(InEDC) Cris Alacon, LAKE TAHOE – Q & A Lake Tahoe History
Q: by Georgee Brazil.
This cabin was located on the North shore about half way between the split and Sand Harbor. It has been called The Cabin, Chimney Beach and maybe referred to as Hidden Beach by some.. In the 60’s it was everyone’s favorite party spot and clothes were optional. I am trying to find out if anyone knows the “origin”? Who built it? Why was it abandoned? Does anyone out there know the history of the cabin?
A: by George Whittell Jr. The definitive answers:
1. I did not build this cabin; it was there when I acquired in the early 1930s the area now known as “Chimney Beach”.
2. In the early 1920s, several San Francisco families purchased private property at Secret Harbor (south of today’s Chimney Beach) and built a members-only camp. (Today, the Secret Harbor Camp is still operated by descendants of those families.)
3. The cabin at “Chimney Beach” was purportedly built circa 1923 for Poker Petey (AKA Poker Peter), a legendary Tahoe figure, and first caretaker of the Secret Harbor Camp.
4. The beach had no name, and then various names throughout recent history. In the 1940s-60s, locals frequently called it “Elephant Beach” because my animal trainer once took my pet elephant, Mingo, there to drink and exercise.
5. At various times during the summer months until the 1960s, my property construction and maintenance personnel would live in the small cabin.
6. The three young girls pictured here in the late 1950s or early 60s are the Casey sisters. These are the daughters of my nurse, Ruth Casey (who died in 1989). I believe their mother is in the photo behind them, and the remaining individual is unidentified.
7. In the early 1970s, this land of mine was conveyed first to New York financier Jack Dreyfus and then to the U.S. Forest Service. During that decade, after partiers torched much of the cabin, a Forest Service work crew tore down the remaining portions leaving only the chimney behind.
8. It was not until the late 1970s and early 80s that the Forest Service started referring to the area as “Chimney Beach”, after the landmark they created for posterity.
9. Except for Secret Harbor Camp itself and one parcel just to the east of it, all of this was my private property until 1969.
10. Other buildings were present when I purchased my ~ 45,000 acres of property in the 1930s, many of those buildings are now gone. However, the 12 buildings I constructed at my Thunderbird Lodge estate between 1935 and 1941 are all still standing, functional, and now maintained by the non-profit Thunderbird Lodge and Yacht – Lake Tahoe. The estate is open for public tours May – October (call 1-800-GO-TAHOE).
And there you have it, the unvarnished truth.