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.
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.
A number of color postcards, examples of which can be seen below, provide a visual representation of the Nut Tree over the years.
A menu, from circa 1971, provides a history of the Nut Tree, as well the dishes that were served.
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.
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.