The current curator of the LeConte Memorial Lodge (since 2002) is Bonnie Johanna
Gisel. Bonnie finishes her 14th year as curator at the end of the 2015 summer
She is an environmental historian and educator, and a John Muir scholar
and author. She holds a Ph.D in environmental history from Drew University
(1998). She has served as adjunct or visiting professor at University of the
Pacific, Drew University, and Green Mountain College. She is archivist for
the William F. and Mayme B. Kimes Collection at the John Muir National Historic
Site, Martinez, California, and a research fellow at the Beatrice M. Bain Research
Group, University of California, Berkeley.
Bonnie served as interim director of
the John Muir Center at the University of the Pacific, where she coordinated
the 2001 John
Muir: Family and Friends Conference.
She is the author of Kindred
and Related Spirits: The Letters of John Muir and Jeanne C. Carr,
a compilation of the correspondence between Muir and his good friend and mentor,
Jeanne C. Carr. In part, it was Jeanne Carr's artistic abilities that inspired
Bonnie to create the Memorial's Wilderness Quilt
recently published her second Muir book rediscovering Muir's botanical legacy: Nature's
Beloved Son. The latter project includes photographs by LeConte's
artist-in-the-wilderness, Stephen Joseph, who provided the photographs
for another brain-child of Bonnie's, the 2004
Re-enactment of the 1907 Wildflower Display.
A consummate educator, Bonnie constantly engages visitors to think about
the meaning of the natural world by asking them to contribute a 3 inch sheet
of paper of their Words
for Wilderness Around the World. She encourages people to make
and keep their own Nature
Journals to grow their thoughts, feelings, and relationship with the
For the LeConte Memorial Lodge's Centennial,
Bonnie not only planned a busy schedule of events, but managed to write well-researched
and thoughtful essays on, The
Eve of the Centennial ,
plus the opening and closing remarks
for the Centennial Rededication Ceremony.
In the 2006 season, Bonnie launched the Green
Shoes Project to encourage visitors to care about nature and be stewards
for the wilderness.
On August 26, 2006, Bonnie was awarded the 2006 John
Muir Conservation Award by the Martinez-based John
Muir Association. The award recognizes her re-energizing of the Leconte
Memorial Lodge, her Muir scholarship, and her dedication to environmental
education. Read Igor
Skaradeoff's Introduction of Bonnie Gisel (illustrated) and her Acceptance
Universal Abounding Glory.
In 2007, Bonnie appeared on the "California Gold" PBS television
series by Huell Howser. View video clip.
In July, 2008, Bonnie was extensively quoted in a Smithsonian Magazine article on John Muir's Yosemite
In 2009, she was interviewed on radio by Tom Ashbrok, On Point Radio
(Boston NPR affiliate wbur.og) on the subject of John Muir's Botanical Travels.
In 2011, Bonnie is featured in an interview in the PBS documentary, John
Muir in the New World. and was recognized in the Oakland
Museum's special exhibition A Walk in the Wild: Continuing John Muir's Journey as a "Modern-Day-Muir."
Bonnie sums up her purpose and philosophy as curator very well:
to instill in others a wonder of the world and an appreciation of the world
so it becomes part of our daily breathing” - Bonnie Gisel
- Read journalist Karen Dusek's article about Dr. Gisel: LeConte
Curator Raises Yosemite Visitors' "Environmental Quotient."
- Read Bonnie Gisel's review of LeConte history: LeConte Memorial Lodge: One Hundred Years of Public Service In Yosemite National Park - Presentation to California State Historic Resources Commission by Bonnie Johanna Gisel, Ph.D., Curator, LeConte Memorial Lodge, Sierra Club
- Read Bonnie Gisel's contribution to the new Sierra Club Stories website:
Living and Working in Yosemite with Green Shoes
- Watch video
interview of Bonnie Gisel in Bedford Gallery Nature's Beloved Son (YouTube)
Gisel Interview on Sierra Club Radio (mp3 (October 17, 2009) )
Gisel Interview on View from the Pier by Meg Pier. (September, 2011)
- John Muir, the Sierra, Yosemite National Park & the Sierra Club by Bonnie J. Gisel, Ph.D., Curator, LeConte Memorial Lodge, A speech presented on the Occasion of the Sierra Club Resilient Habitats Campaign Retreat March 26 – 29, 2012, Clair Tappaan Lodge
- Alumni Profile, Bonnie Johanna Gisel 1970 - Daemen College Magazine - Bonnie credits the undergraduate college she attended for helping to nurture her artistic nature.
