Bringing Tahoe’s history to life |

Bringing Tahoe’s history to life

Jo Rafferty
Jack Carrerow/Tribune News Service A view of the Dinner at the Springs event through the windows of the dining hall at Glen Alpine Springs.

If you’ve ever been to Maui and traveled the road to Hana, the road to Glen Alpine Springs resort should be a cinch.

You will just have to trade the lushness of the palm trees and tropical beauty for a drive along Fallen Leaf Lake, no less gorgeous with its forest canopy, sparkling Modjeska Waterfall and in the end, a hidden treasure – a resort rich in history, first constructed in the late 1800s.

For those interested in exploring 19th and early 20th century architecture, it is definitely a worthwhile day’s outing. But, unless you own a 4-wheel drive and feel capable of driving on a road that is largely narrow, unpaved and in places resembles a dry creek bed, you might want to wear your hiking boots for the final leg of this uphill trek.

The last two miles begin when you park at Lily Lake parking lot, just beyond the western tip of Fallen Leaf Lake, about 51Ú2 miles west of Highway 89 in between Camp Richardson and Emerald Bay on the South Shore.

On July 17, when the group Friends of Glen Alpine Springs were throwing the annual Dinner at the Springs, those who were attending who were fortunate enough, got picked up by a polite young man as they made this final leg of their journey.

“Would you like a ride? I have room for a few more people,” John White would say, as he pulled up alongside a group of hikers, a few wearing only sandals on their feet. Some would gladly hop in, while others, including a pregnant woman, opted to enjoy the scenery and continue their walk.

The passengers quickly became acquainted as the Toyota Sequoia leaned one way and then another, in a climb that could have easily been used in a commercial for Toyota.

“I just got my license,” said John, who could not have picked a more suitable moment to divulge that he is 16 years old and driving his parents’ car. “Don’t worry though. This is where I learned to drive.”

White explained that his family is one of the longtime cabin owners who make Lily and Fallen Leaf lakes their home during the summer months. In fact, John and his parents, Chuck White and Kathy Schideler-White, are just a few of the many volunteers who are working to preserve and eventually get Glen Alpine Springs on the national registry of historic places.

Sixty-eight people attended the Dinner at the Springs, and 100 were at the preceding wine and cheese Standabout, with all proceeds going toward the preservation of Glen Alpine Springs.

Today there are nine structures still standing and 15 ruins at the site. Existing buildings include a dining hall, kitchen and an assembly hall, all built in 1921-22 by Bernard Maybeck. Maybeck, who designed these and other buildings at the site, is considered to be one of the top 10 architects of the U.S., according to information provided by the American Institute of Architects.

Kathy Schideler-White and her team of seamstresses researched and designed costumes for Glen Alpine volunteers, who portrayed authentic characters who owned and visited the resort from its discovery in 1863 to modern day times at the Dinner at the Springs.

Following a gourmet dinner, fire baked in the original iron woodstove by chefs Michael Cohen, Gerry Goers and Ishai Cohen, seven women presented stories, facts and rumors about the characters they were playing: Erin Hopkins portrayed Amanda Gray Gilmore, wife of Nathan; Melissa Mowat was Helena Modjeska; Sandra Stauffer was Jennie Gray; Dea Bacchetti was Hadassah Kinney, a visitor to the resort in 1905; Jane Edginton played Delphine Galt; Patty Working was Mary Garcia-Crane and Shideler-White played a modern-day woman. These same women took part in a fashion show prior to the dinner. Dinner was served in the dining hall, a long room lined with glazed windows and stone walls.

Many residents of Fallen Leaf Lake, both full- and part-time, were in attendance, and some of them are also on the HPOGAP board of directors.

Phoebe Gilpin of San Francisco, whose parents came to Glen Alpine Springs on their honeymoon in 1915, said four generations of her family now have owned property and vacationed at Fallen Leaf Lake.

“I was born in ’24. That’s when I first came up here,” Gilpin said. Gilpin described her stay at the resort as “very elegant.

“The people here were wonderful,” she said.

Jim Thompson of Glen Ellen, who has known the owner, Fritschi, since 1978, has been involved in the preservation of Glen Alpine Springs for six years. He is currently in charge of marketing, public relations, education and displays. This year he designed a book of paper dolls, depicting the costumes worn by the women of Glen Alpine Springs. He has plans to do paper dolls of the men, along with an activity book for future educational purposes.

On Aug. 21 the 4th Annual All You Can Eat Family Barbecue will take place from 2-7 p.m. The event includes music, dancing, horseshoes, tours, food and drinks. The cost is $15 for adults and children over 8 years old. Children 7 and younger are free. All proceeds benefit Glen Alpine Springs Resort. For information, call (707) 996-6354 or e-mail GASprings

Thompson says immediate plans right now are to get the resort on the national registry of historic places so that they can apply for grants, but he admits this is not an easy task.

“To make this a national landmark we have to prove it is nationally significant through diaries and personal histories. This can be a long process,” he said.

“It will always have a difficult road … but there are ways of handling that.”

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