Thursday, January 8, 2015

Throwback Thursday--Hetch Hetchy

My Dad's 91st birthday was last Wednesday--the last day of 2014. We had a fun breakfast celebration with some of our family, but it wasn't as big a party as for his 90th birthday in 2013. That birthday was a biggie, although Dad would tell you that they're all biggies now. Anyway, Dad asked me when I was going to do a blog post about the little quilt I made for him for his 90th. So I'll write about that today for Throwback Thursday--Quilt Edition. 

First, a little history. In the northwest corner of Yosemite National Park is the Hetch Hetchy reservoir, formed by the O'Shaughnessy Dam, which was completed in 1923 and enlarged in the late 1930's by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. The 8-mile long reservoir supplies water to the city. 

My grandfather was a building contractor in California, and in the 1930's, he did a number of projects for the Commission. One of those projects was a lodge at the Hetch Hetchy reservoir for members of the Commission to use as a retreat center. My father, who was a young high school student at the time, would drive my grandfather (who was in fragile health) over rather treacherous mountain roads in the wilderness to the building site about 125 miles from his home. My father remembers those trips fondly as they were a special time with his father, who passed away several years later while my dad was in training in the army. 

In 2002, I had an opportunity to visit Hetch Hetchy with my dad. Once again, he drove the winding mountain roads, assuring me that they were in considerably better condition than they were in the 30's. We weren't able to get inside the lodge, but we spent some time prowling around the property and eating lunch on the patio. The reservoir is controversial because the dam flooded a beautiful valley. It has always been opposed by conservationists. And I'm sure some would question why the Commission needed a lodge there. But it is a hauntingly wild and beautiful area, and the lodge (the only cabin right on the reservoir as far as I know) overlooking the expanse of pristine water and mountain peaks is a connection to the grandfather I never knew. 

(Side note: I found some more recent pictures of the lodge online last year, and it looks like it's still in use. It's been updated with central air conditioning and tech access since I visited it with my dad. Last year a wild fire raged near Hetch Hetchy, and for a time we feared the lodge would be lost, but it survived.)

Anyway, when it came time to celebrate my dad's 90th birthday, I decided to make him a little primitive style quilt of the lodge at Hetch Hetchy to remind him of his time with his dad in the 30's and my time with my dad on a very special trip in 2002.

I don't remember the exact dimensions of the picture, and right now I can't find my original pattern, but the frame is 8 by 10 inches, so I'm guessing the main part of the picture is a little under 6 by 8 inches. I foundation and freezer paper pieced parts of it, machine appliqued some of the foreground, added straight stitch machine quilting details with my Singer Featherweight, and hand embroidered railings. By the way, that isn't snow in front of the lodge, but the brilliant stone outcropping that it was built on. I really can't imagine how that construction was done in such a precarious location. 

So there you have it: a little piece of history and a little quilt to remember it. 

I'm linking up today with My Quilt Infatuation for Needle and Thread Thursday.


  1. That is a great gift! I enjoyed the story and am impressed with your creative skills.

  2. That's a beautiful piece of art! And a very good rendition of the actual lodge. Your father must have been happy to receive it.
    I also enjoyed reading your text.

  3. What a beautiful lodge, and a gorgeous quilt! Your dad must have been delighted with it, especially as it brings back memories of his own dad.

  4. I had to come and read about this quilt after seeing it in your trunk show Janine.
    You captured that beautiful lodge brilliantly. The story behind it is so very special.
    Wouldn't it be so wonderful to spend an overnight there? I love the way the lodge fits into the scenery, like it grew right out of the rock.