Old Bennington, an incorporated Village, adopted a village plan under the The Vermont Municipal and Regional Planning and Development Act, Title 24 V.S.A. Chapter 117, in September 1972. The plan has been revised and readopted several times since then. Each section included a study of past trends and existing conditions, followed by policies setting forth the Planning Commission’s recommendations concerning strategies for the future.
In 1968, The Vermont Municipal and Regional Planning And Development Act (24 V.S.A., Chapter 117) authorized municipalities to establish design control districts.
“A design control district can be created for an area containing structures of historical, architectural or cultural merit, and other areas in which there is a concentration of community interest and participation, such as a central business district, civic center or similar grouping or focus of activities. Such areas may include townscape areas which resemble, in important aspects, the earliest permanent settlements, including a concentrated urban settlement with striking vistas, views extending across open fields, and up to the forest edge, a central focal point and town green, and buildings of high architectural quality, including styles of the early nineteenth century.”
In 1973, Old Bennington was one of the first Villages in Vermont to adopt a system for Design Review, and the entire Village was designated a Design Review District.
According to state law, within such a designated design review district, no structure may be erected, reconstructed, substantially altered, restored, moved, demolished, or changed in use or type of occupancy, without approval of the plans therefore by the Planning Commission.
On August 24, 1984, Old Bennington, in its entirety, was made a National Historic District, and every house in the Village has been recorded on the National Register of Historic Places.
Old Bennington Village is fortunate to have not only structures of cultural, architectural and historical merit, but also a pleasing visual character and architectural integrity which extends through all its dwellings and two hundred acres. The character is comprised of several qualities, which, when taken together, create the pleasing image cherished by Village residents. Compatibility of architectural styles and color, the numerous buildings of architectural merit, the special relationships of land and buildings, the relative lack of commercial elements, and the reminder of life in a by-gone era, are some of the more important factors. Views to the west and south of Mount Anthony, and to the east and north across the Town of Bennington, as well as open meadows and ornamental gardens, are an integral part of the village character.
This Plan inventories existing Village needs and resources; provides goals and policies to guide growth and development in the Village, and provides the rational basis for implementing Village Ordinances, Zoning Bylaws and other appropriate municipal regulations. The planning and zoning tools made available to us by the Legislature should, and indeed must, be used to prevent development destructive to our Village, and to insure and adequately regulate development.
Old Bennington represents the original center of Bennington. Samuel Robinson and a band of religious separatists from Connecticut and Massachusetts founded it in 1761. During the past 243 years the focus of industrial, commercial and residential development has shifted to the valley below and Old Bennington has become a small, incorporated Village within the Town of Bennington. Its character has become essentially residential and historic.
Old Bennington is situated on a height of land approximately one-half mile west of the center of the Town of Bennington, which lies in the Walloomsac River valley below. Looming over the Village to the southwest is Mount Anthony. A ridge called Monument Hill elevates the northern third of the Village, but along the eastern edge of the Village the land falls sharply away in a steep slope toward the river below. The remainder of the Village is fairly level. Many large, well-spaced houses are surrounded with lawns and gardens. We still enjoy the luxury of some open land with beautiful vistas.
The Village consists of approximately 130 structures of which 100 date from 1763 through the early years of the 20th century. Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, Shingle and Colonial Revival styles are extensively represented. Focused on a fine tree-lined avenue that ascends a slight hill to a massive obelisk, the 1887-91 Bennington Battle Monument, most of the structures are 2-1/2 story, wood-frame clapboard residences, and rich in historic detail. The well-preserved buildings of the Village constitute one of the oldest and finest collections of historic houses in the State of V ermont.
The Village has a sedate ambiance. Most of the houses are surrounded by large landscaped yards with gardens. Splendid trees line the roads, and scattered throughout the Village are a number of historic site markers, ranging from simple bronze tablets to the 306-foot Bennington Battle Monument that towers above the Village from Monument Hill.
Old Bennington has an axial street configuration, with Monument Avenue bisecting the Village on a north-south axis. Five secondary streets radiate out from this axis and several tertiary streets branch out in turn from them. At the northern terminus of Monument Avenue is Monument Circle, a 5-acre elliptical park on which the Battle Monument stands. Before the Monument’s construction in 1887, Monument Avenue (then Main Street) extended through the center of what was Monument Circle and down the hill to the north. Over 20 structures, including a large inn, were razed to make room for the Monument.
A second park area is located almost exactly in the center of the Village at the intersection of Monument Avenue with Route 9. Three islands of grass and trees are the remains of the original Village green, around which the original settlement centered. Fronting on this open space are some of the Village’s most significant structures including the Old First Congregational Church (1803- 5), the Walloomsac Inn (1764), the Jedediah Dewey House (1764) and the elegant urn-topped white fence, which borders the Old Burying Ground. It was on this green that the original Old First Church Meeting House (1764) stood, in which the wounded of the Battle of Bennington (1777) were cared for and where, in 1791, the Vermont Legislature met to accept the Constitution and join the Union as the 14th state.