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Taking You Back in History: Ghosts of Hotels Past, Part 1

By Kathy Brown, Groveland Yosemite Gateway Museum/Southern Tuolumne County Historical Society

Can you name Garrote's very first hotel? Where was it located? Who was enterprising enough to build the first hotel in this small Gold Rush town, and when?

In past articles for Taking You Back in History , you have read about the Baird Hotel which was just west of the Community Hall, and the Schroeder which stood near the Serendipity. Both played an important role in Groveland's past history but no longer exist. In this article you will meet another of Groveland's “Ghosts of Hotels Past” - the Washington Hotel.

Photo: Local Grovelanders enjoy a game of croquet behind the badly deteriorated Savory Hotel and barn just before the buildings were demolished. 1887. Photo courtesy of Carlo De Ferrari Archives.

In 1849 Otis Perrin and James L. Cogswell sailed to California from the east coast. After arriving separately in San Francisco both made their way to the Jacksonville area hoping to strike it rich. Cogswell mined and practiced dentistry there before coming to Garrote. Perrin mined in both Jacksonville and Garrote. They must have done very well because these two men then partnered to build Garrote's earliest hotel - the Washington. The two-story wood-frame building was set back a little on the same lot that the Hotel Charlotte has occupied since 1921. There was a livery and a croquet yard behind it. Unfortunately, we have found no photo from its early days.

Some sources say that the hotel was built about 1854. But in a brief autobiography that an elderly Cogswell wrote for The Society of California Pioneers, he noted that he and Perrin built the Washington in 1857. He writes that he left the hotel and Garrote to practice dentistry in San Francisco in 1859. By this time Perrin had contracted to build a 13 mile section of the Golden Rock Ditch to provide water from the South Fork near Harden Flat to areas as far away as Big Oak Flat. By 1862 Perrin was elected to the state legislature. He was on to other endeavors and sold the hotel.

Owners for a short while c.1862 were Albert and Emily Snow who are noted later for building the Casa Nevada Hotel in the spray at the base of Nevada Falls in Yosemite. Prior to that, in 1866, the Snows sold the Washington Hotel to Elizabeth Boutillier who married Ben Savory in 1870. It has been suggested that the hotel was probably kept in her name to protect it from future liens. The hotel then became became known as Savory's Washington Hotel or simply the Savory Hotel. An important footnote in local history is that Savory is credited in 1875 with proposing that the name Garrote be changed to a more genteel one. When asked what name he would suggest he offered that of his hometown in Massachusetts - Groveland.

After the first telegraph line was strung from Sonora to Yosemite Valley in 1875 the hotel housed its office with Savory and young Thomas R. Reid as operators. Savory developed financial problems at the hotel. He left town after an “unsavory” incident in which he almost killed a man. He sold the hotel to Thomas C. Reid, an owner of local mines, for $1,000 plus the $300 payment of an outstanding debt. By 1882 Thomas C. Reid's son, Thomas R. Reid, mentioned before as telegraph operator, owned the hotel and ran it for about three years with his wife Anna Jones Reid. In 1884 Thomas R. bought the Groveland Hotel and had the badly deteriorating Savory Hotel razed c.1887.

What was this hotel like? Was it simply a miner's hotel or did people of note actually stay there? Don’t miss Part 2 of Ghosts of Hotels Past for the answers.


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