History of Baker Station
The site of what has become the High Sierra Institute was originally founded as a way station in 1879 for the Sonora and Bodie Stagecoach, and was called Greenburry Columbus Baker’s Station, named after its original owner. At the time, Baker’s Station was an all-day journey by wagon from Sonora. Trans-Sierra travel along the Sonora-Mono Road through Baker’s Station was fueled by the Bodie gold strikes of 1878.
The course connected Central California’s agricultural areas with the mining fields of the Bodie and Esmeralda mining districts on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada. Even during those early years, the Sonora Pass region attracted numbers of summer tourists, whom Greenburry Baker attempted to draw to his resort. Sonora area newspapers at the time advertised the Baker’s Station Summer Resort and reported on it as a place for summer recreation.
By the latter part of the 1880s, it was a recognized tourist destination rather than simply a way station. The Sonora-Mono Road became a state highway in 1901, running from Long Barn in Tuolumne County to Bridgeport in Mono County. Increased travel across the Sierra Nevada by automobiles put additional demands on the road, thus requiring increased maintenance. In 1913, land at the station was acquired by the federal government. CalTrans, or the California Department of Public Works, Division of Highways as it was then called, finished building the Baker Highway Maintenance Station in 1930.
By 1980 after 50 years of continued service, the group of 12 rustic buildings was determined to be no longer useful to the highway department and ownership was transferred to the U.S. Forest Service. The facility was used as a USFS high country guard station and work center for the following 20 years. During that time, lack of funding for upkeep resulted in such deterioration that Baker Station had to be closed. In 2000 when a decision to abandon the buildings seemed imminent, two partners emerged with a strategy on creating new uses for the facility.