A few years ago Maria Montano, the owner of the Summit Restaurant on Donner Summit decided to change the format of her menus and highlight the rich history of Donner Summit. As it happened, there was an historical society on the Summmit as well, that could provide some stories patrons could enjoy. The Donner Summit Historical Society opened up an entire new department devoted to Summit Restaurant menus. Below are a quick history of the Donner Summit Lodge, in which the restaurant sits, as well as a list of "Tales from the Menu."
Donner Summit Lodge, A Short History
Ever since the Dutch Flat Wagon Rd. was built in the early 1860’s to service the building of the Transcontinental Railroad, there have been hostelries along the route over Donner Pass.
The first auto to cross Donner Pass crossed in 1901 and the first motorcycle in 1903. The first successful motorized “transcontinentalist” crossed the country using Donner Pass in 1903. With the arrival of the automobile, lodges began to spring up to service automobiles and provide relief for the “autoists”.
By 1913 the first transcontinental highway, the Lincoln Highway, was in operation and auto traffic increased considerably. Small lodges and service stations were built along the route and early automobiles would have gone right past what is now Donner Summit Lodge. Once the highway was open in winter the lodges offered accommodations for snow sport enthusiasts.
Donner Summit Lodge was built in 1938 to take advantage of the growth of traffic over the, by then, year-round Highway 40. The lodge was expanded twice from the picture above, first just after World War II and then in the 1970’s. Additions were made to both ends of the original lodge. The sign on the lodge above says, “Donner Summit Lodge Fine Food Ski Dormitories Cabins..”
The pictures here and on most of the pages are from the Norm Sayler Collection at the Donner Summit Historical Society. The pictures here are from 1939 (winter) and 1941 (summer). Since the pictures were taken the wing with the rooms, added to the right, was built just after WWII. The wing with the current restaurant, to the left, was built in 1977.
Here is a page to take you to the articles that were in the menues, revamped for the web:
Donner Summit - Extraordinary
Summit Valley - Sierra Jewel
Snow Is Not a Problem on Donner Summit
The Lincoln Highway
It Was Not Always Easy Crossing Donner Summit
Heroism and Pathos on Donner Summit
Automobiles and Snowsheds - a short article
Here is a page to lead you to the actual menues.