force hasn’t kept up with its culinary expansion, leaving the city desperate for chefs, line order cooks and restaurant workers in general. The president of the New England Culinary Institute has called the situation “a crisis.”



Burlington is the 38th most popular name for American cities and towns, with 34 total, according to the U.S. Census. There’s a Burlington, North Carolina and a Burlington, Colorado, among others.

23. Every summer, teams of rowers face off in the Dragon Boat Festival on Lake Champlain. Modeled after a similar type of long boat from ancient China, each dragon boat is 41 feet long and holds upwards of 20 rowers. Proceeds from the event go to local cancer charities.

24. According to a recent assessment, 30% of the traffic in downtown Burlington is comprised of drivers searching for parking. The city claims to have ample parking, and is working to improve signs and other tools to direct motorists to vacant spots.

25. It’s one of the most environmentally progressive cities in the nation. Earlier this year, Burlington became the first city to source 100% of its residential energy from renewable sources.

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Courtesy Umbrellium
These LED Crosswalks Adapt to Whoever Is Crossing
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Courtesy Umbrellium

Crosswalks are an often-neglected part of urban design; they’re usually just white stripes on dark asphalt. But recently, they’re getting more exciting—and safer—makeovers. In the Netherlands, there is a glow-in-the-dark crosswalk. In western India, there is a 3D crosswalk. And now, in London, there’s an interactive LED crosswalk that changes its configuration based on the situation, as Fast Company reports.

Created by the London-based design studio Umbrellium, the Starling Crossing (short for the much more tongue-twisting STigmergic Adaptive Responsive LearnING Crossing) changes its layout, size, configuration, and other design factors based on who’s waiting to cross and where they’re going.

“The Starling Crossing is a pedestrian crossing, built on today’s technology, that puts people first, enabling them to cross safely the way they want to cross, rather than one that tells them they can only cross in one place or a fixed way,” the company writes. That means that the system—which relies on cameras and artificial intelligence to monitor both pedestrian and vehicle traffic—adapts based on road conditions and where it thinks a pedestrian is going to go.

Starling Crossing - overview from Umbrellium on Vimeo.

If a bike is coming down the street, for example, it will project a place for the cyclist to wait for the light in the crosswalk. If the person is veering left like they’re going to cross diagonally, it will move the light-up crosswalk that way. During rush hour, when there are more pedestrians trying to get across the street, it will widen to accommodate them. It can also detect wet or dark conditions, making the crosswalk path wider to give pedestrians more of a buffer zone. Though the neural network can calculate people’s trajectories and velocity, it can also trigger a pattern of warning lights to alert people that they’re about to walk right into an oncoming bike or other unexpected hazard.

All this is to say that the system adapts to the reality of the road and traffic patterns, rather than forcing pedestrians to stay within the confines of a crosswalk system that was designed for car traffic.

The prototype is currently installed on a TV studio set in London, not a real road, and it still has plenty of safety testing to go through before it will appear on a road near you. But hopefully this is the kind of road infrastructure we’ll soon be able to see out in the real world.

[h/t Fast Company]

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Tokyo Tops List of Safest Cities in the World, New Report Says
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When choosing a city to call home, some might weigh factors like affordability, potential for job growth, and even the number of bookstores and libraries. But for many aspiring urbanites, safety is a top concern. This list of the world’s safest cities from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) proves you don’t need to trade your sense of welfare for the hustle and bustle of city life—especially if you're headed to Tokyo.

As Quartz reports, the EIU assessed the overall safety of 60 major cities using categories like health safety, infrastructure safety, personal safety, and the cybersecurity of smart city technology. With an overall score in 89.80 out of 100 points, Tokyo is the 2017 Safe Cities Index's highest-ranking city for the third year in a row.

While it was rated in the top five places for cybersecurity, health security, and personal security, Tokyo's No. 12 spot in the infrastructure security category kept it from receiving an even higher score. The next two spots on the EIU list also belong to East Asian cities, with Singapore snagging second place with a score of 89.64 and Osaka coming in third with 88.67. Toronto and Melbourne round out the top five. View more from the list below.

1. Tokyo
2. Singapore
3. Osaka
4. Toronto
5. Melbourne
6. Amsterdam
7. Sydney
8. Stockholm
9. Hong Kong
10. Zurich

You may have noticed that no U.S. cities broke into the top 10. The best-rated American metropolis is San Francisco, which came in 15th place with a score of 83.55. Meanwhile, New York, which used to hold the No. 10 slot, fell to No. 21 this year. The report blames the U.S.'s poor performance in part on America's aging infrastructure, which regularly receives failing grades from reports like these due to lack of maintenance and upgrades.

Surprised by your city's rank? For an idea of how other countries view the U.S. in terms of safety, check out this list of travel warnings to foreign visitors.

[h/t Quartz]


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