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Taking You Back in History: Ghosts of Hotels Past Part 2

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

The first part of this article covered the “when, where and who” of the ownership of Washington/Savory Hotel. But what was the hotel really like, who stayed there, and how do we know?

Comments about the hotel can be found in 1870s California travel magazines such as this one published by James Hutchings, “ ‘Breakfast!’ shouts the coachman (a musical sound indeed even though his voice were cracked and it isn’t) as he pulls up at Savory's, the jovial and obliging landlord of the Washington Hotel, Garrote. We predict that if he knows that we are coming, and we are certain that he does, he will spread before us an excellent repast - especially for a mining town.”

Early hotel information was gathered about 1950 in an interview done with Anna Jones Reid by Margaret Schlichtmann and Irene Paden for their book The Big Oak Flat Road to Yosemite. In it Anna reminisced about previous hotel owners and the hotel's final three years under her husband Thomas R. Reid, “It was just an ordinary mountain hotel. The boarders were mostly miners. No woman or child ever set foot inside the bar.”

New information came to light in 2020 when Jojy (Smith) Hayden gifted the Groveland Museum a collection of artifacts that had been passed down through Groveland's Reid and Smith families. Probably the most important item in the collection is the 1870s guest book of the Washington/Savory Hotel. The register contains names and home towns of guests. A wealth of information was gathered from reading guests' and registrars' comments about the hotel, their travels and the weather. One unique 1881 note reads, “President Garfield shot July 2, at 9:30 AM at Depot in Washington DC.”

In its earliest years the hotel probably housed and fed miners, visiting mine owners, and early homesteaders traveling to or from outlying ranches and Yosemite Valley. After 1864 when Yosemite officially became a park and the Big Oak Flat Road was completed, tourism brought travelers on their way to see the wonders of Yosemite. A comment in the hotel ledger on June 12, 1873 reads, “The advice of all returning from and going to the Valley - to stop at Mr. Savory's as long as they can, for a more thorough gentleman and hospitable host cannot be found anywhere.”