Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Thunderbird Lodge at Tahoe

Thunderbird Lodge Front Door
We had a very interesting time visiting the Thunderbird lodge that’s close to Incline Village in north Lake Tahoe. It only took about a half an hour to get there from the Ritz/Northstar area. Fantastic place to see and hear about from very knowledgable docents who have quite interesting stories about George Whittell Jr, who began to build the estate in the 1936.

Lodge Lagoon
The Thunderbird Lodge is also known as the Whittell Estate and is a 6.51-acre waterfront estate located on the Northeast shore of Lake Tahoe. It was built as the summer home of George Whittell Jr, an heir to one of San Francisco's wealthiest families. 

Lakeside of Lodge
George’s family left him a huge fortune of $29 million dollars in cash, which today would be worth at least $50 billion. His father had been one of the founder’s of PG&E, a huge Northern California power company among many other businesses. Luckily, his father had been informed enough to sell all his stock holdings one week before the 1929 stock market crash. Following the economic collapse George was one of the wealthiest men in California.

Gazebo Picnic Area above Lagoon
When George Jr received his inheritance, he bought almost 40,000 acres of the and 20 miles of Nevada shoreline at Lake Tahoe and planned to develop it. Due to environmentalist pressures and other issues, eventually the state of Nevada pushed forward with eminent domain claims to take much of the land for a state park. 
Thunderbird Yacht Hosted Sinatra, Dean Martin, Howard Hughes
and many more Celebrities. 
In addition to the main house, the estate contained an "Elephant House"—home to “Mingo”, Whittell's two ton Indian Elephant. He also kept a full grown lion named “Bill” there for many years. The house itself was constructed of granite blocks that came from a 600 foot (180 m) underground passage complete with a dungeon in the house. There’s also a boathouse containing the 55-foot (17 m) wooden speedboat, the venerable Thunderbird yacht.
600 ft Granite Tunnel with Rail Tracks

Whittell Jr died in 1969 and much of the property went to the state or the US Forest Service. The Lodge is currently owned by the non-profit Thunderbird Preservation Society, and is now a popular tourist attraction. The tours are very interesting and are by reservation only. The stories about George Jr are totally fascinating.

Card Room for George and His Friends
The Thunderbird Lodge is one of the last and best examples of a great residential estate on Lake Tahoe from the period in which prominent San Francisco society built homes on the lake. The Thunderbird Lodge is an example of an approach to architectural design that is intended to be in harmony with it’s setting

Highly recommended!


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  2. Wonderful information, thank you. Life remains good and God has a wonderful plan through you.