Emerald Bay tea house trail to be restored
August 20, 2007
A private donation to the Sierra State Parks Foundation will help restore the original trail leading to Vikingsholm Mansion’s storied tea house on Fannette Island in Emerald Bay.
Known for its spectacular views and historical tales, the tea house was built with the Vikingsholm Estate by Mrs. Lora Knight in 1929.
Known for wining and dining guests at her luxurious summer mansion on the shores of Emerald Bay, Mrs. Knight would serve afternoon tea a few times each summer in the small, stone structure built atop Lake Tahoe’s only island, said Helen Smith, chair of the Vikingsholm Foundation.
“If she did have tea out there, it was quite an event, because it took the staff quite a while to get things organized,” Smith said.
A former family friend of Mrs. Knight’s, Smith grew up spending summers as a guest at Vikingsholm. She described Mrs. Knight as a delightful, gracious and accomplished woman for her time.
“We were not of the same financial status as she was,” Smith recalled. “But, [Mrs. Knight] had many friends of all walks of life.”
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Mrs. Knight and her guests would be transported to Fannette Island in small motor boats, Smith said. And yard men were positioned along the rocky trail at different intervals to assist the older guests up the steep hill.
The island is still accessible by boat, but the trail has since weathered away, with overgrown brush encroaching on misplaced stone steps, said Roads, Trail and Resource Chief Sterl Cogar of the Sierra State Parks district.
And because the main trail is steep and inaccessible, visitors have created side trails that veer off on easier routes, Cogar said.
Trail rehabilitation should begin by the end of the month. Crews will clear out the overgrown brush and rehabilitate some of the trampled plants, Cogar said.
“We’ll basically restore it to what it would have looked like in the’ 20s and ’30s,” Cogar said. “It’s an interesting project because we have to emulate what they did rather than use our current construction patterns.”
And the project is happening because of a $20,000 private donation to the Sierra State Parks Foundation, $10,000 of which was specifically intended to fund the tea house trail restoration, said foundation Executive Director Susan Fitzgerald Reichert. The other half will fund restoration efforts at Vikingsholm Mansion.
“The parks are so behind on money from the state that we make up for it with private donations and grants,” Reichert said.
The donor gave the gift in March 2006 in memory of his wife, who loved the area, Reichert said.
The nonprofit foundation partners with the state parks, Reichert said. They raise money from donations and sales, and invest the funds back into Sierra state parks.
In the fiscal year of 2007, the foundation awarded more than $650,000 to the state parks.