In 1923, Union Pacific created the Utah Parks Company in an effort provide guest services that would entice passengers from the eastern United States to travel west by train and visit the scenic parks. The National Park Service encouraged this enterprise. Rail passengers would arrive in Cedar City where UPC buses would provide transportation and tours of the parks. The Grand Circle tour included stops at Zion Park, Bryce Canyon, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, and Cedar Breaks.
In the early years of the Utah Parks Company noted architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood was commissioned to design lodges and cabins at the four stops on the Grand Circle tour. Underwood’s design of the Cedar Breaks lodge was of a simple but useful log building that matched its setting on the rim of the “Breaks.” There was a lobby, a large dining area and a kitchen. In the entrance lobby was a massive stone fireplace, which proved to be the focal point with a 6×6 foot opening and large andirons to hold the burning logs.
While the warmth of the fire was a welcome relief from the cool night air, the dining room certainly became the most popular part of the building. The spacious eating area had 120 seats that were often all filled, with as many as three seating’s a night.
“The tourists always had one meal at Cedar Breaks, usually lunch or dinner. The dinners were well known, The only thing they had on the night menu was the chicken dinner. They had fried chicken, country gravy and mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, biscuits, and for dessert they had a a strawberry sundae with little wafer cookies on them. They had the same menu seven nights a week and they were well known for that meal! We had people come up from Cedar City just for dinner.”
– Brenda Barrett Orton
The standards for the food served and the service were the same as at other Utah Parks Company lodges. The serving staff of waitresses and bus boys maintained a spirit of professionalism and made visitors feel at ease as they enjoyed the scenery and the food. Former manager Gayle Snyder remembers: “One waiter as he carried his relish tray tipped it back and the olives and pickles rolled right down the back of a lady’s dress. She stood up and shook and the olives just came pouring out of her dress. But you know, the dudes didn’t seem to get really mad. We really didn’t have a lot of complaints about the things the kids did.”
For nearly fifty years the Utah Parks Company transported and served the Dudes as guests were called at Zion, Bryce Canyon, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, and Cedar Breaks. In 1972 the Utah Parks Company ceased its operations and donated the lodges to the National Park Service. It was determined that the Cedar Breaks lodge was too costly to maintain and it was torn down in 1972. The Cedar City community angrily protested the removal of the lodge, so much so that the Park Service halted plans to tear down other similar structures at Zion and Bryce Canyon.
Although the Utah Parks Company and the Cedar Breaks lodge are gone, their spirit still remains as tens of thousands of visitors pour into southwestern Utah each year to enjoy the breathtaking scenery, hike spectacular trails, and maybe remember the great chicken dinners once served in the lodge on the rim of the Breaks. Next week, living at Cedar Breaks.