The Ahwahnee China: Dining with History

AW_China_DetailIf you have had the pleasure of enjoying a meal in The Ahwahnee Dining Room at Yosemite National Park, you may have noticed the distinctive china pattern adorning the dishes used to serve the guests. The Ahwahnee China pattern is based on the logo created for the hotel by Jeannette Dyer-Spencer and used on the dishware since opening day in 1927. Though unique china may not seem unusual for a luxury hotel, the idea for the china originated with railroad dining cars in the late 1800s. With the expansion of the railroad to the states west of the Mississippi River, more Americans began traveling to the exotic national park locations they had only read about in newspapers or had seen photographs and paintings of in their hometowns. For the railroad owners, providing certain travel luxuries attracted more travelers. One of the most important luxuries was the option to take your meals in the dining car. Soon each railroad had spruced up their dining cars to include distinctive china that evoked the destination. Not long after that, the practice extended to the national park lodges that many of these travelers were visiting.
yosemitegifts_ahwahnee_chinaThe china created for The Ahwahnee is a customized version of the Ye Olde Ivory Buffalo China originally made by Buffalo China Company in New York for the hotel and restaurant industry. Developed by Mary Curry Tresidder of the original park concession, Yosemite Park and Curry Company, the pattern incorporates The Ahwahnee’s logo based on a California Indian basket pattern known as “Three-Legged Indian” representing three earth elements: earth, rain and fire. In 1938 Buffalo China was purchased by Sterling China of Wellsville, Ohio. When Sterling China went out of business in 2004, Delaware North at Yosemite had the opportunity to purchase the original china molds and decals to ensure that reproductions of this historic pattern will continue to be manufactured.

Today, in addition to service in the Ahwahnee Dining Room and Bar, Ahwahnee China serves as the perfect backdrop for the culinary creations of Yosemite’s food & wine events, including Vintners’ Holidays in the fall, Bracebridge Dinner in December and Chefs’ Holidays in the winter. Whether you have been a guest at The Ahwahnee or not, you can buy a full Buffalo China service with the distinctive Ahwahnee pattern at the hotel gift shop or shop online at Each year, new styles are added since the original service did not include a pitcher, salt and pepper shakers, serving bowls and trays, or a butter dish. Just in time for the holidays, an over-sized mug will be available in December – perfect for steaming coffee or tea on a cold winter’s day!

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