Lake Tahoe – “Lake of the Sky,” Part II – Development at the Southern End

Yank's Station - 1866

Yank’s Station – 1866

Prior to the popularity of the personal motorcar, the main means of transportation into the Lake Tahoe basin was by stagecoach, wagon or carriage.

In 1868 the tracks of the Central Pacific Railroad reached Truckee, which later would be connected to Tahoe City by a narrow gauge railroad. This resulted in development of summer resorts at the north end of the Lake, but not the south.

The southern end of Lake Tahoe was still only connected to the outside world by the roads that had carried the emigrants into California, the freight from Sacramento to Virginia City and, at one time were the route of the riders of the short-lived Pony Express. Because of this traffic some inns, along with eating and drinking establishments had been built along these roads (mostly along the old road, which is now Pioneer Trail) in the middle and late 1800s. Amongst these was one known as “Yanks Station.”

As previously mentioned, the first white settler in Lake Valley was Martin Smith. He arrived in 1851 and in 1859 he sold his way station, which was seven and one half miles south of the Lake, to Ephraim Clement. “Yank” Clement, as he was known, was a renowned teller of tall tales who attempted to retain the image of a “mountain man” by dressing in buckskins and moccasins and letting his curly hair grow.

Over the next few years “Yank”, and his wife Lydia D. Mark Clement, a much more reserved person, expanded the facilities considerably, building a three-story, fourteen room hotel, a stable and barn, larger corrals, two saloons, a general store, a blacksmith shop, a cooperage and several private homes. In spite of the significant reduction in traffic through the valley with the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, the Clements continued to operate their station until 1873, when it was sold to one George Henry Dudley Meyers. He was a native of Germany who already owned another inn, Six Mile House, east of Placerville. (For more on Yank’s Station, see Lake Tahoe – Part VI)

Meyers purchased much of the land adjacent to what had become known as “Yank’s Station”, named the area after himself and raised beef and dairy cattle. In the early 1900s, the Meyers sold to the Celio family, who had settled in the Tahoe basin in 1863, when Carlo G. Celio established a ranch south of what is now Highway 50. The Celios continued to operate the hotel and their beef and cattle business while expanding into the lumber business on a large scale. In 1938 the old hotel burned down.

To the northeast, along what is now Pioneer Trail, other inns had been established to serve the travelers during what was called the “Bonanza Days,” the time when the freight wagons stretched end to end over the road from the railroad station in Shingle Springs to the mines at Virginia City.

These included the Sierra House, at Cold Creek, built by Robert Garwood Dean in 1859. A few months after it was built he sold it William Mac (Mack?), who renamed it “Mac’s Station,”

Further north, in 1862, near what is now Heavenly Valley Creek (formerly Miller Creek) John G. Miller, a native of Pennsylvania, built the Miller House. Years later it became a dairy center.

Six tenths of a mile further north was Dixon’s House, built by R. P. Rainery in 1861, and bought from Terry and Hiram Brown in 1865 by Mr. and Mrs. Harry Dixon.

The next inn along the road was McComber’s, which was a large, two-story clapboard structure. Freeman McComber had arrived in Tahoe in the fall of 1865 and bought 2000 acres, including the “State Line House and Ranch”. At that time the state line was believed to be to the west of its present location, so this inn was thought to have straddled the line. There is a legend that McComber’s first son, George Lincoln, was only a Californian because he was born on the west side of the house. In 1882 McComber’s was purchased by George Washington Chubbuck, who ran it for two years.

Just a short distance to the west of the present state line, at the junction of the Placerville-Virginia City Road and the Lakeshore cut-off, was a hostelry and settlement established in 1860 by William W. Lapham. Over the years it was known as Lapham’s Fish Market and Landing, Lapham’s Hotel and Landing and Carney’s Stateline House. The inn burned in 1876 and was replaced in 1892 by E. B. Smith’s Lakeside House or Tavern, later renamed Lakeside Park. By 1915 “The Park” had become a choice summer residence area.

Along the shoreline of the Lake were several small developments. One, Taylor’s Landing (Bijou), was built in 1861 by Almon M. (Jim) Taylor. The pier and landing were very important during the lumbering days in the valley.

John Dunlap, who had been a brakeman for the Lake Valley Railroad in 1891, returned to the south shore in 1928, to live on his flourishing dairy ranch known as Tamarack. His land ownership included what is now Gardner Mountain, Tahoe Island Park, Tahoe Keys and Tamarack Subdivision.

Once the all-year highway was completed, the Bijou area became a major residential, motel and commercial area. In 1965 it, and much of the surrounding land was incorporated as the City of South Lake Tahoe.

Near Taylor’s Landing was Tahoe’s first lakeshore hotel, Lake House or Lake Bigler House (Rowland’s Station). It was built in 1859 by William Lapham, Judge Seneca Dean and Robert Garwood Dean, the Judge’s nephew. Lake House burned in 1866 and was not replaced.

Near the Lake House was Al Tahoe Hotel (Globin’s). Built in 1908, it was “advantageously located on the State and National automobile boulevard” (the present Highway 50 is further to the southeast). Ownership changed several times over the years and, in 1924 it was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Frank Globin. They owned it until 1965 when it was torn down.

To the north, along the west side of the Lake (Highway 89) were Camp Richardson and the Tallac House. In addition to running his resort, Alonzo Leroy “Al” Richardson operated a daily auto stage line between Tallac House and Placerville (later as far as Sacramento). In 1964 Camp Richardson was transferred to the U. S. Forest Service.

The Tallac House was built in 1873 by “Yank” Clement after he had sold his early waystation. Around 1879, Clement’s extensive holding were purchased by Elias Jackson “Lucky” Baldwin.

Baldwin was a very successful businessman, who loved trees, and one reason he purchased the land was to save it from the lumber industry (Baldwin also owned many acres of land in Southern California which would become the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Santa Anita racetrack). A new hotel, known simply as “The Tallac”, was completed in 1900. A showplace for the wealthy, it could accommodate 250 guests and seat 100 for dinner.

With Baldwin’s death in 1909, the prominence of The Tallac faded. The old Tallac House burned in 1914 and, in 1927, Baldwin’s daughter, Anita, ordered the buildings of The Tallac demolished. The property, and the trees that Baldwin saved, are now owned by the U. S. Forest Service.

The first major residential subdivisions at the south end of the lake occurred in the 1920s and, over the next several decades, more and more lots were developed, due to the increasing demand for summer, recreational homes. With reliable all-year access available, many of these homes became permanent residences and the population continued to grow at a rapid rate.

In the 1960s many people became concerned with the rapid development of the Tahoe Basin. As a result, a unique, quite controversial, bi-state agency, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, was formed by the U. S. Government to regulate development.

In an attempt to maintain the clarity of the Lake, sewage was required to be exported from the Basin and new development and building were significantly restricted.

Lake Tahoe is one of the most beautiful lakes in California and Nevada, if not the country. It is a popular year-around resort area with much recreation, including boating, fishing and skiing available in California and all these, plus gaming, available on the Nevada Side. It is a wonderful place to explore for its history and beauty.

Much of the information for this story came from “Lake Valley’s Past”, compiled by Lorene Greuner, “Tales of Tahoe”, by David J. Stollery and “The saga of Lake Tahoe : a complete documentation of Lake Tahoe’s development over the last one hundred years,” by Edward Scott. All of these books and many more on this subject, are available at the El Dorado County libraries.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.