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Morrisville PROJECt

fallout signCold War At Home

The Cold War had a great effect on the country. The government spent large amounts of money on defense to contain the expansion of Communism. Even small towns, like Morrisville, Vermont, saw great changes during this era, which lasted from the 1950's through the 1990's.

Morristown Armory

Morristown has always had some type of civil defense organization since the 1950's. "There was a Ground Observation Corps post functioning here." - Morristown Two Times. The Vermont National Guard established a unit here in 1947. "That was Company I of the 172nd Infantry Regiment of the 43rd Infantry Division." - Morristown Two Times. The first location of the National Guard was a little spot on the third floor of the Foss Block, on Portland Street. Training was held there, at the American Legion, and also Peoples Academy. The National Guard also assisted in disasters like fires, floods, and storms. The main goal of the National Guard was getting their own building, that's when the Armory was built.

Out of about 30 armories in Vermont there is one in our hometown, Morrisville. The armory was built in 1956/57 and was built for the men that died or were wounded in WW2 and the Korean War. The reason they picked Morrisville for the site of an armory building is because it was the center of Lamoille County and Morrisville's population was growing. The armory is located on Washington Highway in the village of Morrisville. The armory's main purpose today is for National Guard training and skill testing.

Fallout Shelters During the Cold War

The Civil Defense Committee in January of 1966 thought it necessary for there to be protection for every man, woman and child in the town in light of a nuclear attack. It was agreed that all new construction being done in the town should make arrangements for there to be a fallout shelter added to their plans, due to the high cost that no protection could bring. More protection via fallout shelters were needed due to the large demand of them. Morristown had enough protection for 500 people, out of a population of 3,300. The best plan seemed to be a community fallout shelter. Steps were taken to find the best area for these new shelters. Surveys were sent out to see how well people's basements would serve as a fallout shelter. Even the new high school building participated in all of the hype and added a fallout shelter to its plans, believing that while they were building new structures would be the time to add a new fallout shelter.


Did Morrisville know about world affairs during the Cold War? Sputnik was a big controversy during this time. The satellite showed that the Russians were taking the lead in the great space race. Sputnik was launched on October 4,1957. It was the first satellite to be launched into Earth's orbit. Evidence that Morrisville was not completely living in a bubble during this time period exists from the edition of the local newspaper, The News and Citizen in 1958. Weekly advertisements from "The Wrong End Store" on Portland Street in Morrisville were published with short stories involving new products of the store. One article notes sputnik in its story. The Russian space race was also responsible for a greater stress of science and math programs in schools to hopefully teach students who would go on to help out with future space programs. Click here to see the "Lem Says" article from "The Wrong End Store" advertisement.

Copley Hospital Benefits From Cold War

Although at first glance it may appear that the Cold War had little effect on Morrisville, in reality Morrisville endured many changes during this time period. The Cold War, which lasted on and off from 1950 to 1990, greatly affected the economy in Morrisville and across the United States. Where many groups, families, and business were hurt because of the large sums of money the government was spending on civil defense and especially the building up of nuclear weapons, there were also groups in Morrisville that benefited from these changes in economics in the United States.

The government believed it important to buildup hospitals in order to be prepared for a nuclear attack, so that towns would be equipped to deal with potential problems. Copley Hospital is a direct example of this. In an interview with Dr. Lou Blowers he stated, "[The government was] willing to spend money on anything that was defense related. The spent money on education, they spent money on health services because they thought it was important to have lots of hospitals around the country in case of this big war-and civilian defense-it was everything, police departments, fire departments, ambulance services, rescue services, all of these things happened as a direct result of support from the federal government." Copley used to only be a small hospital existing in a small house instead of the large building it is today. Copley hospital greatly improved their facility because of federal funding that was being given out to areas across the country to develop hospitals. In 1956 under the Hill-Burton act (Hill and Burton were two senators) Copley was given a large amount of federal funding. The Hill-Burton act gave money to communities that did not have modern hospital facilities. Morrisville benefited from this and because of it the Copley facilities moved across the street to build the hospital that was completed in 1958. Farming also received support and money from the government in case a heated war did break out and food was needed for troops. This, however, this lead to a problem later on where farming had a boom because of government funding but afterward the farms had trouble supporting themselves. Farming, being a big part of this area, was greatly affected by the Cold War. Civil defense also played a large role in changes in Morrisville during the Cold War. Support from civil defense lead to the building up of the police department, fire department, and the emergency response system. Although Morrisville was in no way viewed as being in as much danger as many larger areas, there were still measures being taken by the town and government to assure safety for the residents of this small rural town?

Diversity Increases in Morrisville as a Result of Cold War

Dr. Lou Blowers worked at Copley hospital. He arrived in 1965 but had visited the area previously during the early fifties. He was able to see some of the great changes that Morrisville endured over this period. Dr. Blowers linked this improvement in hospital facilities to the increasing diversity of Morrisville. He recalls the in the early fifties Morrisville was for the most part a homogeneous area where most inhabitants were of families that had been in the town for generations. "At that time it was amazing, the population here, in Vermont and in Morrisville-was so homogeneous. Everybody was related to everybody else-but there's more diversity here now." When Copley was built it brought in new people, like Dr. Blowers who comes from New York. Also funding from the government was used to develop the interstate system in Vermont and across the country. The interstate was thought necessary in case of a nuclear attack where the military would need to be able to access certain parts of the country quickly. Thus the new roads were developed, which in turn increased the development of Morrisville. People were finding it easier to live in such rural areas with the interstate allowing easy access to cities and larger towns. People were also becoming more and more reluctant to move to cities where there was a great risk of being in danger in case a nuclear attack did occur. Because of this more and more professionals moved to the area. Morrisville and surrounding towns became a destination for second homes and people in retirement.

In result, the economy of the country was suffering because of the great amount of government spending. While Morrisville suffered from the same problems, it also began to improve because of the influx of new people. As a result of the Cold War Morrisville received a well-staffed, well-equipped hospital and also began to grow and diversify as a town. Dr. Blowers also linked imbalance of funding in the country to the development of many of the volunteer services that currently exist in Morrisville. "Because the government spent their money on these specific things-being related in some way to defense: food, airports, roads, armies, building hospitals and so on. There were a lot of areas that were completely ignored-these needs weren't being addressed. And the citizens themselves organized these many services that are all over this community." Even though at first glance, Morrisville would be expected to have been sheltered from the effects of the Cold War, in reality it is what has largely shaped the attitude and resources of the community today.

The Morristown Armory and Memorial Plaque. Click Here to read a transcription of the original Guard Roster
The lower floor of this Hydro Power facility was marked as a fallout shelter.
This lead lined door is located in the basement of Peoples Academy and is marked with a Civil Defense decal
Morristown merchants have some fun with Sputnik. Click here to read a transcription of Morrisville’s popular “Lem Says” advertisements.
Photo of original Copley Hospital prior to Hill Burton Act of 1956
Robert Haggerman sketch of the renovated Copley Hospital in thanks to Federal monies.