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Picnic Menu Ideas & Planning
Picnic Menu Ideas & Planning

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El Garces
Needles, California

DirectionEl Garces
El Garces is at 950 Front St. in Needles, CA, and is currently undergoing rehabilitation to reopen as a hotel with a restaurant and lounge, museum, and visitor center. Call 760-326-0583 for information or visit the hotel’s website.

History
Whether traveling on the Atcheson, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad or along the National Old Trails Highway or, later, Route 66, patrons appreciated the quality of service that Harvey establishments provided. A Harvey-run restaurant or hotel often had the nicest dining facilities and friendliest service in town. El Garces was known for linen and silver, distinctive china, and fresh flowers that it provided daily for guests. The lunchroom had two horseshoe-shaped counters and could serve 140 people. According to the Harvey Girls, who traveled the country to work for the company, El Garces was a crown jewel in the enterprise. An assignment to the Grand Canyon, to Las Vegas, or to El Garces was “like going to Europe.” Community members also used the facilities for private dinners, banquets, and special occasions.

Though motorists and railroad passengers alike made El Garces a popular destination through the end of World War II, the waning popularity of railroad passenger service in favor of automobile travel took a toll on Harvey Houses. Automobile travel was accessible to people with a wider range of incomes, who often could afford to travel but not to dine or stay at a place as opulent as El Garces. El Garces closed as a Harvey House in the fall of 1949, at which time the building was partitioned and used as Santa Fe Railway offices. In 1988, the Santa Fe Railroad moved to another facility and closed the building. Abandoned, El Garces was under threat of destruction until a local group formed in 1993 as the Friends of El Garces. The group petitioned the City of Needles to purchase the station, an effort that succeeded in 1999. The National Park Service recognized the building’s significance in 2002, by listing it in the National Register of Historic Places. Though still renovating the facility, the city plans to reopen it as a “Harvey House Hotel,” including a Route 66 museum and shops.

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