Burlington-area “More than a Market” project will share immigrant stories

Jul 23, 2019

Immigrant markets in Burlington, Vermont
Merola’s Market in 1960 (courtesy of Vermont Italian Cultural Association) and Mawuhi African Market in 2019 in Burlington, Vermont

Thanks to grants from the Alma Gibbs Donchian Foundation, the Preservation Trust of Vermont, and the Vermont Humanities Council, and additional support from Dealer.com, Main Street Landing, and Northfield Savings Bank, Historic New England is developing its next Everyone’s History project.

More than a Market: Finding Community in Burlington-Area Immigrant Neighborhoods brings the immigration experience to life through the stories of past and present immigrant-owned neighborhood markets. Oral histories with descendants of earlier immigrants and present-day new Americans will provide content for an exhibition and walking tour.

Celebrations planned for June 2021

A kickoff celebration will feature food and music reflecting many local ethnic traditions. The exhibition opens in June 2021 at the Old North End (O.N.E.) Community Center in Burlington near offices of AALV Inc., which provides services to new Americans from all parts of the world. These events explore and celebrate the shared values of hard work, family, and community that have defined the immigrant experience in America for more than 400 years. Partners for More than a Market include AALV, Burlington Edible History Tour, and Preservation Burlington.

The Greater Burlington area has a legacy of immigration that continues today. Neighborhoods once alive with the voices of Germans, Jews, Irish, Italians, and French Canadians today are home to Bhutanese-Nepali, Somali, and Congolese people, among others. Historically, neighborhood stores served as informal, local “parlors” – places to socialize, conduct business, and purchase familiar food, clothing, and household goods. Today, these new-American-owned neighborhood markets serve as social anchors in much the same way.

“Understanding this historical continuum offers an opportunity to forge new connections between new and longtime residents,” says Charlotte Barrett, community preservation manager for Historic New England. “We are grateful to receive these grants to support a project that we hope will add to the story of our history as a nation of immigrants.”

About the Everyone’s History series

Through its Everyone’s History series, Historic New England has partnered with more than one hundred communities and organizations to collect stories of life in New England. These partnerships have resulted in exhibitions, films, walking tours, publications, and programs celebrating and sharing stories of life in New England. Recent Vermont projects include the films Rooted: Cultivating Community in the Vermont Grange (2018) and Back to School: Lessons from Norwich’s One-Room Schoolhouses (2015).