Nut Tree

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Nut Tree is a mixed-use development in Vacaville, California near the intersection of Interstate 80 and Interstate 505.


The Nut Tree opened in 1921 on the Lincoln Highway (old U.S. Route 40). It was created by Helen and Ed "Bunny" Power as a small roadside fruit stand, and built near the site of Helen's childhood home ('Harbison House' dating from 1907), which she and her husband purchased from her parents not long after their 1920 marriage.

The Nut Tree grew as US 40 became Interstate 80. At its peak, it contained a restaurant, an outdoor eatery, a bakery, a gift shop, a toy shop, the Nut Tree Railroad that gave rides from the toy shop to the airport, and an airport, which is now owned and operated by Solano County. It was a welcome rest stop on the road between Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area. Throughout the year, kids enjoyed giant frosted honey cookies (personalized on request), the numerous "Hobby Horses" rocking horses and riding the train.

It welcomed several celebrities, including Ronald Reagan when he became California governor in 1967, Richard Nixon, Danny Kaye, Shirley Temple Black, Peter Marino and Bing Crosby, among others. On March 4, 1983, Nut Tree catered a luncheon hosted by (California) Governor George Deukmejian for Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip at the State capitol [1]

Beginning in 1980, Nut Tree was home to a month-long October harvest event called 'Pumpkin Patch'. Pumpkin Patch attractions included a great scarecrow contest, a giant pumpkin display and weigh-in, and pumpkin carving contests.

Role in California cuisine[edit]

The Nut Tree Restaurant was an early pioneer of California cuisine, with fresh fruits and vegetables featured in the recipes. By 1978, it was identified as "the region's most characteristic and influential restaurant."[2] It also featured small loaves of wheat and rye bread, cooked fresh each day on the premises. A notable feature of the restaurant was its large indoor aviary, which had glass walls extending from floor to ceiling. Nut Tree knives and cutting boards, as well as books on aviation, were sold in the gift shop. A recipe book called Nut Tree Remembered - The Cookbook was printed by the Vacaville Museum in 1997. It contains 40 recipes, and more than 100 photos and graphics from the restaurant and retail stores that closed in 1996. As of September, 2015, they still accept phone orders for the remaining copies.[3]

Financial issues[edit]

The Nut Tree ceased operations in 1996 due to financial issues brought about by a family feud that was taken to court.[1] The main Nut Tree buildings were demolished in Fall 2003. The Coffee Tree restaurant across the I-80 freeway, another part of the original Nut Tree holdings, was demolished in late 2005. The old original Harbison house was donated to the Vacaville Museum in 1998 and is being restored in a new location 1000 feet from the original site.[citation needed]


Nut Tree reopened in 2006 as a mixed-use development of Snell and Co. It contains Nut Tree Family Park (children's amusement park), Nut Tree Bocce Grove (bocce ball venue), Nut Tree Village (restaurants and stores) and Nut Tree Complex (retail, hotel, offices, residences). Retailers operating at opening were Best Buy, Sport Chalet and BevMo!. The restored Harbison house (which the Nut Tree had open for public tours during its final years of operation) is a major centerpiece of the development. It opened in October 2009.

Between the time that the Nut Tree closed and its building was demolished, the Northern California Renaissance Fair was held on its grounds for several years running.

The Nut Tree Family Park closed on January 14, 2009 due to the lack of attendance.

On August 22, 2009, the grand opening celebration was held for the reopening of the Nut Tree, under the new ownership of Westrust. The new Nut Tree adopted some of the original attractions, such as the Nut Tree Railroad, carousel, and other historical elements of the original Nut Tree.


  1. ^ a b SFGate Nut Tree Nostalgia A premier roadside attraction may be headed for a rebirth
  2. ^ Nut Tree Remembered - The Cookbook. 
  3. ^ "Nut Tree Remembered - The Cookbook". Vacaville Museum. Vacaville Museum. Retrieved 14 September 2015. 

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