On November 1, exactly 10 months and six days after Stowe’s legendary Stone Hut burned to the ground, Governor Peter Shumlin, Vermont State Parks Commissioner Michael Snyder (pictured above) and an entourage rode a snowcat to the top of Stowe’s Four Runner quad to celebrate the rebuilding of the Stone Hut. After months of hard work, the historic one-room cabin will be ready for occupancy by Dec. 1, (see Stone Hut Reservations Are Live!) ) for anyone lucky enough to win the Nov. 19 lottery and able to shell out $225 a night for the rental.
One person who will be fighting hard for a slot in the lottery is Stowe realtor, Kevin D’Arcy. An avid snowboarder, D’Arcy has bought, begged or borrowed his way into spending five to ten nights a year there for the past decade. “People always knew I wanted it so if they had a night they couldn’t use, they called me, ” he explained. While the Stone Hut meant a lot to many people, it held a special significance for D’Arcy. But more on that later.
On Dec. 23, a fire that started when a wet log was left leaning against the wood stove, destroyed much of hut. The wood roof and floor of the hut burned and walls were covered in soot. George and Tim Carpenter, sons of Burton founders Donna and Jake Carpenter, had made a special trip up to the hut that day to stoke the fire in the wood stove for friends who were supposed to arrive later in the day. The boys put the wet wood near the stove and left. The friends never showed up.
The Carpenters pledged $150,000 toward the rebuild. “We were devastated,” Donna Carpenter said. “We often were able to get the Stone Hut at Christmas time because no one else wanted it then and that’s where the kids often spent the holidays when they were little.”
The hut, originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936 was insured. After the $100,000 deductible was met, insurance was expected to cover most of the costs in the estimated $276,000 rebuild.
The wooden beams, roof and floors burned, the 8 bunks and their ladders burned and the central table— a place where so many people sat and shared stories and meals—burned. But one thing was found in the ashes: a plaque that stood in the center of the table for nearly a decade.
Now, nearly everything is back, pretty much as it was. “We wanted to respect the original design of the Stone Hut and the feel it has with no electricity or running water” said Michael Snyder, Commissioner of Forest Parks & Recreation, an avid backcountry skier and forester from Stowe, in an interview this past summer. “I’ve kept the original drawings of the Hut posted near my desk and I’m pretty determined to get this rebuilt on my watch,” he said.
Using local artisans and timbers, Vermont State Parks worked hard to get all the basics in place with new windows, masonry and spruce beams that were hand-stripped of bark to replicate the rustic feel. Burlington’s Northern Architects worked on the design and Morrisville builder Donald P. Blake was awarded the building contract. A new (steel) wood stove with glass doors has been installed. The only things the hut still needed were are mattresses (it’s BYO mattress pad this year), the central table and … the plaque.
The plaque read “In Loving Memory Of Ellen O’Toole D’Arcy, she had many happy times here.” Ellen and Kevin D’Arcy, both Middlebury College grads, moved to Stowe in 2001. “We both fell in love with the Stone Hut. We’d spend nights up there with the Rovettos [owners of Piecasso restaurant] or Charlie and Louise [Shaeffer, owners of the Matterhorn bar]. It was one of the ways we really got to know so many people in Stowe,” D’Arcy remembers.
After those early years, D’Arcy always entered the lottery system which, up until this year, gave preference to those who booked more consecutive nights. “We got shut out several years but we tried to book it every year for five days or a week. Ellen loved it: she’d plan family nights there, couples’ nights and always a night for just the two of us. It was a magical place being on top of the mountain with no electricity and the wind howling. We’d build fires, have great meals with good wine, go for night hikes to the ridge of Mansfield and then get first tracks early in the morning. It was like being in camp with all your friends in bunks nearby,” he recalls.
After a long illness, Ellen passed away in 2007 at age 45. Two of the D’Arcys’ good friends from Middlebury, Bunny and Peter Merrill, owners of Elmore Mountain Farm (the folks who make the natural goats’ milk soap and other products), donated the central table and the plaque in her memory. They paid for the materials and the table (and other furniture) was made at no cost by University of Vermont students under the guidance of Vermont Woodworking School faculty member, Rick Russell.
“After the fire, one of the workers found the plaque in the fire,” says D’Arcy, who still has it. But he’ll be keeping that plaque: The Merrills have donated another table and a new plaque that will take it’s place in the Stone Hut, ready to hold bottles of wine, plates of food and good memories.
As for D’Arcy, when he learned this morning about the ribbon cutting, he made a few phone calls and he will be one of the first visitors to the renovated cabin. “Guess what?” he said by phone this morning. “I got the last seat in the cat.” He was there when the Governor opened the doors to a new era of Stone Hut stays.
Note: this story has been updated since its original post.
Exterior/interior photo courtesy Vermont State Parks. All other photos courtesy Kevin D’Arcy.