Lake Tahoe

With Mr. Preuss, I ascended today the highest peak to the right; from which we had a beautiful view of a mountain lake at our feet, about fifteen miles in length, and so entirely surrounded by mountains that we could not discover an outlet.

John C. Frémont, February 14, 1844. 1 2 3

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Where we discern beauty and yet seclusion, loveliness and yet no human use, we can follow up the created charm to the mind of the Creator, and think of it as realizing a conception or a dream by him. He delights in his works. To the bounds of space their glory is present as one vision to his eye. And it is our sovereign privilege that we are called to the possibility of sympathy with his joy. The universe is the home of God. He has lined its walls with beauty. He has invited us into his palace. He offers to us the glory of sympathy with his mind. By love of nature, by joy in the communion with its beauty, by growing insight into the wonders of color, form, and purpose, we enter into fellowship with the Creative art. We go into harmony with God.

Thomas Starr King, “Living Water from Lake Tahoe” (1863) in Christianity and Humanity (Boston, 1877), p. 323.

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Charles Leander Weed, Spearing Trout by Torchlight, Donner Lake, Nevada County. Published by Lawrence & Houseworth, 1866.

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“Helios” (Timothy O’Sullivan), Tufa Domes, Pyramid Lake, Nevada, 1867. 1 2 3
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Byron Wolfe and Mark Klett, Panorama from O’Sullivan’s Pyramid Lake Camera Position, 2000. 1 2 3

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Arborglyphs, carved by Basque shepherds in the high country, 1870-present. 1 2 [click on pictures to enlarge]

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When the lazy days of summer come, you ask for your San Francisco friend the doctor, the lawyer, clergyman, or merchant, and the chances are that you will be told “he has gone on a paseàr” to the Yosemite, to Lake Tahoe, to the springs, or to the mountains where the trout-streams abound.

Albert S. Evans, A la California: Sketch of life in the Golden State (San Francisco: Bancroft, 1872), p. 15.

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It is always very cold on that lake shore in the night, but we had plenty of blankets and were warm enough. We never moved a muscle all night, but waked at early dawn in the original positions, and got up at once, thoroughly refreshed, free from soreness, and brim full of friskiness. There is no end of wholesome medicine in such an experience. That morning we could have whipped ten such people as we were the day before– sick ones at any rate. But the world is slow, and people will go to “water cures” and “movement cures” and to foreign lands for health. Three months of camp life on Lake Tahoe would restore an Egyptian mummy to his pristine vigor, and give him an appetite like an alligator. I do not mean the oldest and driest mummies, of course, but the fresher ones. The air up there in the clouds is very pure and fine, bracing and delicious. And why shouldn’t it be?–it is the same the angels breathe. I think that hardly any amount of fatigue can be gathered together that a man cannot sleep off in one night on the sand by its side. Not under a roof, but under the sky; it seldom or never rains there in the summer time. I know a man who went there to die. But he made a failure of it. He was a skeleton when he came, and could barely stand. He had no appetite, and did nothing but read tracts and reflect on the future. Three months later he was sleeping out of doors regularly, eating all he could hold, three times a day, and chasing game over mountains three thousand feet high for recreation. And he was a skeleton no longer, but weighed part of a ton. This is no fancy sketch, but the truth. His disease was consumption. I confidently commend his experience to other skeletons.

Mark Twain, Roughing It (San Francisco, 1872), chapter 22.

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Horace Greeley rides with Hank Monk on the Placerville stagecoach. 1, 2, 3

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Albert Bierstadt, Donner Lake from the Summit, 1873.
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Albert Bierstadt, Lake Tahoe, Spearing Fish by Torchlight, 1875.

