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Stowe

Green Mountains

Getting There Lodging Restaurants Attractions Stowe Fishing Hiking Backpacking Hut to Hut

Stowe never had a major industry, railroad or corporate agriculture. It was a sleepy, isolated mountain village. Timbering, sawmills, apple farms, cideries, maple sugar farms, sheep and dairy farms were its economic foundation. At one point 100 dairy farms surrounded Stowe. The beautiful old houses in Stowe were built back during the timber and dairy farm era. But as early as 1800, the spectacular mountain scenery began to attract visitors from as far south as Boston, New York and Philadelphia. The toll road to Mount Mansfield and the Summit House up on top were built in the 1800s. Then in 1913 a Swedish family who had relocated to Stowe introduced skiing to the area. It caught on, and for the next 20 years became gradually more popular. During the Great Depression, the Civil Conservation Corps was assigned to build ski trails on Mount Mansfield. At first skiiers hiked up, then rope tows were used. When, in 1940, the first chair lift was built, the sport exploded. There's no college. So from the 1950s Stowe evolved as a recreational capital for skiing, fly fishing, hunting, hiking, backpacking, mountaineering and fall foliage Shopping in Stowe is easy. The entire business district consists of one long street, basically three blocks of highway 100. You could spend half a day in Stowe, checking out the historic sites and looking at the beautiful houses. It would be an ideal way to spend a rainy day between hikes.

SkiMuseum BearPondBooks GeneralStore Mercantile OldDepot CommunityChurch AkelyBuilding PhotoField PedestrianBridge
The Vermont Ski/Snowboard Museum is worth a visit. It's free (donations welcome) and occupiues two floors in the old Stowe Meeting House. Stowe was the first ski resort in the U.S. and is still one of the best. Much of the history of U.S. skiing occurred here, and this museum has many of the original artifacts, ranging from early skiis and snowboards to early chair lifts to early ski clothing and equipment. There are over 10,000 items here. The emphasis is on Nordic skiing. There's a library, gift shop and movie. The collections of ski patrol, early ski fashion, and 10th Mountain Division items are excellent.

Bear Pond Bookstore is a much better bookstore than you might expect in a small rural town. It's a second-generation family-owned business located in the historic Depot Building. Lovers of mysteries or local history will be disappointed, but there's a good selection of Vermont authors and books about Vermont, Vermont cookbooks, and books about hiking trails, fly fishing and local lore. One section offers children's books, and there are greeting cards (mostly by Vermont artists), puzzles (of Vermont scenes) and gift wrapping paper. Bear Pond covers all the genres but not much depth in any of them. They also sell miscellaneous items like reading glasses, bookmarks, pens and stationary.

 

 

Shaw's General Store has been run by the same family in Stowe for 120 years, spanning five generations. It stocks an extensive line of clothing, shoes, and local items like maple syrup and apple products. The store occupies two floors. Some of the merchandise is a bit touristy, but you can find some really good buys here. The place just reeks history. These are the original hardwood floors and counters. The ground floor used to be a grocery, and gas pumps were out front until the 1960s. This was the first store in Vermont to sell snowboards. You need time to wander around. Mixed in with all the t shirts and hats they sell legitimate top line hard core outdoor items like coats, gloves and boots. It was the original ski shop for the area until several specialty ski shops opened out on Route 108 so Shaw's chose not to compete. The original owner and his family lived upstairs for 10 years until they needed the space for merchandise storage.

Another locally owned business, Stowe Mercantile is stuffed full of clothing, candy and every kind of local craft and food item. Some of it is touristy, but there's so much here it's worth wandering through just to see what you might find. This photo shows the rear entrance. The front entrance, facing the main street, is shown in the photo below. If nothing else, it's fun to look at the penny candy section. They've got sleepwear, kitchen items and fudge made right in front of you. In October and April you can grab some really good buys on discounted out door clothing. Stowe Mercantile is worth a visit just to experience those days 100 years ago when town general stores sold everything under one roof.

The Old Depot Building at 38 Main Street (Route 100) is the anchor of downtown Stowe. On the main floor it holds the Cafe on Main (reviewed under our restaurants page), Bear Pond Books, a Boutique, a fudge outlet and a craft beer stop, in addition to its main tenant, the Stowe Mercantile. Patrons spill outside and occupy the tables and chairs and sometimes steps and curbs.

The Stowe Community Church is a tremendous symbol of cooperation. In 1918 the three major churches in Stowe decided it made more sense to pool their resources and build a single magnificent church to serve all three of their congregations. The church opened in 1920 and has been a symbol of Stowe ever since. Its steeple is one of the most photographed structures in America, silhoutted as it is against the mountains, especially during Fall Foliage season. The church is on the third block of Main Street and is open to the public during daytime hours. It is a beautiful example of early 20th Century religious architecture. As an important town icon, the steeple is lovingly maintained. Every October a crew comes in with a crane and lifts a worker to inspect every inch of it to see if any damage has occurred needing attention. To raise the funding for such work, the church offers a painting of the church, resembling the photograph at right, for sale.

The Akely Soldiers Memorial Building opened in 1903 as a memorial to local soldiers who had died in the Civil War and all wars since. It contains the courtroom, post office, government offices, rest rooms, and an impressive theater. The Stowe Theater Guild stages plays there. It's a beautiful structure well worth stepping into for a few minutes to look around. It towers over the downtown from its position halfway down Main Street.

The Photo Field from which you can take the iconic shot of the Community Church with the mountains behind it is easily accessible. Turn north at the main intersection on Main Street and follow Route 108 across the famous Pedestrian Covered Bridge over the Little River. Keep walking along the sidewalk for one block as it climbs a gradual hill. You'll find yourself looking down on the open field with the Little River flowing past it, exactly the scene you see in the photo here at right. You'll usually see a few dozen people down in the field, some setting up tripods, some just using their cell phone cameras. The best time to take a good photo is early to mid afternoon. You can see an aerial view of this same field in the photo at the top of this page.

Right at the edge of downtown Stowe is the famous Giles Dewey Pedestrian Covered Bridge. Built in 1973 to allow walkers safe passage over the Little River, it's 150 feet long and eight feet wide. While open only to pedestrians, it is still built in classic covered bridge style and architecture, including intricate trusswork and solid craftsmanship. Giles Dewey was a state representative who over a lifetime held just about every position in Stowe government and served on various boards and committees.

 

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