Built Capital: Middlebury

Built Capital of Middlebury, Vermont

According to Green & Haines (2012), built capital “refers to the stock of buildings (houses, retail stores, factories) and infrastructure (roads, water, sewers) in a locality” (Green, Haines 2012). It is fitting to conclude our blogs with a focus on the built capital of the communities we have selected, since these are the physical manifestations of the other underlying forms of capital we have observed.built-pic

                For example, Middlebury is naturally abundant with waterways, including the Otter Creek River that carves a path directly through the heart of downtown. The River’s presence has resulted in the construction of numerous town bridges including the downtown Battell Bridge. Middlebury benefits culturally and financially from the open, pedestrian-friendly bridge that acts as a common meeting place and brings visitors to see the waterfalls and idyllic downtown setting. Middlebury also recently constructed a second downtown bridge, the Cross Street Bridge, in 2010 to connect another downtown area separated by the river. Although it took a half century of discussion to get the bridge constructed, the town and Middlebury College leveraged their political and financial power to pay for the $16 million project ($7 million from the town through local option taxes and $9 million from the College) and the entire community gathered to celebrate on the day of the Bridge’s opening (Middlebury College Communications Office 2010). The College has had a significant impact on Middlebury’s built capital and from 2002 to present has undertaken 35 capital construction and renovation projects that cost more than $260 (Middlebury College 2014).

The built capital of Middlebury is relatively dispersed, with some housing concentrated enough to constitute a typical suburban neighborhood, but most is considered rural. The distance between houses necessitates the use of a car and limits the organic interactions that might happen if community members spent more time in a closer community setting. As the town grows, it continues to spread and sprawl into more industrial corners of the town, pulling away from the downtown center that represents the spirit of the town.

One community-based organization capturing this spirit is the Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History. One of the Museum’s works is a publication of “A Walking History of Middlebury,” which provides detailed historical information on the town’s built capital from its founding. The resource provides anecdotes, photos, and details about dates of construction, citizens, political and cultural influences behind the built capital of the town and College. It works to reconstruct a past time by examining the key landmarks that have shaped the town (Andres, Callahan 2005). This piece brings another essential element of built capital: it changes. We often think of roads, bridges, and buildings as permanent fixtures of the space we inhabit, but a look into the past reminds us that built capital is subject to economic downfalls, fires, floods, changing architectural styles, and is therefore as changing as the people that constructed it.



  1. Green, G. P., & Haines, A. (2012). Asset Building & Community Development. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications Inc.
  2. Middlebury College Communications Office. (2010). New Bridge a Shining Example of Town-Gown Partnership. Retrieved from http://www.middlebury.edu/newsroom/archive/2010/node/268839
  3. Middlebury College. (2014). The Economic and Community Impact of Middlebury College. Retrieved from http://www.middlebury.edu/media/view/487812/original/economic_impact_nov2014_rev2.pdf
  4. Andres, G. M., & Callahan, A. (2005). A Walking History of Middlebury. Retrieved from http://midddigital.middlebury.edu/walking_history/index.html

Photo References

  1. Precast Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI). (2011). Cross Street Bridge Project. Retrieved from http://www.pci.org/project_resources/project_profiles/profile_pages/cross_street_bridge_project/
  2. Andres, G. M., & Callahan, A. (2005). A Walking History of Middlebury. Retrieved from http://midddigital.middlebury.edu/walking_history/village_tour/page_1.html