Cottonwood House is one of the most famous of the road houses along the Cariboo Wagon Road. It was built in 1864 by John Ryder and Allen Smith. The early years of its operation as a business saw it change owners several times. However, when John Boyd gained title to the house in March of 1874, stability was achieved. The Boyd family operated the house continuously until the fall of 1951.

A landmark, Cottonwood House developed a reputation among travelers as a stopping place of high quality. The barns, fields and Cottonwood River relieved the freight animals of their burden and gave an opportunity to regain their strength. The “hotel” offered fresh wholesome foods as well as a comfortable rest in clean rooms. Both private and dormitory rooms were available and dinner was served in a large dining room.

The hotel was not the only business at Cottonwood. The Boyd farm supplied feed for freight and dairy animals and supplies for the miners were also stocked. Messages could be left here for others travelling or living in the area. News was circulated and a post office was established helping to make the farm a focal point of the community.

In 1909, John Boyd died after a brief illness. John's wife Janet, continued to run Cottonwood assisted largely by some of her children. In 1951 the property was sold to Vagn and Anna Olrik.

The Province of British Columbia bought Cottonwood House in 1963 and designated it as a Provincial Historic Site.