Blast from the past at Pine Lodge: Living History Day to transport visitors back to 1930s
The California State Parks will turn the calendar back Saturday, teaching a living historical lesson at Pine Lodge in Sugar Pine Point State Park in Tahoma.
No textbook or homework is required.
Instead, Pine Lodge — also known as the Ehrman mansion for the estate’s first residents — will serve as the setting for actors portraying the mansion’s summer residents during the 1930s.
“It’s a bunch of grown-ups playing dress up,” said Victoria Workman, who with Rosie Smith is co-coordinating the park’s Living History Day.
The state park invites the public to tour the elegant summer home during an open house from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 28, and get a glimpse of the past.
Dressed in flowing gowns, knickers and caps, volunteers from surrounding communities will act out the roles of the family, servants and guests. They will stage scenes in the Victorian mansion’s parlor, dining room and kitchen, and discuss the issues of the period, from the Great Depression to the day’s cooking.
“Tahoe’s very much different from what it was at the turn of the last century, when the house was built,” said Lew Allison, a Living History Day volunteer. “I think it helps to have a way to look back at the way it was, the elegance, the formal dress, the beautiful cars and boats. It was a wonderful way of life – it still is, but it was just different.”
Last year, the event attracted 2,000 visitors, making it one of the park’s largest summer events, Workman said. This year, Sugar Pine Point’s 11th Living History Day, Workman expects twice as many to attend. And she doesn’t expect just tourists. Many locals, some who’ve never visited the Ehrman mansion, will drop by, Workman said.
“People can come here and enjoy the expanse of beaches, the quiet and the beauty,” Workman said.
Isaias W. Hellman, the Wells Fargo President, built the Victorian summer-residence in 1903, which he named Pine Lodge. But, when his daughter, Florence, married Sidney Ehrman in 1904, the estate became known as the Ehrman mansion.
The San Francisco residents used Pine Lodge as a summer retreat for 62 years, then sold the grounds to the state of California in 1965, which created the popular Sugar Pine Point State Park.
Ranger Heidi Doyle of the California State Parks said the state’s original intention for the property was to tear down the estate and build a campground. But a lack of funding saved the landmark.
In the 1970s, the Sierra State Park Foundation restored the mansion, and since then, the state parks have taken great care to maintain the building’s original look and feel.
The three-story mansion sits on a grassy hill overlooking Tahoe’s blue waters. The dark stained-pine ceilings are accentuated with rose-red walls, chandeliers and contrasting oriental rugs. The lavish dining room and parlor are restored with replica wood furniture, but take note of the three original items: the piano chair, wine bottles and the dining room drapes, which were recovered from the cleaners.
Living History Day embraces the state park mission of preserving cultural history and providing a recreational opportunity for the public, Doyle said.
“Now (Pine Lodge) is open to the public, and it’s very important to share it,” said Workman. “That’s the goal of the parks and the (Ehrman) family.”
In addition to Pine Lodge, Living History Day will feature renowned wooden and aluminum boats, a kid zone and vintage cars. The day is free to the public.