The name of LeConte Memorial Lodge, completed in 1904 by the Sierra Club in Yosemite Valley, has been changed to Yosemite Conservation Heritage Center because the man it was originally named for is now viewed as a racist and white supremacist.
Information posted outside the Yosemite Conservation Heritage Center says the Sierra Club changed the name of the building because “LeConte’s legacy has since been marred by the rediscovery of his late 19th-century writings on segregation and racial superiority. These views are unacceptable to the Sierra Club, which is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion within its membership, in our national parks, and in society at large.”
The Sierra Club began pursuing the name change last year. The 112-year-old granite-and-wood, peaked-roof lodge, below massive cliffs that reach up to Glacier Point, has always been owned by the federal government. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.
Joseph LeConte, a prominent scientist and founding member of the Sierra Club in 1892, died in Yosemite in 1901. He was born in Georgia in 1823 and came from a plantation family of slave owners who supported the Confederacy.
Controversy about LeConte’s legacy also led to name-change efforts in Berkeley, where school district officials considered changing the name of LeConte Elementary School, and the Black Student Union at University of California, Berkeley, pushed to rename a campus building named for LeConte.
The Park Service and the Sierra Club began discussing the name change and management of the lodge in late October 2015, when Aaron Mair, Sierra Club board president, and Michael Brune, Sierra Club executive director, sent a letter to National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis with the subject line “Request to Re-Name LeConte Memorial Lodge, Yosemite National Park.”
Mair, Brune and other representatives of the Sierra Club could not be reached for comment.
Unrelated to concessioner dispute
The name change for the old stone hut is unrelated to name changes imposed by the National Park Service on March 1, when the former Ahwahnee Hotel became the Majestic Yosemite Hotel, Curry Village became Half Dome Village, and the former Wawona Hotel became Big Trees Lodge.
Federal custodians of Yosemite National Park changed the names of several landmarks effective March 1 to undercut legal claims made by outgoing hospitality concessions contractor Delaware North of Buffalo, N.Y., which asserted they are owed up to $50 million for so-called intellectual property rights.
The legal dispute remains unsettled, and as of this week modified signs were still posted in Yosemite Valley directing visitors to the Majestic Yosemite Hotel and Yosemite Valley Lodge.
Don Neubacher, the superintendent for Yosemite National Park since 2010 who helped oversee the concession transition earlier this year from Delaware North to Philadelphia-based Aramark, is no longer in charge.
Changes at the top
Neubacher resigned unexpectedly in September in the midst of hostile work environment allegations made by multiple female Park Service employees. His critics included the park’s chief of fire and aviation management, Kelly Martin, who testified in September at a congressional oversight committee hearing in Washington, D.C.
In early October, his wife, Patty Neubacher, retired from her National Park Service position as deputy regional director for the Pacific West Region. She helped oversee Yosemite and more than 50 other national parks, monuments and preserves in California and other western states. Patty Neubacher was not Don Neubacher’s supervisor, Nancy DiPaolo of Interior’s office of inspector general said. He did not report directly to his wife.
An inspector general’s investigation of alleged hostile work environment conditions in Yosemite is still ongoing, DiPaolo said Friday.
In the wake of Neubacher’s resignation, Linda Mazzu, former chief of resources management and science in Yosemite, was named acting interim superintendent for the park. She could not be reached for comment.