1/8/97 A Dormant Hotel

To all who know and love the Wawona Hotel, know that it is fine, untouched by the recent chaos in Yosemite. It has been fine for a long, long time, now. I was up there, today, and checked. Trouble is, it was built by and for people, and there aren’t any at the moment. Actually, this state was once the norm, for during the winter, the Hotel would be shut down and given a rest. Not until December of 1987 did the Wawona open for the holiday season. I’ve experienced the cold, quiet grounds fairly often over the years, and wandered in the vacant lobby and dining room. You’d think there’d be ghosts, or something, but despite my best efforts to hear mysterious footsteps and voices, all I get is a feeling of being home.
The Hotel was infused with elegant goodwill by its builders, and patiently exerts itself upon those who work or visit there. Tacitly imposing its Victorian standards, the Wawona Hotel doesn’t seem to allow much change in the way it’s run. There may be superficial phases--changes in the wallpaper, menu, the way the guests dress--but if you listen to those who remember the Wawona of 70 years ago, you’ll notice that its spirit and its guests haven’t changed, much.
Wawona hasn’t been made into an Old Hotel Museum, with its artifacts displayed in glass cases; it continues to function under the premise upon which it was built--but with the added charm and patina of its years. And no ghosts, not even in the attic. I got to rummage around in the attic, once. Nope, didn’t find any hidden artifacts in the dust. There is the old wiring up there (bare wires strung along white insulators attached to the rough sawn ceiling joists), and the plaster pushing through the lathe--the effort of long ago plasterers frozen in time--and the fragrance of decades-long stillness. For me, the goodly spirit of the Hotel emanates from that dark, serene attic, and coexists with an even older spirit, just as the bats fly in and out through its hidden openings.
The bats were zipping around there before the Hotel, before people, and will be there after the Hotel and people leave. This may also apply to Stanley. Stanley has worked at the Wawona, some believe, since before it was built--there in the woods, towel and tray in hand, waiting for the construction of a dining room. I happen to know he hasn’t been there quite that long. Anyway, the next entry will be Stanley’s chronology of the Wawona Hotel.