Moose Mountain Lodge 1937
In 1933, twin brothers; Julian and Bill Leslie came to Hanover. Bill was a student at Dartmouth. Julian came to live nearby. They were inseparable all of their lives. They both fell in love with downhill skiing. Downhill ski areas had just started to crop up on the mountain slopes of New England. Suicide Six in Woodstock Vermont had started in 1934 with a lightening quick rope tow to get skiers to the top. At some point while they were in Hanover, they met Bill Robes who had skied all his life and loved the sport. He was a ski jumper and his enthusiasm excited them. He encouraged the twins to think about starting a ski area. He knew just the perfect spot.
On a cold sunny day in February, Bill brought them on snowshoes up Moose Mountain. His brother in law, Elmer Dana owned many acres of pasture land on Moose Mountain. Elmer had a dairy farm in Etna and in summer the cows grazed on the mountain slopes. The view from the spot where he brought them overlooked the Connecticut River Valley and the Green Mountains beyond. They were enchanted by the land and view, The idea of a ski lodge on that spot with that view seemed like a great idea. They could ski in the meadows with a lift to bring people back up to the Lodge for meals and overnight stays.
The “boys” as they were known here had just inherited some money from their grandfather that made it possible for them to seriously consider the idea. The local people were excited about being involved in the building of the lodge and helping to run the Inn.
Money was not easy to come by in 1937. Running a dairy farm was hard work and it was all that Elmer had ever done. Elmer loved Moose Mountain; he had grown up roaming the heights as a boy with his brothers. Selling a small part of it for the Lodge and leasing more land for a ski area would bring him some money to improve his barn and his herd. He welcomed the idea. Winter was a slow time for him with only the milking to tend to. He was young and had a great team of workhorses. The extra work was not only welcome, but also a change for him and added income. As soon as they agreed to buy the land, the work began.
The lodge they planned to build was a log structure, 60’by 40’ on three levels. It would perch on the Western side of Moose Mountain over looking the valley and the mountains. There was a superb view with sunsets to entertain the potential guests. It was an ideal location for a ski lodge. Elmer hauled logs out of the woods for many months. He must have had some good help. Probably the Leslie twins worked with him. This was before chainsaws had been invented. All the logs were cut and limbed by hand with axes and handsaws. Then, Elmer dragged them out of the woods to the building site.
The logging continued well into the spring. It was easier in warmer weather. He only needed two horses to do what required four in the winter. As summer came and the hay grew, Elmer needed to get back full time to the job of running his farm. He had hauled enough logs for them to get started on the building of the lodge. Before they could begin to build the foundation they needed to have a cellar hole. Elmer dug that for them with his team and a drag scoop. They were ready to start building!
73 years later, one wonders why they decided to build such an enormous building with a stone foundation and no mortar. They simply laid the stones as if they were building a stonewall and started to build the structure right on top.
Local people were delighted with the jobs created. It looks from the pictures as if many people were involved. The huge building provided jobs for many locals who had always farmed, logged, or made maple syrup for income.
They can’t have had good advice about the foundation; however, 73 years later it still holds up the building. There are places where more recent owners have reinforced the walls but basically, it was well built and has stood the pressures of the mountain from above the Lodge.
The first ski season 1937-38
The lodge was finally finished in late 1938 and ready for guests. What a job it must have been to furnish and equip the building! Bringing food and supplies up that steep road required a lot of ingenuity at times. The boys bought a small bulldozer to haul loads up the mountain when needed. Even the bulldozer was defeated by the road at times.
They had to build bridges and culverts where the stream crossed the road. They were not only Inn keepers but road crew for the project. They also bought a grader to work on the road after the bulldozer had done its job.
When we first contacted the Leslie brothers in 1976, they were living in Freeport Maine as always in separate houses but next door to one another. We talked on the phone and arranged a visit. Their first question while we were talking was “how is the road?” The road was a constant problem for them year around. It’s a mile long steep hill with three curves and heavy equipment is need to cope with the damage that weather causes. Fortunately for us, the town had taken over the care of the road to keep it open and accessible to a tower for communications. We could never have coped the way they did and I am sure it was the cause of their leaving for an easier way of life. As it was the road has always been a huge factor in our daily life, but the town does a wonderful job of keeping it open and safe most of the time.
In 1938 there were no four wheel drive cars never mind front wheel drive. Most of the guests had to be transported by the bulldozer hauling a sled behind it. That was a laborious way of getting people to the Lodge but it worked most of the time.