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A Lake Tahoe Home History Tour

Hello again Tinsel readers, anyone up for a Lake Tahoe history lesson? I was flipping through some of my favorite architecture and design books, and thought we could take a trip back in time for this week’s post. Today we’ll revisit several home styles and periods from Lake Tahoe’s history, starting with the early modern settlements in the mid-1800’s.

So hop on our tour, starting with our first stop…



Stop 1: The Lake Shore House - When the Silver Rush arrived in the mid-1800s, Lake Tahoe development picked up steam, though the buildings were more for function than form. Many homes built during this period were basic cabins for workers and miners. The first building of note was the Lake Shore House hotel in Glenbrook, Nevada, built in 1863 as a retreat for the locals who could afford it. It was built in the typical Victorian-style architecture of the time. Thanks to its current owners that appreciate the history, it has been well preserved in a major 2018 renovation.

Stop 2: Vikingsholm - By the early 1900s, Tahoe was entering the Gilden Age and saw an extension of the Victorian style or architecture. But now, the homes being built were inspired by the mountain resorts back east, int he Catskills and Adirondacks. The Arts & Crafts movement was coming into focus, and Lake Tahoe made the perfect canvas for the more modern architects of the day. Vikingsholm is one of the most famous examples from this period of Tahoe architecture, tucked along the shores of Emerald Bay. The imposing castle-like home was built with old-fashioned methods and local materials, and is well worth the tour for history lovers!

Stop 3: A-frame Abundance - After World War II, many Americans benefited from increasing prosperity and wanted to own second homes. Lake Tahoe was still ripe for development, and thus began the era of the A-frame home. The pitched roofs were perfect for the feet of snow that arrived every winter, and the simple structures were easy to assemble en masse. As skiing grew in popularity, the 1960 Winter Olympics were hosted in Squaw Valley and helped highlight Tahoe on the cultural map, creating a huge influx of new properties. Believe it or not, in 1960 over one hundred A-frames sold in Squaw Valley for $15,000 a piece.

Stop 4: Cabin Upgrades - The current recognizable “Tahoe Style” started to reveal itself in the 1970s and beyond, as the classic log cabin evolved into the contemporary hulking behemoth we all know and love. A more rustic take on American Craftsman, these homes incorporate classic elements of timber and masonry, with oversized stone chimneys, projected entrance ways, and ornate ironwork. As Tahoe development became more restricted and expensive, builders chased after the upper end of the market, so many of these homes are and continue to be built on the larger side.

One of the things I love is that Lake Tahoe architecture continues to evolve, and many of the properties built since the 2000s have incorporated design influences ranging from the Bauhaus and International Style to the classic Victorian and simple log-cabin roots of the settlers .

If you’re curious how you can bring out the best of your Lake Tahoe home’s architecture, whether that’s highlighting the period-specific touches, or simply modernizing the interior while preserving the exterior, Tinsel House Studio would love to help. Drop us a line today!



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