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Pioneer Yosemite History Center Online Tour


Pioneer Yosemite History Center n.
A place of pioneers who profoundly
influenced the birth and growth
of the National Park idea.

[click to enlarge]

Wagon ride with driver Burrel Maier
The scenery of Yosemite National Park is world-renown. Each year, millions of people are drawn to its thundering waterfalls, towering giant sequoias, unique geologic features, and magnificent high country. The story of people, however, is not as well known. Here at the Pioneer Yosemite History Center, the National Park Service commemorates the efforts of people, the events they experienced, and the issues they faced during the establishment of this great park.

The Pioneer Yosemite History Center consists of historic structures from different eras of Yosemite history. Originally constructed in different locations in Yosemite, they were moved to Wawona in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. As you walk among them, it is important to remember that the area does not represent a village. Instead, each building represents a different chapter in the Yosemite story.

Douglass H. Hubbard
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Doug Hubbard (YRL)
The impetus for the Pioneer Yosemite History Center came when the flood of 1955 nearly destroyed the covered bridge. Up until then, historic preservation was a low priority for the National Park Service. In the 1930’s, 1940’s and early 1950’s the Park Service, with the help of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) dismantled several historic buildings in Yosemite Valley, including John Muir’s cabin and the oldest building in the park, Cedar Cottage (1859). At the time preservation of natural scenery was considered the “highest use,” even if required razing historic structures. However, in the late 1950’s thinking started to come around to giving more priority to historic preservation in park planning.

Wawona, location of Pioneer Yosemite History Center
[click to enlarge]

Wawona, location of
Pioneer Yosemite
History Center
Through extensive efforts of Park Naturalist Douglass H. Hubbard, the bridge was restored and several historic buildings were preserved. Park Superintendent John Preston made funds available for the effort. Doug Hubbard’s project was initially derided by fellow park staff as “Doug’s Berry Farm” (a play on words off the California ghost town amusement park, Knotts’s Berry Farm). Once approved Doug Hubbard enlisted Glenn Gordo, master craftsman and builder from Mariposa and grandson of a pioneering Portuguese couple, and his workmen were recruited.

Due to budget cuts, the Living History Program, where docents assume the roles of historic personalities, is no longer running. However, during the summer the stage wagon and the blacksmith shop are open Wednesday afternoon thru Sunday. The rest of the facility is a self-guided tour of the building exteriors only. For more information check at Wawona Information Station in the old Hill Studio building in front of the Wawona Hotel. It’s worthwhile to take some time to visit the Pioneer Yosemite History Center, and with the stories presented here on these historical buildings, your visit should be more interesting. A riding stable behind the History Center is also open summers, and offers guided horseback rides.

The Pioneer Yosemite History Center is located in Wawona, about 4 miles from the park’s South Entrance along the Wawona Road, and is just a short walk from the Wawona Store parking lot. It is free and always open. Interpretive signs and self-guiding brochures are available. Ten-minute wagon rides are available from the Wells Fargo Building on summer weekends. Stable rides are available in summer from the Yosemite Stable behind (north of) the History Center.

An Environmental Living Program, funded by participating schools, is available where school children and their teachers live the roles of historic Yosemite pioneers.

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Copyright 2005 by Dan E. Anderson. All rights reserved.

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