Visalia has a unique role in the creation of the National Park Service. 100 years ago, on July 14, 1915, a group of influential men met at the Palace Hotel in downtown Visalia before embarking on a trek across the Sierra to see first hand the state of the area. Local businessmen Ben Maddox and George Stewart (who was key in helping to get Sequoia designated as a National Park in 1890) were members of the party that also included the director of the National Geographic Society, the president of the American Museum of Natural History, the chief geographer of the US Geological Survey, and E.O. McCormick, vice president of the Southern Pacific Railroad. This group was led by Stephen Mather who was asked by the Department of the Interior to help the federal government organize the growing number of National Parks.
These men, inspired by their journey, were instrumental in the creation of the National Park Service, which President Wilson authorized on August 25, 1916. Stephen Mather was once again at the Palace Hotel when he heard the news. He later became the first director of the National Park Service.
Take a walking tour of downtown Visalia to see the still-standing Palace Hotel and other historic sights.