A Bit of Stowe History

Stowe, Vermont is a small New England town rich with history and bustling with life. Stowe was registered as a hown in 1763 while the first settlers did not arrive until 1793, 30 years later. The beginning of the 19th century would see most of the town sold with a modest population of 316. Today, Stowe is Vermont’s largest town in land area with over 50,000 acres and a permanent population of over 4,000. Stowe is also home to Vermont’s highest peak, Mt. Mansfield, and some of the finest agricultural and woodland in the state.

In the early years the farming and lumber industries were very important to the population and economy of Stowe. Over 75% of the land was cleared by lumber production and opened to the agricultural industry, specifically sheep farming. In those days as many as 8,000 sheep grazed the landscape of Stowe. Eventually, like most of Vermont Stowe’s sheep farms transitioned to cows with over 100 farms in the Stowe area. Today, only 9 of these farms are still in operation. This shift allowed for 75% of the cleared forest to return providing us with the Stowe landscape we know today.

By the mid-1800’s, Stowe had become a famous summer resort because of  its spectacular mountain scenery and transportation connections. The Toll Road to the top of Mt. Mansfield was finished by 1870; the Summit House on the top of Mt. Mansfield was completed just as the Civil War erupted, and the 300-room Mansfield House took over most of the present village. The Mansfield House was affectionately the “Big Hotel” and burned to the ground in 1889. A large stable housing over 100 horses was located behind the Mansfield House,  now the site of the Green Mountain Inn’s Annex wing. Torn down as a fire hazard in 1953 many of the original beams from the barn were used in building The Whip Bar & Grill. The Depot Building now connected to the Inn by a bridge, housing 16 guest rooms and a variety of shops was originally built in 1897. It was a depot for the Mt. Mansfield Electric Railway running between Stowe and Waterbury carrying both freight and passengers.

In 1913 three local families from Sweden introduced skiing to Stowe. Thus forever changing Stowe and the industry which would become the true heart of the town. In 1921, Downhill skiing, however, would not truly develop in Stowe until the Great Depression, then the Civilian Conservation Corps established camps and cleared ski trails on Mt. Mansfield. In the early days, skiers hiked to the summit, followed by rope tows and the single chair lift in 1940. This was not replaced with the speed method we know today until 1986.

Today, Stowe is known as one of the premier ski resorts and vacation destinations around the world. Stowe now offers an incredible variety of recreational activities, attractions and special events both on and off the mountain. Stowe has come quite a way from its roots as an agricultural center with more sheep than human residents to Mountain paradise and world renowned vacation destination.