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Robin Hood Ammunition Company

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1909. South end of Robin Hood Dr., Swanton village
  • (Photograph by Curtis B. Johnson, C. B. Johnson Photography)

This complex of rock-faced concrete block and monitor-roofed structures was once the site of an important defense industry, whose employment shaped the early-twentieth-century character of Swanton village. Governor Edmund C. Smith of St. Albans, along with Canadian investors, formed the Robin Hood Powder Company in 1898, choosing a name that reflected its “outlaw” manufacturing of shotgun shells without membership in the Ammunition Manufacturer's Association, a cartel that dictated the U.S. ammunition market. In 1909 they moved from a plant near the Missisquoi River to this strategic site, with rail sidings for the Central Vermont and the St. Johnsbury and Lamoille County railroads. Here, Robin Hood Powder rapidly expanded its production and its product lines, employing 300 workers. In 1915, when World War I had begun in Europe, Remington Union Metallic Cartridge Company purchased the plant and began to manufacture fifty million shells for the standard-issue French rifle. The company soon received an order for fifty million more shells and, running day and night, employed more than 1,000 workers. The additional workers fueled a commercial and housing boom in Swanton, although many commuted to the manufactory by streetcar from St. Albans. At war's end, business fell off and Remington closed the facility, eventually selling the buildings in 1927. A decade later the Central Vermont Railway acquired the structures for storage, and in 1945 the complex became the United Bag Company, manufacturing burlap bags for agricultural commodities. By the mid-1990s, the remaining buildings were a deserted group of deteriorating structures belonging to the Swanton School Board, which hoped to clear the site to expand their recreation fields. Spared by an aggressive preservation campaign, the buildings were awarded public funds for use for operations to clean up hazardous waste and improve road access. They are now being redeveloped as leased incubator industrial space. A bright spot amidst renovations of mixed quality is the small gable-roofed guardhouse at the entrance to the property. Built to provide security during World War I, it is slated for restoration by the Swanton Historical Society as a museum of the local ammunition industry.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Glenn M. Andres and Curtis B. Johnson
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Citation

Glenn M. Andres and Curtis B. Johnson, "Robin Hood Ammunition Company", [Swanton, Vermont], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/VT-01-FR4.

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Vermont

Buildings of Vermont, Glenn M. Andres and Curtis B. Johnson. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2013, 194-194.

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