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Blog National Historic Landmarks of Yosemite
Alex Silgalis | 09/22/2020Hiking, Museums, History & Culture, Nature, Photography |   

Have you heard of the Rustic architecture style or Parkitecture? Inspired by the America Craftsmen style, it was born in Yosemite. The idea was simple: create a structure that blends into its surroundings rather than interrupt the natural beauty. While not all of these national historic landmarks of Yosemite are from this era (1916 – 1942), they all do honor their surroundings and should at least be on your list to visit.

Wawona Hotel & Thomas Hill Studio (1876)

Not just one building but rather a campus of seven buildings built over several decades. Thomas Hill, born in Birmingham England and transplanted to the United States, became known as “Yosemite’s Painter.” He built his studio in Wawona alongside the hotel which was the stagecoach stop on the old road to Yosemite. Constructed in Victorian style, the main building features things like a massive two-story veranda nearly encircling all of it. Even today, Wawona Hotel is one of the oldest mountain resorts in California.

Yosemite Conservation Heritage Center (1903)

Yosemite and the Sierra Club’s history intertwine closely especially since its 1st president was John Muir. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the LeConte Memorial Lodge (now the Yosemite Conservation Heritage Center) was built as a memorial to Muir’s close friend and colleague Joseph LeConte. This building is unique as it combines the European Tudor revival style yet is influenced by its surroundings and used available local building materials. The Sierra Club continues to manage this beautiful building as a mountain library and club information bureau for use by visitors.

Leconte Memorial LodgeYosemite Conservation Heritage Center - Image courtesy Yosemite Digital Archives

Parsons Memorial Lodge (1915)

Parsons Memorial Lodge - Yosemite - Tuolumne Meadows Parsons Memorial LodgeBuilt in 1915 and situated high at an elevation of 8,600' above sea level, it’s one of the first stone structures built in a national park. Due to its location in Yosemite's backcountry, the only time to access this lodge is from June through October when the deep snows of the High Sierra have melted away. The Sierra Club chose this as their club house because of its access to the park's high country and the proximity to the Soda Springs, which they desired to safeguard. Masterfully done, the walls are rubble stone masonry consisting of local pink feldspar and gray granite laid in reinforced concrete. The wood used is local as well. While no longer an overnight place to stay, it’s now used as a high-country nature center where Yosemite Conservancy puts on the annual Memorial Lodge Summer Series in Tuolumne Meadows.  This offers public programs celebrating conservation through art, science, music, history and much more. 

The Parsons Memorial Lodge resides in the beautiful Tuolumne Meadows. 

Rangers’ Club (1924)

As the Buffalo Soldiers were replaced by the newly-created ranger service, the first director, Stephen Mather, felt as though they needed a gathering place to create camaraderie amongst the “troops.” From his own pocket, Mather built the first significant structure on the north side of Yosemite Valley at a cost of $39,380. Many consider this building the first of the “rustic architecture” style. An example of this is the steeply pitched roof in the modified chalet. The steepness helps shed winter snows at the same time emphasizing the verticality of the surrounding mountains. Even now this building is used by the rangers as a seasonal home.

The Ahwahnee Hotel (1927)

Regal. Jaw-dropping. Words cannot describe its beauty. It is the shining example of Parkitecture, made to feel rustic but at the same time up-scale. Its precise location within the valley provides glimpses of Yosemite’s prominent attractions like Half Dome, Glacier Point, and Yosemite Falls. The interior provides a sense of grandeur just like the park. Towering ceilings. Hulking granite fireplaces. Details like hand-made stained glass windows and hand-stenciled beams. The Ahwahnee isn't just a hotel, but rather a ruby in the Yosemite crown.

The definition of National Historic Landmarks is: “nationally significant historic places that possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States.” And we happen to agree that all five of these deserve this moniker.


Like what you see? Save any of these pins (or possibly all of them) to your travel planning board(s) to give you an easy way to find your way back here!  Also check out our other blog posts as well as itineraries for more ideas and pins!

Alex Silgalis

Alex founded localfreshies.com® in 2014 to be the #1 website providing the “local scoop” on where to eat, drink & play in mountain towns throughout North America. When he’s not writing and executing marketing strategies for small businesses & agencies, he’s in search of the deepest snow in the winter and tackiest dirt in the summer.

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