By Kathy Brown, Groveland Yosemite Gateway Museum/Southern Tuolumne County Historical Society
Have you ever noticed that sidewalk just west of the Groveland Community Hall has the name Baird impressed into the cement? Who was Baird? Why is that name there?
The empty lot just west of the Groveland Community Hall was the site of the former Hotel Baird, part of a three building complex. The complex included the hotel, a pool hall which served as a stage stop, and the craftsman-style white house still standing just to the west of the empty lot, the Selina Lumsden House, which served as the hotel restaurant.
Why were the Baird family and Charlie Baird notable? Charlie was born in Scotland in 1884. His family came to California in 1890 and to Groveland in 1895, so Charlie lived here from age 11. At age 17 he was already driving fast-freight mule team delivery for a Sonora grocery provisioning company over a wide area and shortly after that he was running supply pack trains for the Yosemite Valley RR.
His first venture into the hotel business was in 1909, helping his mother and sisters when they leased and ran the Groveland Hotel for a while.
Charlie opened a livery stable nearby, thought to be the Echo Adventures building which originally belonging to George Hamilton who ran Hamilton Station (Buck Meadows). In 1914 he volunteered to provide transportation to and from the work site for local men who were digging the New Priest Grade. Charlie operated a teamster business transporting a variety of supplies, mail, and people via his stage-line over a wide area from Chinese camp to Hetch Hetchy and Yosemite. And in 1918 when the automobile was allowed to travel into Yosemite he ran motor stages which might be considered the early equivalent of the bus.
He got back into the hotel business in 1915 with ownership of the original Baird Hotel and Saloon located on the now empty lot. It was destroyed in a fire in June 1919. Housing was needed for the Hetch Hetchy project, and Don Pedro was being constructed and the town of Jacksonville would soon be under the new reservoir. Charlie dismantled the 3-story Sheafe Hotel that was on the Main Street in Jacksonville and hauled it up to Groveland where he rebuilt it into the two story Baird Hotel of this accompanying photo. Next to it he added a pool hall which also served as a stage stop. The white house was added in 1920 to serve as the hotel restaurant's kitchen and dining room.
Charlie also worked as a special agent to patrol the Hetch Hetchy work camps for alcohol during Prohibition. In the Hetch Hetchy construction heyday the Baird Hotel was a busy place but with the completion of Hetch Hetchy Dam, and following that, the Great Depression, it fell into disuse and was dismantled in 1933. Charlie and his wife Louisa Goldsworthy moved to Livermore with the Hetch Hetchy project when work was completed in the Groveland area.
Look for the continuation of the history of the Baird complex with its Lumsden Family connection in the next Taking You Back in History article.