|Location||5000 State Route 28|
|Nearest city||Incline Village, Nevada|
|Area||6.51 acres (2.63 ha)|
|Architectural style||Rustic, Late 19th and 20th Century Revivals, Other|
|NRHP reference No.||00001207|
The Thunderbird Lodge, also known as the Whittell Estate, is a historic 6.51-acre (2.63 ha) waterfront estate located on the east shore of Lake Tahoe, in western Washoe County, Nevada. It is now within Lake Tahoe – Nevada State Park.
George Whittell Jr. was born in San Francisco in 1881, an heir to one of San Francisco's wealthiest families. His father was the founder of PG&E, the Northern California utility corporation, along with many other businesses. Upon his father's death in 1922, he received an inheritance of $29 million, which he invested in the stock market. It had grown to $50 million ($60 Billion in 2015 dollars) when he liquidated all his stock holdings just weeks prior to the 1929 Stock Market Crash, becoming one of California's richest people then at age 49. Captain Whittell, as he liked to be called, despite having no military service, is quoted as saying: "When men stop boozing, womanizing and gambling, the bloom is off the rose." By establishing a residence in Nevada, Whittell avoided the higher income taxes in California, where he spent the bulk of each year at his 50-acre Woodside, California estate, the present day site of Kings Mountain Vineyard.
In 1935, George Whittell Jr. purchased the 27 miles of Lake Tahoe shoreline and nearly 40,000 acres from Norman Biltz. It encompassed essentially 95% of the Nevada shoreline of Lake Tahoe — all of the land from Crystal Bay, Incline Village, Sand Harbor, Glenbrook, Cave Rock, and Zephyr Cove to Round Hill. Whittell paid approximately $2.7 million or $81.00 per acre. Between 1935 and 1969, Whittell continued to amass a vast majority of the acreage in Washoe, Carson, and Douglas Counties on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe.
In 1936 construction began the summer residence, Thunderbird Lodge, designed in the Rustic style by Frederic DeLongchamps for George Whittell Jr. The stone house was completed 2½ years later. The estate includes numerous small buildings, before 1937 designed by Frederic DeLongchamps, and after by the design firm DeLongchamps and O'Brien.The house had no guest rooms, as Whittell wanted no overnight visitors.
In addition to the main house, there is a Card House, Caretaker's Cottage, Cook/Butler's House, Admiral's House, Boathouse with adjoining 600 feet (180 m) tunnel, Gatehouse, and the "Elephant House"—home to Mingo, Whittell's two ton Indian Elephant. The large boathouse housed his custom 55-foot (17 m) mahogany and stainless steel yacht, the Thunderbird.
As the years passed, Whittell grew more reclusive, gradually abandoning his casino development plans for Sand Harbor in favor of maintaining his own secluded hideaway and lifestyle. He entertained only a few people at Thunderbird Lodge, including his neighbors Ty Cobb and Howard Hughes, for the occasional all night card games.
Whittell's dislike for unwanted visitors and curiosity-seekers is reflected by a loud siren that operated at Thunderbird Lodge's dock, that he used to frighten them away. He sold his yacht, the Thunderbird, to casino magnate Bill Harrah in 1962. After a succession of owners, it is again housed in the Lodge's boathouse.
Whittell eventually owned almost 40,000 acres (16,000 ha) of the Nevada shoreline area on eastern Lake Tahoe. He had originally planned to develop the land into "high-class" summer properties, a ski resort, and a $1 million hotel-casino. He later decided that he "liked not having neighbors." In addition, development became more complicated, and involved environmental protection pressures and the state of Nevada pressing with eminent domain claims for much of the land to create a state park.
During the 1950s, the State of Nevada began negotiations with Whittell to purchase land for a state park. His refusal to pursue development on the 27 miles of shoreline he owned was more from his need for privacy and seclusion rather than intentional conservation. Nonetheless, Whittell is credited for the natural and unspoiled beauty of Lake Tahoe's present day eastern shoreline.