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Baskets by Dat So La Lee (Louisa Keyser). left, right 1 2 3 4 5 [click on pictures to enlarge]

The “queen” of the Washoe weavers is Dat-so-la-lee, a full-blooded Indian, sixty years of age, whose work is wonderful in its shape, symbolization and weave…  She is fully conscious of the sensations and emotions her work arouses in the hearts of connoisseurs. During the past three years she has produced sixteen baskets with sixteen stitches to the inch, three baskets with twenty stitches to the inch; and four baskets with thirty stitches to the inch. Her white splints are made solely of willow. A willow shoot is split from twelve to twenty-four splints, with the teeth and finger nails. The finer the stitch desired the greater the number of splints from the shoot. Only those portions of the fibre immediately over the pith and under the bark are used. They are all then made of uniform size by scraping with a piece of glass. The warp, or inside of the coil, is generally composed of two thin willows stripped of the bark. For colors the red bark of the mountain birch, and the dark root of a large fern that grows in the foothills of the Sierra are used. So exquisite is Dat-so-la-lee’s work that her baskets have brought fabulous prices ranging from $150 to $250. Three of her recent creations are valued even much higher. Fig. 119 is one of her masterpieces.

George Wharton James, Indian Basketry (Pasadena, 1901), p. 116.

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Tahoe Tavern, Tahoe City, 1902. 1 2 3 4

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George Wharton James, The Lake of the Sky, Lake Tahoe in the high Sierras of California and Nevada; its history, Indians, discovery by Fremont, legendary lore, various namings, physical characteristics, glacial phenomena, geology, single outlet, automobile routes, historic towns, early mining excitements, steamer ride, mineral springs, mountain and lake resorts, trail and camping out trips, summer residences, fishing, hunting, flowers, birds, animals, trees and chapparal, with a full account of the Tahoe national forest, the public use of the water of lake Tahoe and much other interesting matter (Pasadena, 1915).

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Lorenzo Palmer Latimer (1857-1941), Lily Lake, Fallen Leaf, Lake Tahoe Region. watercolor on paper.

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Bernard Maybeck, Glen Alpine Springs Resort, Fallen Leaf Lake, 1921. abandoned. 1 2 3 4 5

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Frank Lloyd Wright, Lake Tahoe Summer Colony, 1923. [click on pictures to enlarge]

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Lennart Palme, Vikingsholm, 1929. Emerald Bay State Park. 1 2 3 4 5 6

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Ansel Adams, Thundercloud, Lake Tahoe, 1936. 1 2 3

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Edward Weston, Potato Cellar, Lake Tahoe. 1937. 1 2

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Julia Morgan, Else Schilling Bow Bay House, 1939. 1 2 [click on pictures to enlarge]

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Ansel Adams, Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe, 1940.

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Henrik Bull, Klaussen cabin, 1955. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

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The Cal-Neva Lodge & Casino. [click on pictures to enlarge]

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Robert Dawson, Private Property, Lake Tahoe, California, 1988.

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Robert Dawson, Snow Storm, Lake Tahoe, California, 1998.

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Lake Flato Architects, Prim Library, Sierra Nevada College, 2004.

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Richard Long, Donner Pass Circle, 2005.

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Shi Guorui, Donner Pass, 10/12/2006.   [1]

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Lake Flato Architects, Lake Tahoe Retreat, 2007.

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Zhi Lin, Railway Tunnels on Donner Summit — A Rectification to Albert Bierstadt’s View of Donner Lake, California (1871-72), 2008.

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Matthew Day Jackson, Donner Lake, 2009.

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“In the Great Basin of the Rocky Mountains, where the West still appears to the East as empty and formless, photography and art tell richly symbolic stories about wastelands transformed into wealth. Often those stories aggrandize machines and engineering.”

Todd Shallat, “Machines in Desolation: Images of Technology in the Great Basin of the American West,” Historical Geography 41 (2013).

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“The Lake Tahoe Region in Art,” Modern Art Notes Podcast No. 213, 2015.

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Michael Light, Highway 89, Cascade and Emerald Lakes and Mount Tallac Beyond, Looking Southwest, South Lake Tahoe, CA, 2014.

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Tahoe: A Visual History (Nevada Museum of Art, 8.22.15-1.10.16)
PBS documentaryLos Angeles TimesAssociated PressTahoe Quarterly / Reno Gazette-Journal / Art Ltd.