Big Trees Lodge and Thomas Hill Studio
The Big Trees Lodge, which opened in 1879, is the largest existing Victorian hotel complex within the boundaries of a national park and is designated as a National Historic Landmark. The nearby Thomas Hill Studio, built in the early 1880s, is a contributing structure to that historic designation. Today, the historic artist’s studio provides a home for the Wawona Visitor Center, where people can find park information, reserve wilderness permits, purchase maps and books, and learn about the role landscape artist Thomas Hill played a role in protecting Yosemite and the giant sequoias.
The historic fountains at both locations were in disrepair until Conservancy-funded restoration efforts revived these celebrated landmarks.
In Need of Repair
For much of the 20th century, the historic fountains at the Big Trees Lodge and the Thomas Hill Studio provided a welcome sight to travelers arriving after a long journey. In more recent decades, the two fountains offered modern-day visitors a glimpse into the park’s fascinating history. Over time, however, that historical connection began to fade, as the fountains began to deteriorate and lose their marvelous character. Inside the studio building, meanwhile, the beautiful Douglas-fir floors were beginning to wear through, the result of years of visitor use.
The Past Springs Back to Life
With support from Conservancy donors, the park restored the fountains in 2011, using appropriate historic-preservation techniques to bring back each fountain’s most recent appearance and incorporated contemporary water-saving plumbing features. Three years later, another Conservancy-funded project refurbished and preserved the floors in the Thomas Hill studio, creating a beautiful surface that will welcome visitors for years to come.
Through these restoration projects, these historic treasures can continue to contribute to Yosemite’s cultural landscape, complement its natural wonders and serve as a tangible connection to the park’s past.