AAA Editor Notes
Thunderbird Lake Tahoe Historic Site tours depart from the Incline Village Crystal Bay Visitors Bureau at 969 Tahoe Blvd. (SR 28). A shuttle bus takes visitors to this magnificent estate built in 1936 by George Whittell, an eccentric San Francisco millionaire. The prominent family's fortune was accumulated from gold rush-era banking, real estate and railroads. The somewhat reclusive Whittell developed a fancy for exotic animals and frequently brought his pet lion Bill and Mingo the elephant to his summer retreat.
A picturesque example of the “old Tahoe” style of architecture, the stone lodge was designed to blend into its secluded setting overlooking the lake. The heavily forested site on the eastern shore of Lake Tahoe affords amazing views. In addition to the Tudor Revival lodge, the 6-acre property encompasses a gatehouse, three cottages, a card house, a boathouse, three garages, a lighthouse and a barn for Whittell's elephant.
The 75-minute guided tour includes the lighthouse room; the old lodge; the servants' quarters; and a 600-foot tunnel leading to the boathouse, home to Whittell's 1939, 55-foot mahogany-hulled yacht Thunderbird. After hearing a few card-house poker stories, visitors enjoy the gardens and fountains. Exceptional iron, stone and woodwork can be seen throughout the estate.
Note: The tour requires being able to walk on uneven ground and climb steps.
Guided tours are available. Time: Allow 1 hour, 30 minutes minimum.