Fair Haven Business District
If the horses and buggies were replaced with cars, the downtown looks much the same today. The historic district surrounding the green has many interesting houses and includes The Fair Haven Business District. Other early enterprises included slate quarries, the Fair Haven Clock Co., and Lion Brand Shirt manufacturing facility, which employed more than 500 people. Fair Haven also played host to a paper mill, hammer and anvil factory, grist mill, and a YMCA. It started out small with only 411 residents, but has grown to its current size of 2,925 residents as of the 2000 Census. Of the early enterprises, the slate industry remains a major employer, out of 21 slate companies in the late 1800s, manufacturing roofing tiles and other slate products, many remain in business today.
Among other notable buildings, Vermont slate from the Fair Haven area has been used in the construction of the White House, the Pentagon and the Lincoln Memorial. Tragic fires in 1899, 1909 and 1918 destroyed large parts of the main business district, including four hotels which once served early travelers. As then, life in Fair Haven continues to be centered around the central business area and the village green, which is surrounded by homes that are outstanding examples of period architecture. The Fair Haven green is registered in the National Registry of Historical Places, as are many of the surrounding homes and churches. Located on West Park Place are three homes built by descendants of Ira Allen, brother of Ethan Allen, and one of Fair Haven's original settlers.
Matthew Lyon Early Fair Haven Settler
Matthew Lyon was born and attended school near Dublin, in County Wicklow, Ireland, July 14, 1749. Matthew Lyon came to what would become the United States as an indentured servant in 1764 or 1765. He worked on a farm in Woodbury, Connecticut, where he continued his education and earned his freedom. In 1774, Matthew moved to Wallingford, Vermont (then known as the New Hampshire Grants) and organized a company of militia. He served with Ethan Allen, Benedict Arnold and the Green Mountain Boys on May 10th, 1775 when they stormed Fort Ticonderoga and helped take that important stronghold from the British in the first offensive battle of the Revolution. By July 1776, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the regiment known as the Green Mountain Boys. He moved to Arlington, Vermont, in 1777. After Independence, he became wealthy through his discovery that paper could be manufactured from basswood pulp.
Fair Haven was founded on October 27 of 1779. Matthew Lyon was the principal grantee of the town. He established the Fair Haven Gazette, a weekly newspaper, serving as publisher and editor, using the paper to express his political opinions in the early years of the Republic. He owned the town's first store and inn, built sawmills, an iron foundry, gristmills and papermills at the falls in Fair Haven and a forge not far away. Fair Haven's large village green was originally given to the town by Matthew Lyon. After the war he settled in Vermont and was elected to the state legislature, where he served for four successive years. He represented Fair Haven in the legislature for ten years, and in 1786 was assistant judge of Rutland county court. He managed to get himself jailed under the 1797 Sedition Laws which prohibited any American citizen from making defamatory statements about the President. He was soon freed, fined and in 1799 the Sedition Laws were declared unconstitutional by the Virginia and Kentucky legislatures. In 1800, Matthew Lyon moved to Kentucky with his second wife (daughter of Governor Thomas and Elizabeth Meigs Chittenden of Connecticut and Vermont) and younger children to Kentucky where he went on to found another town, a nail factory, a mill and shipyards on the Cumberland River. He and his second wife had a total of 8 children (Minerva, Chittenden, Aurelia, Matthew, Noah C., Beulah, Giles, and Eliza Ann).