Lake Tahoe: The Tallac Historic Site

By: Don Alexander

Recently I had the opportunity to visit The Tallac Historic Site, which has been declared a national historic site, located in the beautiful city of South Lake Tahoe, CA, The site houses three estates: Baldwin (1921), Pope (1894). and the Valhalla (1923). These resorts, constructed from 1894 to 1923 were lavish resorts at the edge of the lake. Up to 250 guests could attend the estates at once, which included a casino and the biggest resort of the time.

During the late 1800's, the south shore of Lake Tahoe became a resting place for pioneers searching for gold. Upon completion of the transcontinental railroad, the site soon became a popular retreat for wealthy landowners from Virginia City and San Francisco.

The Pope Estate, built in 1894, is now open for guided tours and houses various art exhibits. Valhalla is a grand hall with beautiful wood floors, an open wood beam ceiling, a balcony of lodge pole construction and a twenty-foot high stone fireplace! It was built in 1923 and now stands as the site of many musical concerts, contains a cultural arts gift store, and even has suites available for rent. The entire Tallac Historical Site encompasses a full seventy-four acre tract of land and is listed on the National Register of Historical Places. It is located three miles north of South Lake Tahoe on Highway 89. The rustic and mainly logS built sites are nestled in the secluded woods along the beach of Lake Tahoe.

One of the highlights of my visit was the Anita Gibson Cabin. Anita was credited as one of the first women to invent and model the "slip" or "leotard" type undergarment. She was an avid designer, and also ran the resort when her father died. We actually saw a manikin dressed up as Anita, sitting in the corner of the cabin. She wore a beautiful white dress, which looked like one hundred percent cotton. It was soft, flowingly pretty, and very conservative.

Anita was always full of ideas and was actually one of the first women to run a resort (her father's business), and kayak across the Emerald Bay. She was once even challenged to a harder boat route around Emerald Bay, and not only kayaked faster than the existing time, but also ended up setting the record.

In all of the signs and materials that we read about Anita, she came up as an intelligent, energetic, creative, but very conservative woman. What is ironic though, is that she is the one responsible for the destruction and demolition of the larger Casino that her father had built. She stated that she did it for "environmental and economic" reasons, but one has to wonder, if she did it for religious or moral reasons. The Casino at the Baldwin Estate was the biggest of its time. Not too long after her father's death, Anita had it blown to the ground. Perhaps she may have felt guilty about the type of clientele the resort was attracting as well. The reason that I am reflecting upon this possible option does indeed go back to the signs and the manikin itself inside her old cabin.

She was a beautiful woman, with a firm jaw, and yet beautiful eyes. The monuments next to her all told of her inventiveness and conservative ways. She was known to pray and read the scriptures on the edge of the lake.

Further reflection really makes me wonder about this incredible woman named Anita Gibson, heir to the Baldwin Estate. She may have indeed made the best decision of all in blowing up her father's casino. Perhaps she felt it was a way to redeem herself and her father for allowing the sin of Gambling. History only knows. I will never forget my visit.

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