In 1954 Whittell broke his leg, and remained at his Woodside, California estate until 1957. After Whittell broke his hip late in life he refused surgery to repair the fracture, and was confined to a wheelchair.
George Whittell, Jr. died of melanoma on 18 April 1969, with his third wife Elia by his side.
After Whittell's death, Thunderbird Lodge and the adjacent 10,000 acres of property were purchased by Jack Dreyfus of Dreyfus Investments. Dreyfus later sold most of the land, excluding the residence, to the U.S. Forest Service—Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest and Nevada State Parks—Lake Tahoe – Nevada State Park.
In 1998 the developer Del Webb Corporation purchased the Thunderbird Lodge and its remaining 140 acres of private land. In 1999, the American Land Conservancy facilitated a three way land exchange. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management conveyed to Del Webb nearly 4,000 acres of Clark County, Nevada land near Las Vegas and the U.S. Forest Service received the 140 acres of Lake Tahoe land without the residence compound. The Thunderbird Lodge buildings were conveyed to the non-profit Thunderbird Preservation Society with a $9.8-million debt payable to Del Webb/Pulte Homes. In 2009 the Society acquired title to the buildings.
Thunderbird Lodge is currently owned by the non-profit Thunderbird Preservation Society.It is now a popular tourist attraction, with public tours by reservation.
Reno is a city in the northwest section of the U.S. state of Nevada, approximately 22 miles (35 km) from Lake Tahoe, known as "The Biggest Little City in the World". Known for its casino and tourism industry, Reno is the county seat and largest city of Washoe County and sits in a high desert river valley at the foot of the Sierra Nevada. Its downtown area occupies a valley informally known as the Truckee Meadows, which due to large-scale investments from Seattle and Bay Area companies such as Amazon, Tesla, Panasonic, Microsoft, Apple and Google has become a new major technology hub in the United States. The city is named after Union Major General Jesse L. Reno, who was killed in action during the American Civil War at the Battle of South Mountain on Fox's Gap.
South Lake Tahoe is the most populous city in El Dorado County, California, United States, in the Sierra Nevada. As its name suggests, the city is located on the southern shore of Lake Tahoe.
Incline Village is a census-designated place (CDP) on the north shore of Lake Tahoe in Washoe County, Nevada, United States. The population was 8,777 at the 2010 census. It is part of the Reno−Sparks Metropolitan Statistical Area. Until the 2010 census, the CDP Crystal Bay, Nevada was counted jointly with Incline Village.
Lake Tahoe is a large freshwater lake in the Sierra Nevada mountain range of the United States. Lying at 6,225 ft (1,897 m), it straddles the state line between California and Nevada, west of Carson City. Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America, and at 122,160,280 acre⋅ft (150.7 km3) trails only the five Great Lakes as the largest by volume in the United States. Its depth is 1,645 ft (501 m), making it the second deepest in the United States after Crater Lake in Oregon.
Zephyr Cove is a community and census-designated place (CDP) in Douglas County, Nevada, United States. The population was 565 at the 2010 census. Prior to 2010 it was part of the Zephyr Cove–Round Hill Village CDP.
The Washoe or Wašišiw are a Great Basin tribe of Native Americans, living near Lake Tahoe at the border between California and Nevada. The name "Washoe" or "Washo" is derived from the autonym Waashiw in the Washo language or from Wašišiw (waší:šiw), the plural form of wašiw.
Lake Thunderbird is a reservoir located in Norman, Oklahoma. The lake was constructed between 1962 and 1965 for the purpose of providing municipal water to the nearby communities of Del City, Midwest City and Norman. It is formed by an earthfill embankment (dam) 7,300 feet (2,200 m) long and up to 144 feet (44 m) high on the Little River. In addition to being a source for drinking water, Lake Thunderbird's secondary uses include numerous recreational activities.
Frederic Joseph DeLongchamps was an American architect. He was one of Nevada's most prolific architects, yet is notable for entering the architectural profession with no extensive formal training. He has also been known as Frederick J. DeLongchamps, and was described by the latter name in an extensive review of the historic importance of his works which led to many of them being listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in the 1980s.
