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Glen Alpine Springs is and exceptionally valuable example of late 19th and early 20th century western recreational culture not only because its buildings retain the integrity of its early 20th century innovative resort architecture, but also because it illustrates American history as far back as the California gold rush and still retains its pristine high Sierra forested mountain setting.
Besides the outstanding architecture by Bernard Maybeck, there are may other significant resons why Glen Alpine Springs can and does interpret the heritage of the United States.
Nathan Gilmore and his brother Andrews diary, documents their emigration from Ohio, in 1850, to Hangtown California, Site of the gold rush. The diary describes the wagon train trip west, the Indians they met, deaths posted on tress on the trail, and their final arrival in California. Amanda Gray, her brother and five sisters emigrated from Illinois in 1850 to start a new life in California.
These western pioneers panned for gold, opened a general store, then became cattle ranchers. After the 1859 Comstock Silver Lode in Virginia City, NV, Nathan Gilmore explored Lake Tahoe, discovered Fallen Leaf Lake and a spring in a canyon. By 1871 he filed a deed for 10,000 acres extending from Fallen Leaf to Mt Tallac in Devil's Valley Wilderness. Amanda Gray Gilmore names the area (Clan) Glen Apine Springs after Sir Walter Scott's 1810 long poem, "Lady of the Lake." Explored by noted geologists and conservationists, the Glen Alpine Springs area was declared "the finest example of volcanic and glacial activity in the Tahoe area."
Washoe Indians, the Basket Weavers, have lived in the Lake Tahoe Area (California/Nevada) for 10,000 years. Spearheads and arrowheads are still being found at the Spring.
Susie Jackson, matriarch of Washoe tribe, narrated legends of the Washoe Indians and they're documented by Bertha Price in Charles Wharton James "Lake of the Sky" published in 1915.
Susie taught basket weaving and sold her baskets to settlers and guests at Glen Alpine Springs and Fallen Leaf Lake. Susie lived at Glen Alpine Springs. These photos were taken there in 1899.
After the discovery of the spring and filing water rights, Gilmore brought his family to the mountains during the summer as part of his cattle camp. Initially begun as a health resort because of the qualities of the spring water, its popularity grew and he added more cabins and began providing nature hikes into the wilderness for his summer guests. He seeded the local creeks and lakes with trout, brought in Angora Goats, shipping the wool to England, and bottled, sold, and shipped the spring water. While other locations on the Tahoe Lake were known as hostels or hunting lodges, when Polish actress, Helena Modjeska, her husband and son stayed in 1878, that officially established Glen Alpine Springs as the first family resort of the Lake Tahoe area. As many as 120 guests stayed in tent cabins or the small hotels, and were served three meals a day on linen tablecloths with silverware and china for $5 a day.
1894 Postcard of the Spring and Pagoda
1890's Postcard of guests arriving by stagecoach
All of the contemporary resorts or hotels of 19th-century Glen Alpine Springs are gone. They were either torn down, turned into condos, sold into subdivisions, or today, only pictures in a museum. Glen Alpine Springs is the only resort in the California-Nevada Lake Tahoe area where one can step back more than 150 years ago and experience not only the beauty of the high mountains, but where one can see the integrity-intact, standing building designed by a major architect and also learn about early western recreational summer culture.
The first brochure, written and signed by Nathan Gilmore states there is no Poison Oak, no rattlesnakes or Poisonous Reptiles.
Within six miles of the resort are fifty lakes, peaks and mountain streams. There is music and bonfires every night at the spring. but lights were out by 10 p.m.
Gilmore established the trails into Devil's Valley Wilderness. Most of Lake Tahoe was stripped of trees for the Nevada Comstock Mines but trees at Gilmore's resort and the wilderness remained. To prevent Baldwin's (owner of Tallac Hotel) expansion into the wilderness, Gilmore gave up his claim to Devil's Valley and is credited as the initiator of the Lake Tahoe Forest Preserve. He, along with John Muir, the Sierra Club, presidents and faculties of two universities plus California and Nevada governors and legislatures initiated a letter campaign to President McKinley and the wilderness became a Forest Preserve in 1899.
Devil's Valley is now Desolation Valley Wilderness, per acre, the most heavily used wilderness area in the U.S.
Bernard Maybeck was born in New York, 1862, and educated in design and architecture at the Ecole des Beaus-Arts in France. He lived in New York, France, Connecticut, Kansas and California. He had careers as a furniture designer, cabinet salesman, teacher, arhitect and bohemian. He receibed the Gold Medal from the American Institure of Architecture in 1951. Maybeck was married over 60 years and worked into his 95th year until he died in 1857.
There are 3 Maybeck National Historical Landmarks:
There are 6 Maybeck National Register of Historical Places:
Maybeck is one of the ten top U.S. architects
American Institute of Architecture
The above pictures include the following:
*Images provided by Matt Heintz & Laura Howard
Glen Alpine Springs is a perfect example of how transportation changed summer recreation over 250 years. It starts with the Gilmore brothers emigrating to the California gold rush then Nathan Gilmore following a deer path to discover a lake and a spring 10 years later. Within 25 years Gilmore's resort in a mountain canyon saw guests come by train, cross Lake Bigler on a steamboat, then picked up by horse-drawn stagecoach to follow the road that was originally the deer path. Guests slept in tent cabins bought as surplus from the Civil and Spanish-American Wars, ate three meals a day on linen tablecloths with silver and china, and stayed weeks and months at a time. When the Pierce Arrow Stagecoach came to the resort just before World War One, the culture was already changing - guests trips became shorter and more frequent. After the depression and World War Two, resort life changed drastically in the Lake Tahoe area. People had their own cars, preferring weekend trips at the big lake and not in the back woods. The gambling casinos and the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympics made the biggest change: The lake became a year round destination, the off-lake resorts became camp grounds or condos and Glen Alpine Springs closed down. It was another 25 years before hikers rediscovered the backwoods and Glen Alpine Springs again, but it was no longer open to the public.
Glen Alpine Springs natural surrounding has the same pristine beauty it had even before the resort was ever built. Because the building are now located within the El Dorado National Forest and at the trailhead of the Desolation Valley Wilderness, it will never be built up, never sub-divided.
*Images provided by Matt Heintz & Laura Howard
However, the buildings require restoration, care, maintenance, and protection from benign neglect.