Mountain History

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A Short History of the San Jacinto Mountains (continued)

Campers and Lodgers

By 1875 horseback traffic into the mountains was on the rise, leading to the construction of an entrepreneurial toll road connecting Strawberry Valley with Hemet. Although it mainly served loggers, stockmen, and a smattering of homesteaders, more and more campers began to use it, as well. In 1888, in response to lobbying by influential lumbermen, San Diego County cancelled the toll franchise. With the steep road now public, tourist traffic exploded.

The cleverest of the lumbermen was George Hannahs, who in 1889 branched out into managing Strawberry Valley’s first hotel. A year later he opened “Camp Idylwilde,” introducing the name that would eventually identify the valley. (As first postmaster of Strawberry Valley, Hannahs in 1893 named the settlement “Rayneta,” but changed it permanently to “Idyllwild” in 1901.) Other modest resorts quickly followed, offering a variety of organized recreation, along with lodging and dining or camping and groceries.

1901 saw a new level of commercialization, with the opening by Dr. Walter Lindley of the grand Idyllwild Sanatorium, an odd resort that vainly sought to finance treatment for tuberculosis patients with revenue from hotel patrons. The medical aspect was quickly abandoned, and

 

 

a“Idlewild” campers in the 1890s.
aIdyllwild Sanatorium, circa 1902.

Lindley, who had a knack for publicity, persisted even after the structure burned down in 1904. It was reborn as the Idyllwild Inn in 1905 and remained the prime hostelry on the Hill for forty years. The advent of automobiles and of new roads from Banning and Hemet in 1909-10 heightened the popularity of “Idyllwild Among the Pines” as a summer destination, spawning the variety of camping, lodging and dining found here today.

Continued