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Between Lake and Mountains, the Country's Smallest Largest City

Welcome to CityScapes, a column in which we explore some of the nation's oft-overlooked cities and towns: their local history and real estate offerings. Have a suggestion? Do let us know.

Burlington might be the largest city in the state of Vermont, but that's not saying much when it comes to population. Some 42,000 people live in Burlington, and the city is the economic and cultural hub of the state and has been for the past 200 years. Founded in 1775 as three log huts beside Lake Champlain, Burlington evolved into a center for trade, and a gateway to the markets of the East Coast for trappers and loggers plying their trades in the northern wilderness. The expansion of the railroad only improved Burlington's standing as the premier city between Montreal and Boston, and as the city's wealth grew so too did the high-brow tastes of its residents. Famed architect H.H. Richardson completed an imposing library for the University of Vermont in 1885. In 1923, the venerable New York firm of McKim, Mead, and White were commissioned to design the City Hall (above), and by '41 had built three more major structures in town.

? The ease of railway access, beauty of Lake Champlain, and temperate climate transformed Burlington into a ritzy summer getaway from the stifling heat of Boston and New York. With the influx of fashionable folks came the building of extravagant summer homes in the style of Newport, but with a slightly more rustic, mountain-influenced feel. The main house on the 435-acre estate known as Grosse Pointe (above), just south of Burlington on Lake Champlain, was built at the turn of the century from local granite and served as the summer home for a wealthy family from Grosse Point, Mich. Comprising 11 bedrooms, 7.5 bathrooms, and five fireplaces over three floors, it measures 10,000-square feet and was last sold in the summer of 2006 for $8.4M. Now let's take a look at some local listings with slightly more affordable price tags.

WHAT'S ON THE MARKET NOW:

? Listed for $2M, this lakeside retreat is located in Shelbourne, about a half hour from downtown Burlington, but offers over an acre of waterfront land coupled with an attractive Adirondack-style house. Facing west, the house enjoys sparkling sunsets over the Lake, along with four bedrooms, four baths, radiant heating, a dock, and two moorings.

? Back in Burlington proper, there are several newer condominiums available for sale near downtown, but this one wins out with three bedrooms, 2.5 baths, and a unique-for-the-building duplex layout. Plus, unlike most American cities, living on the sixth floor is damn near the highest you can get in Burlington, where the tallest building is an eleven-story public housing project and most of the housing stock is single-family homes. This spacious, lake-view condo rings in at $799K.

? For under $500K, there's plenty of well-kept history to be had in Burlington. Take this 1926 Colonial in the city's Hill Section neighborhood. The three-bedroom, 2.5-bath house might not be massive at 1,900 square feet, but it's packed with historical charm, including original hardwood floors, beautiful woodworking, and broad porches, all for $419K.

· Vermont Valhalla [Forbes]
· 357 Ordway Shore Road [Coldwell Banker]
· 40 College Street [Coldwell Banker]
· 240 Loomis Street [Zillow]