The removal of Giant Forest Village was one of the more controversial moves by the National Park Service, although today the issue has settled down considerably. The controversy stems from the fact that many of the village structures were on the National Register of historic places, and lifelong vacationers mistakenly believed that this provided eternal protection for the village. The NPS continues to state that the fragile ecosystem of the sequoia grove was under tremendous stress from the village complex, and that it was just a matter of time before one of the behemoths would topple and crush some hapless tourists like bugs. GFV fans said otherwise; in the end the village was removed.
It is difficult to say whether or not the removal was warranted. If the scientists were correct, the answer is yes; certainly the sequoia grove was worth protecting at the expense of the less-than-spectacular lodging facilities that GFV offered. Unfortunately the lodging built to replace it, Wuksachi, is far too sterile to provide the charming experience once enjoyed at Giant Forest.
Above, the village plaza in the 1950s. The main structure is the museum today, and interpretive signs help reconnect the past. Below, the village plaze circa 2007.
Giant Forest began as a camp-style lodge, riding stable, and other buildings in Round Meadow, just north of the later village. There was nothing particularly valuable nor historic about these structures, and the original NPS Director Stephen Mather correctly decreed that the offerings needed to be upgraded. The replacement village was erected around the site of today's museum and parking lots in 1926. A more modern motel/lodge was eventually constructed on the hillside behind the museum. The original lodge lingered long after it outlived its usefulness and safety. Today, after extensive reforestation and renaturalization efforts, there is virtually no trace of any of these structures, with the key exception of the museum.
Above, Camp Kaweah at GFV circa 1921.
This building, which was once the main store and visitors center, was the vibrant center of the village. Today it has been fully restored to a completely charming visitors center/museum. Walking around and through this classic example of parkitecture reveals how wonderful the village must've been. It retains plenty of exhibits and photos of the village, making it possible to visualize what once was. Additional interpretive signs around the property are also helpful, however the contrast between then and now is so extreme that some visitors will find it too much of a stretch to fully appreciate what once was, and how carefully it has all been returned to a natural state.
Giant Forest Market (now museum) under lingering snow.
Some NPS personnel will explain that the Grant Grove Village remains, and that it offers an experience similar to the one "lost" at Giant Forest. Don't buy it; although the general concept was the same, GFV was in and among the sequoias while GGV is merely in a charming forest. Giant Forest Village had substantially more "atmosphere," and more camaraderie around the lodge and cabins. They will also point to Wuksachi Village, which is a modern motel/lodge complex with rustic window dressing.