When we were first moving to Vermont in 2012, apartments were at a premium. I wanted to live close to work, if possible. But Waterbury had just suffered a significant flood, and there was ONE apartment available. To cover all bases, we checked out neighboring towns, including Montpelier and Barre (pronounced ˈberē, like berry).
Montpelier seemed to have only one apartment available, as well, and the building felt a bit like the seedier parts of Newark, Delaware. Been there, done that. Barre did have a few places, but the city seemed to be barely hanging on.
Barre was—and still is—so obviously an old working-class, industrial town that had been left behind by Vermont’s tourism industry and from any hope of recapturing big industry. Granite had been huge, but it didn’t need many workers anymore. Needless to say, a glut of rentals and real estate made Barre feel a bit risky and far away from what was touted as “good” about Vermont. In some ways, it didn’t even feel like Vermont. So we were relieved to find that single, tiny apartment in Waterbury, and never gave Barre much thought after that.
When it came time to buy a house six years later—an interest stoked by a recent rent increase on that small, dark hovel in Waterbury and the availability of a bargain 1870 farmhouse just south of Waterbury—Barre was still not on the radar. When the old farmhouse fell through, a few houses came up in Waterbury, and quickly vanished. (The one feasible option was on the market for less than a day.) So interest turned again to Montpelier, with no luck. Then we became curious about what might be out there in Barre. Again, Barre seemed a bit risky from the outside. There was still a glut of available properties, but we figured it wouldn’t hurt to look.
This time, something was different about Barre. Houses were being flipped, and neighborhoods were slowly being transformed. Good houses seemed to be selling fast, and there were fewer of them as the months passed. Downtown had been reborn—or more accurately, is still being reborn. So when what seemed to be the “right house” came along, the city was no longer a hindrance, but an opportunity. It also felt like home. As you’ll see in the video, that sums up Barre.