Saturday, January 30, 2010

Why Is Burlington Called the Queen City?

The moniker "Queen City" is not unique to Burlington. You may have heard of other cities called the Queen City, as the nickname was (and still is) commonly assigned to a municipality that is the economic and social hub of its region. Other Queen Cities throughout the country include:1
  • Buffalo, NY (Queen City of the Great Lakes)
  • Charlotte, NC
  • Cincinnati, OH (Queen City of the West)
  • Denver, CO (Queen City of the Plains)
  • New Orleans, LA (Queen City of the South)
  • Seattle, WA (Queen City of the Pacific Northwest, although this nickname was officially replaced in 1982 by "The Emerald City")
  • Springfield, MO (Queen City of the Ozarks)
  • Terre Haute, IN (Queen City of the Wabash)
  • Bangor, ME (Queen City of the East)
  • Sedalia, MO (Queen City of the Prairie)
  • Helena, MT (Queen City of the Rockies)
  • Regina, Saskatchewan
  • Toronto, Ontario
  • Cebu City, Philippines (Queen City of the South)

So, what does this mean for Burlington? How does Burlington stand out amongst the hoards of Queen Cities around the world (and this is only a partial list)?

The origin of its nickname can be traced back almost 150 years. Burlington was not legally incorporated as a village until 1852. However, as its size and regional importance grew rapidly through the mid-1800s, it was split from South Burlington and transformed into a city on January 18, 1865 by a joint citizen vote and act of the Vermont State Legislature. The first mayor of the new city was Albert L. Catlin, a member of the prestigious Catlin family that was heavily involved in Burlington's early political and economic arenas. Catlin was the first to call Burlington the Queen City, proclaiming its wonders in his Mayor's Address in 1866:

"We represent a young city, which may in time be known and distinguished as the Queen City of New England. It has just been launched upon a career, that I trust will prove prosperous and happy. Its location for natural beauty is not equaled in any part of our country- and for natural and acquired advantages in a business point of view, for manufactures and a general business-character, few places are its equal, and none surpass it."2

And here is something that none of the other Queen Cities can claim: Burlington was the third largest lumber port in the nation by 1870, topped only by Chicago and Albany. In 1889, at the peak of production, 375 million board feet of lumber, harvested from Canadian forests and shipped via Lake Champlain, were processed in the saw mills along the Burlington waterfront.3 This lumber was then shipped via boat or railroad to major urban centers throughout the east coast. Thus, Burlington's strategic location along the lake and railroad lines rendered it a major industrial center, as seen in the stereoscopic image below of the waterfront in c.1870.

Stereoscopic image of the Burlington waterfront, c.1870 (Source:

Although miniscule in scale with most other cities throughout the country, Burlington remains the economic center of Vermont today. And, judging from the large number of businesses in Burlington that employ the phrase "Queen City" in their name, its nickname is here to stay!


1 Suzanne King and Peter Shoemaker, Public History Practicum: A Look at the Burlington, VT Police Department History (Burlington, VT).

2 Catlin, Albert. The Charter and Ordinances, with the Address of the Hon. A.L. Catlin, Mayor, June 7, 1865, and Annual Report of the Officers and Committees of the City of Burlington for the Financial Year Ending February 1, 1865. Burlington: Free Press Steam Printing Office, 1866.

3 Jean Inamorati, Mary O'Neil and Rebecca Williams, Church Street Historic District National Register Nomination (December 15, 2008).


  1. I found this blog after looking for a "queen city park, Burlington" as the place where my great grandmother was married. What park could she have been married in?

    1. Did you trying searching for Queen City park Burlington? Because lots of results come up.

  2. Queen City Park is a neighborhood in the south end of Burlington - Technically in South Burlington:

  3. Google thought this post is about cebu philippines because Cebu is the queen city of the south he he