The Ahwahnee Hotel

Yosemite Valley, California | C.1927

Photo Credit: @scodyk

The rustic and royal-like interiors of The Ahwahnee Hotel are a nod to its status as a luxury hotel and the natural beauty which surrounds it. Opened in 1927, the Hotel was built to attract America’s elite to Yosemite National Park.

Named in honor of the Ahwaneechee people, a Native American tribe who inhabited the Yosemite Valley for thousands of years, the Hotel’s name means “land of the gaping mouth.” To honor the Ahwaneechee’s legacy, elements of the Hotel’s interior have been designed to reflect Native American motifs.

During the early 20th century, the National Park Service (NPS) was looking for new ways to find funding. Stephen T. Mather, American conservationist and the NPS’s first director, decided to build a luxury hotel that would attract America’s wealthy and influential. He commissioned architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood, best known for designing the Union Pacific Railroad and other park resorts, to be his architect.

Underwood’s design was a type of “Parkitecture,” or National Park Service Rustic, a popular style which embraces a rustic aesthetic and allows the building to match its surroundings. Since resources within the Park were off limits, materials like steel, granite, and concrete had to be shipped in. Along with the Native American-inspired themes, the interior design infused Art Deco, Middle Eastern, and Arts and Crafts influences.

Many of its grand interiors were used as inspiration for the Overlook Hotel for Stanley Kubrick’s film, The Shining. Over the years, the Hotel has undergone numerous renovations. Its latest transformation took place in 2016 when a management dispute led to the Hotel having to temporarily change its name to The Majestic Yosemite Hotel. As of 2019, the historic structure is once again known as The Ahwahnee Hotel.

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