Apr 14

Big Bear Lake’s Knickerbocker Mansion Country Inn–A Walk Back in Time

Knickerbocker Mansion Country InnUp the snow-plowed Knickerbocker Road just outside of Big Bear Village, lies the historic Knickerbocker Mansion Country Inn. Built in 1920 by Big Bear Lake’s first dam keeper and local personality, William Edward Knickerbocker, it is the largest vertical log house in the U.S. The four-story structure is 4,500 square feet and built out of local-area materials.

Bill Nick, as he was known locally, just about constructed the entire house by himself. He used native logs and lumber, sanding the inside panels (24 inches wide by one inch thick) by hand. The inn’s fireplaces are still original, created from local stones. The logs were milled at the Peterson Saw Mill, still standing today, and floated across the lake to the property.

Knickerbocker Mansion Country Inn historic photoOriginally coming to the area in search of gold, Bill became the dam’s first dam keeper. He was one of the original founding members of the area’s Masonic lodge. Their first meetings were held in the hay loft of the mansion’s carriage house.

Today, the historic Big Bear Lake landmark  is owned by Stanley Miller and Thomas Bicanic. We were up visiting Big Bear for only a short time and only a couple of hours to kill. Stan was gracious enough to squeeze us in for a quick visit. In fact, we were lucky to catch Stan himself–it seems his other job is managing audio for Neil Diamond when touring. He had just recently returned from Boston. He has worked with Neil Diamond for over 40 years. Born in Germany, Thomas is the inn’s chef. Before moving to Big Bear Lake and opening the inn, he was a chef at the Patina Restaurant in LA.

“Did you see the movie The Money Pit?” asked Stan during our interview. “We’re living it.” In 1998, Stan and Thomas bought the mansion. Empty for almost three years, they restored the mansion to its original beauty and added a few updated features, such as private bathrooms in each of the inn’s bedrooms.  Intending to also leave behind a bit of themselves in the mansion’s history, they added the expansive front porch and new entrance that greets every visitor to the inn.

As we tour the inn’s dining area, the first thing you notice is a very unique wooden door–completely original except for the newly-added Manzanita handle. Pointing at the top of the door frame, he tells how one bullet lodged into the frame while another grazed the wood as (so goes the story) Bill and his buddies were shooting at the kitchen chandelier one evening long ago after they’d had a few drinks.

“There aren’t many places standing like this anymore,” Stan reflects. I couldn’t have said it better.

A Room at the Knickerbocker

A Room at the Knickerbocker Mansion

About the author

TD Hollis