- LeConte Memorial Lodge - First Permanent Visitor Center in Yosemite Valley & Home of the Sierra Club in Yosemite National Park (PDF) by Bonnie Gisel - from Yosemite Guide, May-June, 2012
Even before the LeConte Memorial Lodge was built, the Sierra Club provided a public reading room and information center in Yosemite Valley, beginning in 1898. A young law school graduate, William E. Colby,
who ulitimately served for 60 years as a Sierra Club leader, was the first
attendant at the Sierra Club's "reading room" at Sinning's Cottage in the old
Yosemite Village. A few years later, Galen Clark, a charter member of the Sierra
Club, who was the original Guardian of Yosemite under state ownership, staffed
Since 1904, the Sierra Club has provided both volunteer and paid staff members to care for the LeConte Memorial and to provide for access by the public. In these early days, the custodians later included many women and men as caretakers, overseen by a LeConte Lodge Committee which included such luminaries as Edward Taylor Parsons, Marion Randall Parsons, and later Joseph LeConte's son, J.N. LeConte (1916). For three years beginning in 1921, a young Ansel Adams served as the caretaker for the Memorial.
Over the past 100 years, a host of people have had the seasonal caretaker or custodian position, which in recent years has been re-named and expanded as the position of "curator."
Robert L. McWilliams, a graduate of the University of California, was the first caretaker, in 1904. Subsequently, the custodians included Mr. and Mrs. H.A. Stout (1905), Mr. and Mrs. J. J. Rhea (1906), Kate Gompertz (1907, 1912), Mary Randall (1908), Lydia Atterbury (1909-1912), Anita Gompertz (1911), Harold French (1913), William T. Martin (1914), Bayard Buckham (1915), Fred Morrison (1916), Docia Patchett and Rose Wright (1918), Katherine Stout (1919), Ansel Adams (1920-1923), F.C. Holman (1924-1933).
In the 1940's through 60's, custodians included Edward Anderson (1941),
Enid Michael (1945-46, 1949 -), Sanford S. and Bert Tepfer (1948), Jean ___ (1955), Dick and Fran Reynolds (1956),
Kathleen A. Slagter (1957), Marjorie Dunmire (1958), Louis R. Henrich (1959),
and Margaret B. Parker (1962).
In the 1970's, Mary Hallesy of Palo Alto chaired the LeConte Memorial Committee under the wing of the Club's Northern California Regional Conservation Committee. Summer staff during this ten year period included Dr. Susan Schrepfer of the Sierra Club History Committee, and Mary Hallesy with a series of student interns from Stanford University, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz, and San Jose State University.
Beginning in 1981, the Tehipite Chapter of the Sierra Club operated the LeConte
program under the guidance of Club volunteers Doug Harwell, Gale Warner, Luke
Erdoes, Sam MacNeal, and Harriette Parker.
In 1988, the LeConte Lodge Committee of the Sierra Club was moved to the national
Sierra Club, with Harold Wood as chair, and the first curator under that title,
Pat Mosley, was hired and served for nine years (1988-1995, 1997), greatly
reinvigorating the LeConte Lodge program. Other Club staff in recent years
have included Bill Groth (1996), Vern Johnson (co-curator with Pat Mosley 1997),
Carolyn Johnson (1998-2001), and Bonnie Gisel (2002-present).
Information and Donations
For more information, during the summer contact Sierra Club LeConte Memorial Lodge
Curator, P.O. Box 755, Yosemite, CA 95389, (209) 372-4542.
During the winter, contact LeConte Lodge Committee Chair, Harold Wood, P.O. Box 3543,
Visalia, CA 93278; phone: (559) 697-3525; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Help us keep the Sierra Club's oldest public outreach and education program in Yosemite National Park. We need to continue the Sierra Club's legacy at the Heritage Center and the time has come to raise funds for the program and ensure its existence for future generations. To start, we need to raise $90,000 by October 1, 2016 to fully fund operations for fiscal year 2017. (See Fundraising Fact Sheet) (PDF)
Please make a tax deductible donation to preserve the Sierra Club home in Yosemite National Park!
- Make an
online donation using our secure web form; or
- Write a check payable to "Sierra
Club Foundation," marked "restricted for the LeConte Memorial Fund." Please
send to: The Sierra Club Foundation, 2101 Webster St., Suite 1250, Oakland, CA 94612.
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