Danby Town History

The Beginning

Danby’s original settlers first arrived in the area after 1765, traveling down and extending a road from western Dorset. Located among the highest peaks of the Taconic Mountain Range, Danby Four Corners was constructed in the center of the newly settled town to be a point of focus for the many small farms that were developing, scattered among the hills. As more came to settle in the area, Danby Borough began to take shape in the Otter Creek valley on the eastern border of town.

 

Rapid Growth

MainStreetDanbyAs the area became more and more developed, second generations of original settlers began to build their own houses, and small communities began to develop within the small town. The 1830’s saw many new homes being built in the area, as well as the arrival of three Union Church Societies who inevitably brought three new churches to the town. Fueled by the water power of the Mill Brook which runs right through Danby Borough, coupled with the newly constructed north-south stage road (U.S. Route 7), the town evolved into a thriving center of commerce for the logging and marble industries. Danby Borough began to overshadow the importance of Danby Four Corners by 1840. On the nearby Dorset Mountain extensive quarrying was underway, and mills for sawing marble began to pop up along the Mill Brook, bringing workers and their families to Danby Borough.

In 1852 the Western Vermont Railroad was constructed through Danby Borough, and the area saw a several year period of exponential growth as marble production soared. Many homes in the town had marble features, a display of the new wealth that flooded the area. The Danby Bank, with its grand Greek revival columns, was a testament to the success felt by the town.

 

RailroadEconomic Hardships

When the railroad went bankrupt in 1857 however, the economy of the town was devastated. The Danby Bank folded. The intense competition in the marble industry from producers in Bennington and Rutland forced the Western Vermont Marble Company to stop quarrying completely by 1870.

One of the few to make out well during this hard economical period was Silas L. Griffith, Vermont’s first millionaire. In 1861 Griffith built a successful store in Danby Borough. In 1872, Griffith and partner Eugene McIntyre founded a charcoal and lumber company in neighboring Mount Tabor that became a quick success. Griffith came to own roughly 50,000 acres of woodland as well as several lumber mills. Griffith poured his success back into Danby and built a library, as well as made major contributions to the Congregational Church, the schools, and a Christmas fund that gave children in eastern Danby and Mount Tabor with a gift each year.

 

Turn of the 20th Century

The marble industry saw a resurgence in 1901 as the use of white marble in public architecture became a popular building trend. The Vermont Marble Company bought the holdings of the Western Vermont Marble Company and quarrying started back up in full swing in Danby. During the following decades marble quarried from the area went into many important buildings such as the U.S. Supreme Court and the Jefferson Memorial. Several new stores and homes were built in the area as a result of the economic boom, but development for the most part ceased after the post World War II downturn in the marble industry.

 

Present Day Danby

Today, Danby village is listed on the National Register of Historic places and is recognized for its rich architectural legacy. Many of the homes and farmhouses are historic, going all the way back to the beginnings of this quant little Vermont town.