If you didn’t know it was there, you might miss it. Behind the general store and shuttle stop in the Wawona area, and down past the stream-side parking lot, you’ll see what looks like an abandoned barn, a collection of old farm equipment, and a covered bridge.
Cross that bridge and you enter the Yosemite History Center, a collection of historic buildings from Yosemite’s past. Originally constructed in different locations throughout Yosemite, buildings were moved to Wawona in the 1950s and 60s. As you walk among them, it is important to remember that the area does not represent a single village. Instead, each building represents a different chapter in the Yosemite story. It’s a place of pioneers and immigrants who so profoundly influenced the birth and growth of the national park idea.
Things to do at the History Center include riding a horse-drawn Wells Fargo wagon, watching a blacksmith work, seeing the horses at the old stable, and strolling among cabins and structures that were important parts of Yosemite history.
The history center explains how Yosemite was the inspiration for national parks across America and throughout the world. It’s always open, and has explanatory signs in front of the many exhibits.
Grey Barn and Covered Bridge
In the late 1800s, Wawona was the largest stage stop in Yosemite. All Yosemite-bound traffic crossed the covered bridge which was built in 1857.
Artists were some of the first advocates of turning Yosemite into a national park. The cabin on display was built by painter Christian Jorgensen on the banks of the Merced River.
George Anderson, a miner and blacksmith, worked as a guide to Yosemite in the late 1800s.
Blacksmith shops were located throughout the park until automobiles became common. Watch a demonstration during the summer season.
The U.S. Army managed both Sequoia and Yosemite before the National Park Service was created.
Ranger Patrol Cabin
After the calvary left Yosemite in 1914, 15 cavalry scouts managed the park and regulated automobile traffic through the entrances.
Originally connected to the Degnan house near the chapel in Yosemite Valley, the bakery provided service to visitors and park staff.
Wells Fargo Office
Visitors arriving by horse-drawn or auto stage used this office to make railroad and lodging reservations.
Powderhouse and Jail
Powderhouses were used to store blasting powder for road construction. And the jail? Well, sometimes it was a little wild in the wilderness.
Chinese Laundry Building
Built as the laundry building for the Wawona Hotel in 1917, Chinese immigrants kept the linens at the hotel clean and pressed for 15 years within these walls.