Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Bucolic Life at Lake Tahoe

I am Lake Tahoe-bound for a few days for both work and pleasure

I will be talking about the life and times of Isaias Hellman at Living History Day at Sugar Pine Point at noon on Saturday, July 26. Sugar Pine Point is the Hellman’s former summer home. Starting in the late 1890s, he bought land along the lake, during a time when Lake Tahoe was not a popular vacation spot. He eventually amassed more than 2,000 acres and 2 miles of lake shore and built a beautiful rustic mansion.

The state bought the property in 1968. Each summer, the park service hosts a day where people dress up in costumes and discuss the people who have lived at Sugar Pine Point. Native Americans talk about how the Washoe used the property during the summer, a re-enacter dresses like General Phipps, who lived in a log cabin on the land, and others dress in art deco clothes to represent a more modern era. There are also tours of the house.

I will talk about how Hellman came to build the house and the kinds of activities the wealthy enjoyed.

I also will be dropping by the poetry benefit for the Squaw Valley Community of Writers Thursday night. Lucille Clifton, Robert Haas, and Sharon Olds, among others, will be there.

I am also planning to visit Virginia City, the home of the Comstock Lode. One of Hellman’s business partners was John Mackay, who made an immense fortune in the silver mines. Mackay used some of the money to open the Nevada Bank in 1875, which was the richest bank in the country with a capitalization of $10 million. Yet, just 15 years later, the Nevada Bank was almost bankrupt. Hellman bought it, turned it around, and eventually merged it with Wells Fargo.

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