Montpelier is the capital of Vermont and the seat of Washington County. Founded in 1781 by Colonel Jacob Davis, the community was named for the French town of Montpellier, in honor of France's aid during the American Revolution. With a population of just over 8,000, Montpelier is the smallest state capital in the U.S.
The Winooski River (known locally as the "Onion River") flows just south of downtown Montpelier, fed by several smaller tributaries that cut through the residential districts. The downtown area is a vibrant mix of life insurance companies and smaller, locally owned galleries, bookstores, and restaurants. Most downtown businesses offer space to local artists to display their works, lending the area an almost bohemian air.
The Vermont State House is located on State Street, about a quarter-mile west of downtown. Rebuilt in 1857 after the previous capitol was destroyed by fire, the state house building is modeled after a granite Grecian temple and sits on a lush lawn. The site is popular with tourists and locals alike as a common park for picnics and community events, such as the annual Victorian ice cream social and croquet tournament, or the weekly summer concerts held by the Montpelier City Band.
As the home of the New England Culinary Institute, Montpelier boasts a number of nationally-acclaimed restaurants, such as Chef's Table. The Horn of the Moon Cafe is the oldest vegetarian restaurant in New England, and The Thrush Tavern on State Street is a popular gathering spot for locals, tourists, legislators, and lobbyists. There are a few chain eateries in the area, but Montpelier has the distinction of being the only state capital without a McDonald's.