Celebrating the Centennial of the Nut Tree

Interior of the Nut Tree dining room that specializes in Western Food. 
The Nut Tree, as part of the West, has contributed to the development of
America’s newest cuisine, Western food, for over four decades.

Interior of the Nut Tree dining room that specializes in Western Food. The Nut Tree, as part of the West, has contributed to the development of America’s newest cuisine, Western food, for over four decades.

If you grew up in Northern California, you have likely heard of or visited the Nut Tree restaurant, which for decades was a destination stop along I-80 in Vacaville. 

July 2021 marked the centennial of the founding of the Nut Tree and in celebration of that anniversary, Archives and Special Collections staff recently toured the Vacaville Museum’s current exhibit, Nut Tree Centennial: 100 Years of Fun, Food and Family. The staff was joined on the tour by Library Leadership Board member Diane Power Zimmerman,  granddaughter of the founders of the Nut Tree, and Heidi Casebolt, curator of the exhibit.

Archives and Special Collection staff with Diane Power Zimmerman, right
Nut Tree items in Archives and Special Collections

The Nut Tree was an early pioneer in California cuisine, and Archives and Special Collections holds several Nut Tree items relating to our collecting areas in California history and the Northern California food movement

 

Oral history recordings

The most significant is an extensive oral history of Helen Harbison Power, who with her husband, Edwin (Bunny) Power, established the roadside fruit stand which later developed into the Nut Tree Restaurant.

Those interviews, which were conducted by Joann L. Larkey in 1973-1974, as part of the Library’s Oral History program, are available online here. Over the course of the six part series, Helen Power discusses the Allison-Harbison-Power Ranch history, meeting her husband Edwin I. (Bunny) Power at the University Farm (now UC Davis), the beginning of the business as a roadside stand, the Nut Tree during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s the airport development and expansion, and the celebrities who visited, among other topics.

Postcards

A number of color postcards, examples of which can be seen below, provide a visual representation of the Nut Tree over the years.

Interior of the Nut Tree dining room that specializes in Western food. The Nut Tree, as part of the West, has contributed to the development of America’s newest cuisine, Western food, for over four decades.

 

Rocking horses and even a rocking giraffe provide fun for young and old at the covered entrance to the Nut Tree Restaurant, serving Western Food for over a third of a century.

 

The Nut Tree plaza is a recent addition. In a park-like setting, self-service food, baked goods, candies and fruits are displayed.

The Nut Tree railroad dispatches a “special” to greet every airplane that lands at the 1900-foot paved Nut Tree airport.
Fifteen or more kinds of tropical and western fruits, topped with sherbet, ice cream, or cottage cheese make up the fresh fruit plate served year round at the Nut Tree.

 

Menu

A menu, from circa 1971, provides a history of the Nut Tree, as well the dishes that were served.

First two interior pages on Nut Tree menu, circa 1971.

 

Recipe cards

Recipe cards created in 1973 provide a selection of the famous recipes that were made at the restaurant. The recipes, which were printed on eight sheets with two recipes apiece, contain pictures of each dish. Recipes included: chocolate fudge layer cake, Nut Tree drop cookies, skewered baby beef and mushrooms, Nut Tree batter-fried prawns, fruit salad with marshmallow dressing, orange nut bread, and the famous Nut Tree bread, among others. 

Recipe card for Famous Nut Tree Bread
See the exhibit for yourself

Whether you were a regular visitor to the Nut Tree over the years or you’ve only heard the stories of its existence, we encourage you to visit the Vacaville Museum’s exhibit to learn more about this Northern California icon. Information about the exhibit, which is on display until January 9, 2022, can be found here.

Front of menu, circa 1971