Across the Street: Historic Bennington

The development of downtown Bennington coincided with the invention of photography in 1839 and its growing use in the decades following. These photographs show the changing buildings in the area surrounding the intersection of Vermont Routes 7 and 9, commonly called the Four Corners, or Putnam Square for Henry Putnam’s large hotel and Opera House. The images record major losses (the Bennington Opera House burned in 1959), as well as survivors (the Hotel Putnam is currently being rehabilitated).

The town of Bennington was first established by white settlers in 1761 in what is now called “Old Bennington.” Businesses began moving down the hill at the start of the industrial revolution, making use of water power provided by the Walloomsac River. By the mid-1800s timber- framed commercial buildings lined Main, North, and South Streets and our downtown started to take shape. Larger, more substantial brick structures gradually replaced the wood. Devastating fires hurried the process along. That evolution continues up to the present day, particularly notable in the case of work being done on the Putnam Block.

These historic photographs have been reproduced on lamppost panels on the streets around Putnam Square. If you take the walking tour, and stand at the panel, you can compare the scene on the panel with the current buildings directly across the street. For this online exhibit, current photographs were taken in November of 2020. If you go to these sites now, you may notice even more changes.

Click on the images below to learn more about the sites then and now.

This exhibition is made possible with support from the Town of Bennington, The Better Bennington Corporation, and a grant from the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development.