Lake Tahoe – “The Lake of the Sky,” Part VII – The Basin Begins to Fill

Friday's Station

Friday’s Station

There was only one road that entered the southern end of the Tahoe Basin from Sacramento and Placerville. However, once it entered, it split into two roads just east of Yank’s Station. One branch passed along the southern end of the lake through the marshlands created by the Upper Truckee River, somewhat close to the present alignment of Highway 50. This branch is often referred to as the Placerville-Virginia City Road and even “Johnson Route”, in honor of John Calhoun “Cockeye” Johnson, who pioneered a route over the Sierra from Placerville.

The other branch had many names: the Placerville and Carson Valley Route, the “Bonanza Road” and sometimes the “back road,” simply because of its location. Serving as the main road much of the time, it passed through the heavy forest further to the south of the lake than the other road and then veered back near the California-Nevada border, where it met the Placerville-Virginia City Road and the Kingsbury-Daggett Pass Road. This road is now know as Pioneer Trail.

Along both of these roads, other way stations and hotels were built, mostly 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. Many would ultimately be expanded, rebuilt or replaced to serve tourists and other visitors to the Tahoe Basin.

The first inn or way station east of Yank’s, along Pioneer Trail, was the Sierra House, at Cold Creek, built by Robert Garwood Dean in 1859. A few months after it was built it was sold to William Mac (Mack?), who renamed it “Mac’s Station”.

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

Six tenths of a mile further east was Dixon’s House, built by R. P. Rainery in 1861, and renamed in 1865 when bought from Terry and Hiram Brown 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 acquired 2000 acres, including the “State Line House and Ranch.”

At that time the state line was believed to be to a half-mile west of its present location, so this inn was thought to have straddled the line. The line, McComber told people, passed through the middle of the dining room, a tale that brought in tourists. There is even 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. Chubbuck would be better known for his lumber railroad with unique wooden rails that he would later build from the lake to Meyers, generally along the Pioneer Trail route.

Just a short distance to the west of the present state line, at the junction of the Placerville-Virginia City Road 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.

Just east of today’s California – Nevada state line was Friday’s Station.  Established about 1858 by Friday Burke and James Small, it was a stage station on the Placerville-Virginia City Road.

It was the most easterly remount station of the California Division of the Overland Pony Express and the home station of rider “Pony Bob” Haslam. He is credited with having made the longest round trip ride of the Pony Express, 380 miles with only nine hours rest between 190 mile legs.

Lumber Pier at Bijou

Lumber Pier at Bijou

Near the lake, along the Placerville-Virginia City Road 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.  Once the all-year highway was completed along this route, 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.

Just west of Bijou was Tamarack, which was owned by John Dunlap, who had been a brakeman for the Lake Valley Railroad in 1891. He returned to the south shore in 1928, to live on this flourishing dairy ranch. His land ownership included what is now Gardner Mountain, Tahoe Island Park, Tahoe Keys and Tamarack Subdivision.

West of  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 (and later Sacramento). In 1964 Camp Richardson was transferred to the U. S. Forest Service.

Tallac House Menu - 1900

Tallac House Menu – 1900

The Tallac House was built in 1873 by “Yank” Clement after he had sold his early way station. 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.

Sources for this story include: “Atlas of California”, by Donley, Allan, Caro and Patton (1979); “California Place Names”, by Erwin Gudde, 3rd Edition (1974); “The Saga of Lake Tahoe, Volumes I & II, by Edward Scott; “The Mountain Sea”, by Lyndall Landauer (1996); “Lakes of
California”, by Don Baxter (1972); “Sierra-Nevada Lakes”, by George and Bliss Hinkle (1949); “Sierra Stories – True Tales of Tahoe”, Volumes 1& 2, by Mark McLaughlin 1997-1998); “History of El Dorado County”, by Paolo Sioli (1883), reprinted and indexed by the El Dorado Friends of the Library (1998); the archives of the Mountain Democrat.

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