Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Old Postcard Wednesday--Nut Tree patio, Highway U.S. 40, Vacaville, California

I am glad the Nut Tree is a new configuration. But I am really glad I remember it as it was when I was a kid and my family would stop there on trips to visit my grandmother in Alameda, California (this old postcard was sent to her by a friend in 1954). We must have ridden the train, but what I most remember was the restaurant with the indoor aviary...absolutely magical to me. Later, as a college student in the 1970s, I stopped at the Nut Tree with a friend when we were on a trip to Berkeley. The restaurant served the most delicious lunch, the aviary was still a delight. I bought my mother a watercolor print in the gift store, and was full of memories that day.

It always did amaze me that there was an airport with a short runway right there adjacent to the Nut Tree property, and I was intrigued to find this 1970 vintage film on youtube showing three handsome boys Dressed to the Nines at play on a model plane and then aboard a flight over the area.

Titled "Vintage film of the Nut Tree Vacaville 1970"

In contrast to the day enjoyed by those three brothers and their family, this video is of a flight to the Nut Tree airport in 2005....

Titled: "Cessna 172 Landing at Nut Tree Airport, Vacaville, CA" - - December 2005

.....and here is a short clip that someone took using their phone (something visitors to the original Nut Tree could never have conceived of) while on board the new Nut Tree train. Note that a shy boy mentions "youtube," something the three brothers in the 1970s did not have to worry about....well, not until their home movie was posted there decades later!

Short clip taken by Android phone on board new Nut Tree train

Some history from Wikipedia (highlighting added for emphasis):
Nut Tree is a mixed-use development in Vacaville, California near the intersection of Interstate 80 and Interstate 505. It opened in 1921 on old U.S. Route 40. It was created by Helen and Ed "Bunny" Power as a small roadside fruit stand, and built near the site of Helen's childhood home (dating from 1907), which she and her husband purchased from her parents not long after their 1921 marriage.

The Nut Tree grew as US 40 became Interstate 80. At its peak, it contained a restaurant, an outdoor eatery, a bakery, a gift shop, a toy shop, the Nut Tree Railroad that gave rides from the toy shop to the airport, and an airport, which is now owned and operated by Solano County. It was a welcome rest stop on the road between Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area. Throughout the year, kids enjoyed giant frosted honey cookies (personalized on request), the numerous "Hobby Horses" rocking horses and riding the train. . .

. . . The Nut Tree Restaurant was an early pioneer of California cuisine, with fresh fruits and vegetables featured in the recipes. By 1978, it was identified as "the region's most characteristic and influential restaurant." It also featured small loaves of wheat and rye bread, cooked fresh each day on the premises. A notable feature of the restaurant was its large indoor aviary, which had glass walls extending from floor to ceiling. Nut Tree knives and cutting boards, as well as books on aviation, were sold in the gift shop. . .

. . . The Nut Tree ceased operations in 1996 due to financial issues brought about by increased competition, a family feud that was taken to court, and changing tastes. The main Nut Tree buildings were demolished in Fall 2003. The Coffee Tree restaurant across the I-80 freeway, another part of the original Nut Tree holdings, was demolished in late 2005. The old original Harbison house was donated to the Vacaville Museum in 1998 and is being restored in a new location 1000 feet from the original site.

Nut Tree reopened in 2006 as a mixed-use development of Snell and Co. It contains Nut Tree Family Park (children's amusement park), Nut Tree Bocce Grove (bocce ball venue), Nut Tree Village (restaurants and stores) and Nut Tree Complex (retail, hotel, offices, residences). Retailers operating at opening were Best Buy, Sport Chalet and BevMo!. The restored Harbison house (which the Nut Tree had open for public tours during its final years of operation) is a major centerpiece of the development. It opened in October 2009.

*Between the time that the Nut Tree closed and its building was demolished, the Northern California Renaissance Fair was held on its grounds for several years running. [See the link to a documentary video at the end of this post for more about the Renaissance Pleasure Faire!]

The Nut Tree Family Park closed on January 14, 2009 due to the lack of attendance.

But in August 2009, The Nut Tree has re-opened its doors under the new ownership of Westrust. The Grand Opening Celebration on August 22, 2009 unveiled the new environmentally friendly Nut Tree train, this time running on biofuel. Attractions include the Nut Tree Railroad, Carousel, and other historical elements of the first Nut Tree, as well as firepits, signboards, and the ice cream pavilion. Visitors are even able to enjoy the famous frosted honey cookies at the new Vintage Sweete Shop at the marketplace. With a more easily accessible layout, the new Nut Tree promises to delight visitors with a variety of shopping and dining experiences along with family friendly entertainment.

Short advertisement for the new Nut Tree Family Theme Park

As mentioned in the history above, the Nut Tree even has a connection to the famed California Renaissance Pleasure Faire. The ones held in southern and northern California are, according to this site on the faires' history, "the largest and oldest of the re-enactment/craft faires in the US, started in 1963!"  It goes on to mention that the northern California "Faire spent three years (1999, 2000, 2001) on the Nut Tree property in Vacaville" before relocating in 2002 to the Casa de Fruita property outside of Gilroy.

The video I found that shows the Renaissance Pleasure Faire at Nut Tree has had embedding disabled. It really is worth the click if you have 8.56 min to view it. If you want to see the part specifically about the Nut Tree location, including a glimpse of the tree the Nut Tree was named for, go to 7.10 on the video. It is HERE; have fun!



Don't Feed The Pixies said...

the family video is almost like watching the Osmonds on a day out - when were kids ever that smart? Must have been a special occasion

They used to do a Cessna flight from the local airport to one of the main yearly airshows - my friend caught it a few years running, but because of the vintage status they cant do it for health and safety any more

The original picture reminds me of a location called Blackgang Chine, which i think i'm right in saying is on the Isle of Wight - its a kids park that i went to when i was much younger and, in my day, was quite basic and more the fun for it - sadly from the link it seems to have rollercoasters now - (shiver)

Kathe W. said...

oh my gosh- I remember the Nut Tree vividly from my childhood.
We would stop there for breakfast on our way east to Tahoe or Squaw Valley and my folks always wanted to get through Sacramento before it got too hot! (back in the days of overflowing radiators and no air conditioning!)
Thanks for the memories and I guess next time we're headed that way we'll have to stop and admire!

Anonymous said...

I miss when people would dress nicer to go out of the house. Everyday I wear slacks and an oxford shirt - half the time I also have a blazer on or a sport coat, I just feel life ought to be treated with a bit more respect. That said - there are times I do so enjoy a skimpy outfit on a hot day.

Phivos Nicolaides said...

You know by now how much I like the old post cards!! beautiful video! Hugs Lydia.

Lydia said...

Pixies~ I know! They sure don't look like a group of today's kids.
Thanks for the link to Blackgang Chine (what an unusual name!). I am going to check it out tonight. :)

Kathe~ Do you remember going on the train? There was a kids' park in Reno where we lived that had a train I loved and I think it prevails in my memory over the Nut Tree train.
When your family was headed to Squaw was it to go skiing? It was the last place I skied, actually...long time ago now.
I would stop at the Nut Tree if in the area, most definitely!

willfulresemblance~ Your attitude is refreshing. My husband does not have to wear a suit at work, but prefers to - except on "casual Friday" when he dresses down with the rest. Since I left work I have become much more casual about my attire and it is a treat to dress up once in awhile.

Phivos~ Yes, I do know that you appreciate the old postcards. Hugs back. :)

Brian Miller said...

man. why do i feel like i have missed out on something great here? fun vids....



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