Coventry is near the Canadian border, bounded on the northwest by Newport, on north by Newport City and Derby, on the southeast by Brownington and on the southwest by Irasburg. Lake Memphremagog”s South Bay dips into the northeastern border of Coventry between Newport and Derby, and two major roads – Interstate 91 and Route 5 – run through the town.
The Newport State Airport is located in Coventry and is planned for expansion to accommodate private jet aircraft. The plan, which is contingent on federal funding, is part of comprehensive regional economic development efforts.
The charter for Coventry was granted Nov. 4, 1780 to Maj. Elias Buel and 59 others, but for a different area of the state. Due to a surveying mistake, that area in what is now Chittenden County had already been chartered. As a result, the legislature gave Buel what was known as a “flying grant,” allowing him to apply it to other areas he could find that had not been incorporated. He identified three pieces of land, and three new charters were issued in 1788, backdated to 1780. The largest of the three was Coventry, named for the town in Connecticut where Buel was born and raised. A second piece near Coventry was named Coventry Leg, and was annexed to Newport in 1816.
Coventry’s first pioneer settlers were Samuel Cobb and his son Tisdale of Westmoreland, N. H., who built a crude, one-room log house in 1799 and returned the next year with their families. The cabins of the early settlers had just one room and were built of spruce logs hewn only on the inside, pointed with mud and moss and roofed with bark. The closest sawmill where boards could be purchased was in Barton.
Today Coventry is known by many has the site of a two-day August 2004 concert billed as the final performance of the rock band Phish. An estimated crowd of 65,000 attended, the single largest gathering in the town’s history. That briefly made Coventry the most populous town in the state, far outranking Vermont’s largest city, Burlington, which had a population of 39,000 at the time.
The concert was held on land near the airport, which rain turned into a muddy mess. Cars were turned away, while some people parked their vehicles on the Interstate 91 median and walked to the concert. When the music was over, tractors were used to free cars and trucks stuck in the mud.