Burlington facts: fun local tidbits

Burlington facts Champ Monster

Burlington facts: The Champ Monster has caused plenty of concern over the years, but the mascot version is quite loveable. Champ is the mascot of Burlington’s minor league baseball team, The Vermont Lake Monsters. (photo: Emily McManamy/The Burlington Free Press)

DealChicken loves rooting out the best daily deals in and around Burlington, VT, and along the way, he’s managed to unearth some Burlington facts that might surprise you. Go ahead and test your knowledge against everyone’s favorite yellow-bellied bird to see how your local-history know-how stacks up.

The first stop on the Burlington facts tour is Lake Champlain. Over 240 sightings of Lake Champlain’s monster, nicknamed Champ, have led to the lake becoming known as “America’s Loch Ness”.

The birthplace of Ben & Jerry’s may have been demolished long ago, but ice-cream fanatics still flock to visit the commemorative plaque embedded in the sidewalk at the southwest corner of St. Paul and College Streets in Burlington. The plaque reads, “Site of the Old Gas Station, Original Home of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, Founded May 5, 1978, Placed in Commemoration of Their Tenth Anniversary, June 4, 1988“, and marks the site where the first Dastardly Hash, Cherry Garcia and Chubby Hubby were scooped out. Where once dairy-rich dreams were realized in a renovated gas station, now stands a lonely stretch of asphalt. Sigh.

Another famous firm that got its start in Burlington is the Vermont Teddy Bear Company. After discovering that most of his young son’s toys were made outside the U.S., founder John Sortino started designing and selling handcrafted teddy bears in Burlington’s open-air market. Nowadays, the company is headquartered in nearby Shelburne, and produces thousands of bears a year.

Despite its photogenic qualities, only a couple of noteworthy feature films have been shot on location in Burlington—both in the year 2000: the Farrelly brothers’ Me, Myself & Irene, starring Jim Carrey and Renee Zellwegger, and What Lies Beneath, starring Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer.

Another Irene visited Burlington in 2011, with disastrous results: Hurricane Irene hit hard, causing the worst flooding in 83 years. Bad-weather girl Irene killed three people and washed out at least three bridges and two hundred roads.

While Lake Champlain plays host to over 300 shipwrecks, only one can claim to be the world’s first steamboat wreck: The Pheonix, which sank on the northern face of Colchester Shoal Reef on September 4, 1819. As if escaping a sinking ship wasn’t enough, one of the passengers was consequently robbed of $8000 during the rescue efforts. His cash was later recovered.

Ethan Allen, a Revolutionary War hero, spent his last two years (1787-1789) in Burlington, Vermont, in a Cape Cod-style house that he built himself. The structure has been turned into The Ethan Allen Homestead Museum, which holds tours of the house and grounds as well as live reenactments of everyday scenes from 18th-century life.

Burlington is the site of three colleges: The University of Vermont (UVM), Burlington College, and Champlain College, making the rather low median age of its residents—29—unsurprising.

Although the Emily Post Institute, responsible for setting the rules of polite society since 1922, is headquartered in Burlington, that didn’t stop one of the town’s residents from flipping out and slamming a dead raccoon against the City Hall’s doors in late 2011. The denizen claimed to be upset about the animal carcass being left on the street.

The rock band Phish was formed at the University of Vermont in 1983, although they were not yet called Phish. Billed as “Blackwood Convention” for their first concert, they improvised the lack of equipment by turning a hockey stick into a microphone stand.

Did you already know these fun Burlington facts? Check out these fun facts about Bangor.