Legacy of genius continues at Burlington’s 1904 ‘high-tech campus’

In 1902 two successful French inventors bought a stretch of lakeside real estate in Burlington’s South End. 

Fast forward: A local historian is determined to tell the full story of how the city’s former Fair Grounds became the birthplace of color photography in the U.S.

We can hardly fault Hugo Martínez Cazón for his zeal. After all, this is where the Lumière brothers, Auguste and Louis, built a world-famous, high-tech campus — the first of its kind in this country — and beat Kodak to the market by about 35 years.

Hugo Martínez Cazón, a Burlington-based environmental engineer and historian, pauses next to the power plant at the old Lumière factory building at 180 Flynn Avenue on March 14, 2020.
The Lumière brothers, August and Louis, pioneered color photography here, at their first laboratory built outside their native Lyons, France.

Within the walls of a low-slung factory on Flynn Avenue, says the Burlington-based engineer and historian, a dazzling slice of the Queen City’s industrial and intellectual legacy lives on.

Subscribers can read the full story here to find out how the Lumière brothers — already famous as co-inventors of cinema — brought their groundbreaking Autochrome process to the shores of Lake Champlain.

Gardens at the north end of the Webb house at Shelburne Farms is seen in this circa 1915 photograph taken using then-revolutionary "Autochrome" color plates.
The inventors of the process, Lyons, France-based Auguste and Louis Lumière, visited the Webb estate between 1913 and 1916, according to Shelburne Farms Archives.

Contact Joel Banner Baird at 802-660-1843 or joelbaird@freepressmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @VTgoingUp.