Lake Tahoe’s Ehrman Mansion loaded with history, charm
About Sierra State Parks Foundation
The Sierra State Parks Foundation began in 1974, when a group of citizens formed a committee to save the Ehrman Mansion from demolition.
The foundation is a nonprofit organization with the goal of filling the gaps not met by the funding provided to State Parks by the state of California.
SSPF provides education, interpretation, historic restoration and cultural and environmental preservation. The foundation obtains funding through special events, sales at gift shops and by membership donations.
Last year, the group paid for a $100,000 electrical upgrade to the Ehrman Mansion, and this year they are restoring the ceiling on the front porch of the building as well as restoring the gardens on the grounds.
Visit www.SierraStateParks.org" target="_blank">Bold">SierraStateParks.org or call 530-525-7982 for more information or to obtain membership.
TAHOMA, Calif. — While Sugar Pine Point State Park includes a mile and a half of prime Lake Tahoe frontage, its charming lakeside setting and Pine Lodge (Ehrman Mansion) are much less known than the Vikingsholm castle and Emerald Bay a few miles to the south.
But the mansion is a captivating structure with a unique history; the lakeside lawn and grounds are beautiful and easily accessible by car or along the west shore bike trail; and the walk along the beach and other lakeside trails is a perfect way to quickly and easily get a stunning vista of Lake Tahoe.
“It’s really a hidden gem of the West Shore,” says Heidi Doyle, executive director of the Sierra State Parks Foundation.
A DETAILED HISTORY
The first non-native to live at Sugar Pine Point was General William Phipps from Kentucky, who built a cabin there in 1860. His second cabin still sits near the North Boathouse on the parks grounds.
In the late 1800s, Isaias Hellman began purchasing parcels of land in the Sugar Pine Point area. Hellman arrived in America from Bavaria with little money and eventually started his own bank. At the time of his death in 1920, he was the President of Wells Fargo Bank.
In 1903, the family home to be known as Pine Lodge was completed. It was built of native granite, pine and cedar and was designed by Walter Danforth Bliss, son of DL Bliss, and architect of the recently built Tahoe Tavern, which was then the showpiece hotel in Tahoe City.
Hellman chose Bliss as his architect because he wanted to craft a home similar to the design of Tahoe Tavern. Bliss was paid $22,000 for his work, which was about the same amount of money it cost to construct it.
Upon Hellman’s death, his youngest daughter Florence Ehrman inherited the property, which stayed in the family until after her death when the house and the park lands were sold to the state in 1965.
QUITE THE ESTATE
The lodge is a fine example of what is known as California Craftsman style architecture, many of the traits of which carried over to become Tahoe style.
Thirty-minute tours are available several times a day during the summer. Arrive early to take sit under the large covered porch overlooking the lake, and imagine yourself enjoying this view every day.
From your seat, notice the two round rooms at each end. To the south lies a billiard room, and to the north is a lake view room designed for luncheons.
Once you enter the lodge, a large living room sits to your left, and dining room on the right. Both hold massive fire places that were used for summer heat, as the home was unoccupied in the winter.
In the dining room, the table sits more than 20, and the walls are lined with hand-woven strips of redwood. On the second floor, there are eight bedrooms, including six for guests and two large and airy turret rooms used by family members at each end. These turrets, similar to the one at Vikingsholm, define the character of the structure.
At the time it was built, the 11,000-square-foot Pine Lodge and grounds were entirely self-sufficient, which was a requirement since the only access to the property was via boat.
There was electric lighting and indoor plumbing, quite a luxury at the time. Water came from nearby General Creek, and power was originally provided via a generator.
Portions of the house were set aside for the up to 27 people who cooked and served the meals, made the beds, took care of the children and maintained the grounds.
In the winter, the help would harvest ice from a pond on General Creek, which would be kept cold in the ice house until it could grace the drink glasses of the guests months later.
In addition to the Pine Lodge, the lakeside portion of Sugar Pine Point includes the Nature Center and Gift Shop, Butler and Maid’s cabins, the Children’s House, North and South Boathouses and Phipps cabin near General Creek.
To the north of the lodge, about two miles of hiking trails lead through the woods and along the lakeshore. West Shore Sports rents kayaks from just below the lodge, where you can wind your way along the shoreline to Meeks Bay and Rubicon to the South or Tahoma and Homewood to the north.
Across the highway lies the large Sugar Pine Point campground and General Creek Trail, a six mile loop popular for hiking, mountain biking and cross-country skiing.
During the 1960 Winter Olympics, these trails, and others that have since disappeared under housing developments, were the location for the cross-country skiing events.
Tickets to tour the Ehrman Mansion can be obtained at the Nature Center and Gift Shop operated by the Sierra State Parks Foundation. Tour tickets are $10 per adult, and parking is $10 (Or you can access the park via bike trail without charge).
Tim Hauserman, a nearly lifelong resident of Tahoe City, is a freelance author and cross-country ski instructor. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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