The Ahwahnee Celebrates 80th Birthday

In History, Local, Lodging

Photo: The Ahwahnee by Loyd Schutte

Visitors to Yosemite know The Ahwahnee as well as they know Half Dome and Yosemite Falls and why not, it’s a beautiful piece of architecture. This year marks a special occasion as The Ahwahnee turns 80. “What started out 80 years ago as a way to attract influential lawmakers and wealthy San Franciscans to Yosemite National Park remains one of the most impressive hotels in the country.

Over the decades, movie stars, rock musicians, American presidents and international royalty have all slept and dined at the Ahwahnee – a massive, six-story hotel with views of Half Dome and Yosemite Falls.

‘It’s considered, if not the grandest, one of the grandest lodges in the United States. I would like to think it is the grandest,’ said Kenny Karst – spokesman for DNC Parks and Resorts at Yosemite, the concessionaire that operates the Ahwahnee.

The posh hotel boasts numerous connections to Tuolumne and Calaveras counties.

In the dining room, Sonora-raised Diestel turkeys are served, while products of Vallecito’s Twisted Oak Winery can be found on the wine list. And each of the hotel’s 123 rooms %u2014 99 in the main building and 24 cottages %u2014 have handmade soaps from Yosemite Soap Works of Twain Harte.

Carla Asquith, who makes soap deliveries once or twice a month, said when she has the chance she likes to stop by the hotel’s ground-level bar to soak up some Ahwahnee atmosphere.

‘If you’d like a nice drink or a spendy but tasty hors d’oeuvre, I’d highly recommend the place,’ she said, adding ‘they have a nice little piano player in there sometimes.’

A lavish level

The bar area was originally going to be the hotel’s main entrance, but the idea was scrapped just weeks before its opening in July 1927.

Hotel architects didn’t want to disturb guests staying above what is now the bar, so they built an elaborate red carpet walkway on the other side of the building leading to the lobby.

The Ahwahnee’s impressive lobby was used as a model for the Overlook Hotel in ‘The Shining,’ Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror film staring Jack Nicholson. Earlier this year, Karst provided both historic and current pictures of the Ahwahnee to the producer of an upcoming DVD about the making of that film.

Surrounding the lobby is a concierge desk, gift shop and sweet shop, where visitors can purchase items like wine and chocolates.

Sonora resident Ron Good worked as a sales clerk in the gift shop and sweet shop for about two years.

‘I really enjoyed getting to meet people from all over America and all over the world. Basically, everyone is on vacation and in good spirits,’ he said. ‘My first question was always, %u2018Where are you from?’ It was really cool to hear people talk about where they came from.'”

If you’d like more information on the Ahwahnee

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One commentOn The Ahwahnee Celebrates 80th Birthday

  • The Ahwahnee is a beautiful hotel, but it’s way too expensive for most vacations. I do plan on getting a room someday for a very special occasion, maybe an anniversary.

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