State Route 28 (SR 28) is a 16.3-mile (26.2 km) state highway in Douglas County, Carson City, and Washoe County in western Nevada, United States, that runs along the northeastern shore of Lake Tahoe. SR 28 connects U.S. Route 50 (US 50) in Douglas County with California State Route 28 at Crystal Bay. SR 28 has been part of the Nevada scenic byway system since June 1994 and the National Scenic Byway system since September 1996.
Washoe Lake State Park is a year-round public recreation area occupying 3,775 acres (1,528 ha) on the southeast shore of Washoe Lake in Washoe County, Nevada. The state park lies to the east of Lake Tahoe, approximately five miles (8.0 km) north of Carson City near U.S. Route 395. The area around the park is known for its high winds making Washoe Lake a popular destination for windsurfers.
George Whittell High School is located in Zephyr Cove, Nevada, near the South Shore of Lake Tahoe. As of 2008, the school now houses grade 7 through 12. The school is named after late millionaire George Whittell, Jr. who purchased the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe for his mansion, the Thunderbird Lodge and donated land to the University of Nevada, Reno and the CDP of Zephyr Cove.
The Marlette Lake Water System was created to provide water for the silver mining boom in Virginia City, Nevada. These structures are now listed as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers, and are also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The listed area included two contributing buildings and 12 contributing structures on 135.4 acres (54.8 ha). It has also been known historically as the Virginia and Gold Hill Water Company Water System.
Riverside Hotel is a former hotel and casino located in Downtown Reno, Nevada, that sits on the exact location where Reno began in 1859. The building now houses apartments and studios for artists and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Cal Neva Resort & Casino, previously known as the Calneva Resort and Cal-Neva Lodge, is a resort and casino straddling the border between Nevada and California on the shores of Lake Tahoe. The original building was constructed in 1926, and became famous when the national media picked up a story about actress Clara Bow cancelling checks she owed to the Cal-Neva worth $13,000 in 1930. After burning down in a fire in 1937, the structure was rebuilt in only 30 days. In 1960, entertainer Frank Sinatra purchased the Resort alongside Dean Martin and Chicago mobster Sam Giancana.
The Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California are a federally recognized tribe of Washoe Indians, living in California and Nevada. They are several communities south and east of Lake Tahoe united under a tribal council. The tribe owns over 64,300 acres (26,000 ha) in different parcels.
Van Sickle Bi-State Park is a public recreation area straddling the border of California and Nevada, United States, that overlooks Lake Tahoe and preserves the memory of Henry Van Sickle, a key member in the founding of Genoa and the surrounding area. The state park features trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. It is managed by the Nevada Division of State Parks in partnership with the California Tahoe Conservancy.
Ed Z'berg Sugar Pine Point State Park is a state park in California in the United States. It occupies nearly two miles of the western shore of Lake Tahoe and a total of about 1,000 hectares of forested mountains in El Dorado County. Originally called Sugar Pine Point State Park, its name was changed in 2003 to honor Edwin L. Z'berg, a California state assemblyman who specialized in environmental legislation and worked to develop state parks and other natural areas.
Ophir Creek is a 7.7-mile (12.4 km) eastward-flowing stream originating in Tahoe Meadows just south of Tamarack Peak and southeast of Mount Rose Summit, a pass on Nevada State Highway 431. Ophir Creek flows to Washoe Lake in Washoe County in western Nevada, shortly after passing under U.S. Route 395.
Cascade Lake (California) is a glacier formed lake located in El Dorado County, California approximately 1 mile (1.6 km) from Lake Tahoe. Cascade Lake is the second largest tributary lake feeding into Lake Tahoe. Its depth is 170 feet (52 m), 1 mile (1.6 km) long and 0.5 miles (0.80 km) wide. The lake is also within three to four miles from its neighboring lake, Fallen Leaf Lake (California), and Emerald Bay.