Introduction | Suggested Itinerary | General History | California Marketplace | Independence Hall | Ghost Town | Calico Square | Other Entertainments | Gone But Not Forgotten | 1955 Map | An Inspiration to Many
When the Knott family arrived in
Buena Park in 1920 they farmed on rented land. At first they sold rhubarb,
asparagus and berries. Cordelia quickly added home made biscuits and preserves
to their roadside offerings.
When they could finally afford it, they bought their
first 10 acres. They christened it Knott’s Berry Place. And the first permanent
building was built to house Cordelia Knott’s tea room, the berry market, and a
plant nursery. The tea room was a popular roadside stop for hungry travelers.
It was a boysenberry that eventually put the Knott
family on the map. Walter’s friend Rudolph Boysen was the Anaheim Parks
Superintendent. He had been experimenting with a new strain of berry in the
early 1930s – a cross between a loganberry, red raspberry and blackberry. But
the plants kept dying on the vine. Walter took the plants from his friend and
with his knowledge of horticulture nursed them back to health. The first
successful crop of “boysen” berries were harvested in 1934 and they quickly
became the family trademark. All boysenberries in the world can be traced back
1934 was also an important year for the Knott’s for
other reasons. It was then when Cordelia served her first chicken dinners!
In 1939 daughter Virginia set up a souvenir table in the
Chicken Dinner Restaurant founding the Park’s first souvenir shop, Virginia’s
Gift Shop. Eventually other stores opened up in the Marketplace: Marion and
Toni’s (daughters) Sport Shop, The Farm Market and the Berry Market. Some of the
other shops on the farm that were operating as of 1955 were the Weaver’s
Cottage, Red’s Leather Shop, Woodcraft Shop, The Rock and Book Shop, The Candy
Kitchen, The Sockmaker’s Shop, Art Glow Studio, The Antique Shop, The Old
Knifemaker, The Basket Shop, The Glass Blower Shop, Candle Kitchen, and Harry’s
Gun Shop. Amazingly, there is still a knife shop in the Ghost Town!
Wishing Well (Fern Grotto)
Chicken Dinner Restaurant
To make ends meet during the
Great Depression, Cordelia Knott somewhat reluctantly served her first Southern
fried chicken dinners on her wedding china in 1934. Eight dinners were served to
tea room guests that first Wednesday evening in June for the all-inclusive price
of just 65 cents each. Word of the delicious dinners grew and the world’s
largest chicken dinner restaurant was born.
In 1937 Walter and Cordelia expanded their tea room into
a genuine restaurant complete with separate kitchen, dining rooms and parking
lot. Despite serving 1,774 dinners on Thanksgiving Day, Cordelia insisted she
wasn’t in the restaurant business.
In 1954 1,444,177 Dinners were served including 13,476
Dinners and 1,850 Pies and 59,140 Biscuits on Mother’s Day!
The Chicken Dinner Restaurant is still in business and
seats up to 900 guests at a time. They serve more than 1.5 million guests a
year. Even if you do not eat at the restaurant, do take a walk through to see
the interior waterfall feature. Also take the time to glance at the guest book
to see all the famous people that have dined here: Elizabeth Taylor, Connie
Stephens, Lucy Arnez, Donnie and Marie Osmond, John Wayne, Harriet Nelson, Burt
Reynolds, Jane Russell, Natalie Wood, Charles Bronson, Amos and Andy, Eddie
Fisher, Jonathan Winters, Chuck Norris, and many moreÖ
The Steak House next door to the Chicken Dinner House
(now Auntie Pasta’s Pizza Palace) featured rustic furnishings and a Western
Atmosphere along with an Indian Room with portraits of the great Indian Chiefs
painted by the famous artist, Paul Klieben.