Old North End Color

I’ve been working on a photo study of the “Color of Burlington” where I explore a lot of the colorful and offbeat nature of Vermont’s largest city, and this first installment is about the flamboyantly non-traditional house colors in the Old North End.

The Old North End of Burlington is one of the larger neighborhoods in the city, with a population of around 11,000 – a small number by most city standards in America, but we’re a very small city so everything here is more bite-sized in proportion. As is true with the majority of Burlington, residents in the Old North End, referred to locally as the O.N.E., are predominantly renters. The area has a mostly residential feel but at the same time there are a lot of bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and parks in the area. Historically the area has been a blue-collar, working-class neighborhood, but with increasing gentrification many young professionals now live in Old North End, the public schools are above-average, and residents tend to be overwhelmingly liberal. This is also the neighborhood I live in, in a house built in 1920 (many of the houses here are much older), in the northernmost section, next to a park where I play bocce in the summer.

Another of those residents is a man named Stu McGowan, a real estate investor who owns 32 of the houses in the O.N.E. which he paints in color schemes ridiculously bright. In his words “It’s my dream that the whole city will be plastered with thousands of brightly colored buildings, that would be amazing.” For the past 20 years or so, Stu has been collecting houses and renovating them into uniquely-colored dwellings that have changed the landscape of what was once a fairly run-down and uninteresting neighborhood. Other homeowners started following suit and coloring their own homes in similar color schemes. Bright pink with yellow trim, or bright purple with green shutters, with quirky yards and ornamentation that a New Orleans friend told me, during a nighttime walk, reminded her of the Garden District in her city.

The once-sleepy neighborhood is now more of a destination than ever with some of the city’s best restaurants and bakeries, a proliferation of neighborhood centers and studios, antique shops, rooftop yoga, and even an axe throwing range. Still it maintains the charm of its older architecture, rather than knocking it all down to rebuild with dense modern complexes.

If you find yourself in the Queen City, think about taking a walk through the streets of the O.N.E. and be sure to bring your camera. The following photos were made using a Mamiya M645 loaded with Kodak Ektar film.