The spirit of Johnny Seesaw’s is alive and well.
After reopening under new ownership in 2018, the historic establishment in Peru still feels like the legendary lodge that’s been welcoming skiers since the 1930s.
Owners Ryan and Kim Prins, along with their business partners, used extraordinary care updating and reimagining the property, embracing the heart of the old Johnny Seesaw’s that so many of us came to know and love.
“When we bought the property, we realized it had so much history,” Kim Prins says. “You could just feel it.”
After purchasing the seven-acre property at auction, the new owners were approached by locals and long-time patrons who were eager to help preserve the property’s history.
The original lodge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2008, but could not be salvaged and was eventually dismantled after being sold. But the Prins saved as much wood and as many architectural features as possible that were later incorporated into the new restaurant and lodging accommodations.
The History of Johnny Seesaw’s
The exterior of the new Johnny Seesaw’s restaurant.
The history of Johnny Seesaw’s is what makes the property particularly special. In 1924, Russian immigrant Ivan Seesow and his wife, Vinnie, purchased the land and built the Wonder View Log Pavilion, a roadside dance hall that earned a rowdy reputation with its infamous “sin cabins” and bootleg liquor.
During the Great Depression in the early 1930s, Seesow defaulted on a loan for the property (contrary to local legend, he didn’t lose the roadhouse in a poker game). That same decade, the Green Mountain National Forest was created and the first ski trails at nearby Bromley Mountain were cut.
In 1938, skier Lew deScheweinitz and his brother-in-law Bill Parrish bought the neglected property and opened it as one of the area’s first ski lodges. It was named Johnny Seesaw’s after founder Ivan Seesow.
Johnny Seesaw’s was later owned and operated by Gary Okun, who purchased it in 1980 and ran the lodge for 34 years. My first experience at the lodge was dinner on a snowy night in April 1993. As I sat in the lodge’s classic dining room all those years ago, I remember instantly falling in love with Johnny Seesaw’s rustic, timeless, and no-fuss charm.
I returned many times over the years and even chose the lodge as the location for my wedding rehearsal cocktail party in 2004. The last time I visited the old Johnny Seesaw’s was in December 2008, six years before it closed. In some ways, it was a lifetime ago.
The New Seesaws Lodge: A Roadhouse Reimagined
The living room and kitchen in The Chicken Coop cabin.
Located along Route 11 just east of Bromley Mountain, the new Seesaw’s Lodge property includes six newly renovated rooms, including three luxurious cabins with southern exposure—and views of Magic Mountain and Stratton—plus a seven-bedroom lodge.
Pieces of history can be found in unexpected places. The Chicken Coop cabin, where I recently stayed with my daughter, includes remnants of an old wooden dart board on the wall wainscoting. The bedframes are also made with reclaimed barn wood that was found on the property.
The restaurant—still called Johnny Seesaw’s—is a separate building designed in the footprint of the 1924 roadhouse. It includes many old features, including original log beams in the ceiling, the same bandstand mural that was painted during World War II, the circular fire pit with the original black hood and copper cutouts, and the old fieldstone fireplace with wood relief carvings. There’s also a cozy L-shaped bar and a downstairs game room, and the Prins hope to eventually open a craft distillery.
On the menu are tasty entrees such as braised lamb shank, sea scallops, hanger steak, and a classic burger. You’ll also find some fun surprises such as poutine, falafel, and Fiddlehead IPA battered fried pickles.
Over the winter, Seesaw’s opened an après ski warming hut in old sugarhouse that was moved to the property. The Prins plan to use the hut as a tea room in the spring and summer, and as an apple cider pressing location in the fall. Just outside of the hut is a small pond, which could be used for ice skating as early as next year.
“We’re just listening to what people want,” Kim Prins says.
Thanks to all they’re doing, everything about Seesaw’s feels exactly right.
Seesaw’s Lodge is located at 3574 Route 11, Peru, Vermont. Visit www.seesawslodge.com for more information.
Disclosure: I received a free stay and dinner at Seesaw’s to share my experience with readers.
Interior restaurant photo / courtesy of Seesaw’s Lodge