This week I have a “guest” columnist. With the recent events involving the Stone Hut on Mt. Mansfield, I turned to a real Vermont ski historian, Brian Lindner. The following is an excerpt from a piece he first wrote in September 2008 and of course, updated with recent events.
“The CCC began building the Stone Hut on October 01, 1935 with Art Heitmann as the supervisor of the project. The CCC was an important training ground for stone masons and stone was an ideal construction material for a building such as this hut. Stones were gathered from all around the summit and one can assume many others were trucked up the Toll Road from further down the mountain.
The elegant stone chimney was built such that a Dutch Oven was included although it appears to have been used mostly in the early years. It never worked properly and was most often plugged on purpose.
From 1935 until about 2000 the building had a loft where many hikers and skiers spent the night. The loft flooring and supporting log beams were painted a glossy battleship gray. By 2000 somebody decided that the full loft was no longer needed and it was mostly removed during renovations that left many to argue this altered the nature of the interior. At the same time, the original CCC bunks were torn out and replaced with newer ones. Clearly some of the original 1935 character was lost only to remain as memories in old photographs.
From 1935 to 1940 the Stone Hut served as a place where hikers/skiers could get out of the weather before their descent and/or to spend the night. With the coming of the single chair lift in December of 1940, everything changed.
Although Stowe had the Mt. Mansfield Ski Patrol, its role expanded dramatically with the coming of a lift that would carry thousands of skiers to the summit. Both the Mt Mansfield Company and the Department of Forests and Parks realized that the patrol now had to be available even during weekdays and that staffing purely by volunteers would no longer be sufficient.
Unfortunately, the Mt. Company simply did not have enough money to pay for one or more patrollers and that prompted Perry Merrill of the Department of Forests and Parks to step in and offer to pay for one full-time patroller on the state payroll! The ski area was and is on state land so the decision made some good common sense. Interestingly, the patroller was to be paid by state government but supervised by Charlie Lord of the Mt. Company. Times were different.
The new position was filled when Patroller Fritz Kramer was hired for the winter of 1940/41 and as part of his employment; he lived in the Stone Hut for the entire season. It would appear that he was the first person to call it “home” for an extended period of time.
During the 1950s and 60s the Stone Hut was rented out through the Department of Forests and Parks. The cost was something like $5 or $10 per night for as many people as one cared to cram into the space. It sat vacant more often than not. One group made more use of the Stone Hut than any other. This was “The Mountain Men” consisting of a social group of skiers, ski patrollers, 10th Mountain Division veterans, hunters, fisherman, hikers, etc. In fact, many photos exist of “The Mountain Men” standing on the front steps – generally with cans of beer in hand. This group included many of the men who helped turn Mt. Mansfield into the “Ski Capital of the East.”
It was in the summer of 1974 when word came down from the Montpelier Headquarters of the Department of Forests and Parks to send a Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) crew to the summit and begin tearing down the Stone Hut. The YCC team did drive up to the Stone Hut but upon learning of its history from their Straw Boss decided to instead spend the day doing trail work. This was the last time that anyone seems to have suggested the tearing down of this historic CCC structure.
In recent years, the Stone Hut had become increasingly popular to the point where winter nights are purchased purely by lottery. The rental proceeds have been used to help fund the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps.
The Civilian Conservation Corps intended for its buildings like the Stone Hut to last forever and with this structure on Mt. Mansfield, their goal was met after 80 years of existence in an extremely hostile winter environment.
Unfortunately, on the morning of Thursday, December 24, 2015 a lift mechanic arrived on the summit to find the Stone Hut fully engulfed. It was destroyed in its 80th year. Newspaper accounts stated that firewood had been left stacked against the woodstove.”
The non-profit group Vermont Parks Forever is accepting donations to rebuild the CCC Stone Hut. Visit their website http://www.vermontparksforever.org/ for more details.