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Page Updated: 06/10/14


First settled in 1716 by families from East Windsor, the town of Vernon was incorporated in 1808, when it was partitioned from the town of Bolton.

The Hockanum and Tankerhoosen Rivers provided sites for mills during the Industrial Revolution. Peter Dobson built a cotton spinning mill on the Tankerhoosen River in 1809 which laid the foundation for the industrial village of Talcottville. Factories were built in Rockville along the Hockanum River below Snipsic Lake. The first power looms were used by the Rock Mill in 1821.

The New England Company began the manufacture of fine woolens in 1841. Wool fabric woven in Rockville became world-famous for its fine quality during the period of 1892 through 1904.

Following World War II, the textile industry entered a regional decline which continued steadily over the following decades. Roosevelt Mills, a sweater manufacturer, closed in August of 1988. However, Amerbelle, a textile finisher, remained in Rockville and became the largest manufacturer in Vernon with approximately 250 employees until its closure in approximately 2012.

Industrialization led to the urbanization of Rockville, while the rest of Vernon remained agricultural and rural. Rail service, which no longer exists, became available in 1863. The City of Rockville was incorporated in 1889. By 1900, Vernon had a population of 8,483 persons, of which 7,076 lived in the City of Rockville.

The decline of the textile industry was offset by the rise of other manufacturing, insurance and finance in the region. This economic growth created employment opportunity that attracted population in-migration. As Rockville employment declined and the greater Hartford labor market expanded, Vernon became further suburbanized. The construction of the Wilbur Cross Parkway, now Interstate 84, and the Charter Oak Bridge crossing the Connecticut River allowed suburban commuting. Between 1950 and 1970 the Vernon population grew from 10,115 to 27,237 persons. In 1965 the Town of Vernon and the City of Rockville became consolidated.

Employment growth, population increase and suburbanization stimulated commercial activity and influenced the pattern of commercial development, as did the transportation system. The period of early industrialization, prior to the widespread ownership of the automobile, created the dense urban development of Rockville and made it a major commercial center.

However, the decline of factory employment in Rockville, the suburbanization of Vernon and the widespread ownership of the automobile gradually shifted commercial activity from downtown Rockville to the Vernon Circle area near the intersection of routes 30 and 83 which is in the 1-84 corridor. The suburbanization of neighboring Coventry, Ellington, South Windsor and Tolland reinforced this pattern.

The rearrangement of commercial development has been accompanied by a change of retail distribution. Retail commercial activity has evolved from being primarily neighborhood-oriented providing convenience goods to regionally oriented serving Vernon, Ellington, Manchester, South Windsor and Tolland. This pattern of larger regional retail markets was extended further by the construction of routes 291 and 384 intersecting with 1-84 in Manchester. The development of a completely new primary regional retail nucleus changed the retail dynamics within the whole region. New large-scale superstores are coming to dominate product markets. Previous regional commercial centers, such as Vernon Circle, need to be redeveloped as second-tier regional centers. Smaller centers, such as Rockville and Lafayette Square, need to be redeveloped to provide new services whose suitability will be related to the accessibility and specific character of the area.

The history of Vernon is one of industrialization, urbanization, suburbanization and regionalization. These historic trends created existing land use and development patterns, while emerging trends will influence future development patterns. The challenge of land use planning and economic development is to address emerging trends to create a better community.

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