The Hob Knob Inn, a Stowe Original
"Hob-nob" is a term that was made popular in the United States during the 1920's. It means to associate on very friendly terms, to drink and chat together. The term was frequently followed by the word "with", as in "She hob-nobs with royalty". It is believed that the name Hob Knob Inn was derived from combining this term with the fact that the Inn is built on a hill, or knob.
The first recorded descent of Mount Mansfield by a skier was in 1912, but it was not until 1933 that the Civilian Conservation Corps cut the first official ski trail. In 1936, the first rope tow was installed on the Toll House slope and skiers could get a "lift" for ten cents. The following year the Hob knob was built as the first lodge in Stowe designed primarily for skiers. It opened the day after Christmas 1937 and among the guests that first week were C. Minot Dole, a founder of the National Ski Patrol and Roland Palmedo designer of some of the nation's first chair lifts.
The Hob Knob was designed by Boston architect Royal Barry Wills, and built by Stowe resident and artist Ken Hoyt. The accommodations were spartan by today's standards – tiny rooms with bunk beds hosted 14 guests. The large dining room and lounge were constructed with hand-hewn beams from an abandoned barn on West Hill. The massive fireplace was built with stones from local fields.
The Mountain Road through Smugglers' Notch was a dirt road when the inn was built and remained unpaved until around 1940. One of the photos in the hallway beside the Lounge was taken just after the Hob Knob was completed and clearly shows the dirt road out front. The original owner's daughter Nancy attended the West Branch School, which was in what is now the church building that is just down the road at the corner of Luce Hill Road. It had six grades in one room and no running water.
In 1938 Stowe hosted the first U. S. National Ski Championship which was run on Nosedive. In 1949, the nation's longest and highest chairlift was built here and Stowe became the "Ski Capitol of the East." In 2003 a $300 million project was begun to add new lifts and snowmaking at the mountain. There will be a lift add to connect Mt. Mansfield and Spruce Peak that will eliminate the current shuttle buses. An 18 hole golf course will also be built at the base of Spruce.
Just as the Town of Stowe, and the Mountain Company, continue to work to improve the facilities that our guests enjoy, while maintaining the character that makes this area so special, we are working to do the same here at the Hob Knob. We want to carry on the tradition of hospitality that was begun at the Hob Knob in December of 1937.
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