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Historic exhibit celebrates women of Tahoe

Kate MacLean, intern, U.S. Forest Service Exhibits
Peggy Church of Placerville holds a washboard while standing near a display of corsets and nightgowns of the "Women of Tahoe."
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The Wild West is taking a new shape at the Tallac Historic Site, where the roles of women at early Lake Tahoe will be celebrated in a space devoted to pioneers and society women alike.

A permanent exhibit, “Women of Tahoe,” showcasing photographs, clothing and jewelry of the period as well as narratives of local women, both famous and infamous, is new to the Tallac Historic Site’s Baldwin Museum this summer. Since completing the restoration of the Dextra Baldwin Guest Cabin on the Baldwin estate, the space has been swiftly developed to serve as an interpretive and educational center.

While research on the large summer residences at Tallac has often focused on Elias J. Baldwin, also known as “Lucky,” George Tallant, Lloyd Tevis, Walter Heller and George Pope, the permanent exhibit will showcase the lives of the “wives,” Melita Tallant, Susan Sanders Tevis, Claire Heller and Edith Pope and Baldwin’s daughter, Anita. While the museum seeks funding for this permanent exhibit, the current exhibit tells the stories of other local women.



The cabin is very busy, as the exhibits are continually updated. Genevieve Goldberg, a local volunteer supervising the cabin’s exhibits and activities, is in charge of seeing that reproduction items sold in the cabin’s entrance hall have interpretive meaning and fit into the historical era for which the cabin has been decorated. Museum volunteers Carol Bordeaux, Charlene Schwartz and Marilyn Long have helped get the cabin in shape by sewing, pressing and decorating curtains.

The cabin’s current exhibits are a collaborative effort by several local museums. On display in the Lake Tahoe Historical Society exhibit is a black and white, life-sized cutout of Emma Lawrence, the Tallac Hotel manager’s wife, proudly handling a freshly caught, three-foot long Lake Trout. Across from Emma, a clothesline tied from wall to wall displays ivory-toned corsets and white nightgowns of the period. Photographs of two Lake Tahoe women, Amelia Celio and Bertha Price, also stand in the room. Price is shown weaving baskets with a Washoe woman, riding in a Sno-cat and posing in a formal portrait with her two daughters. Price’s book of Washoe stories, “Legends of Tahoe,” is displayed and remains in print today.



In one of the two northern rooms overlooking the lake, the El Dorado County Museum has loaned materials for an exhibit on Sierra Nevada Phillips Clark Bryson, the daughter of a local pioneer and farmer, named for the mountains in which she lived. Betty Yohalem’s book, “I Remember: Stories and Pictures of El Dorado County Pioneers’ Families,” is mounted on a stand. It is open to the page describing the life of Sierra Nevada, also known as “Vade.” She ran resorts in the area and was postmistress in several places before inheriting Phillips Station, a way station on Highway 50. A portrait of her on the near wall shows an intent, square-chinned woman with dark eyes.

The second lakeside room will soon house two exhibits. Ethel Vernon, a local early 20th century woman, is the focus of the first exhibit. Her mannequin is clad in a leather skirt and vest that are a replica of an outfit worn by Vernon in a black and white photograph. The outfit was designed and sewn by Carol Bordeaux. Rod Johnson, a first-time volunteer this past month, created a wall-sized painting of Vernon’s faithful dog.

Awaiting installment is an exhibit from the local Maritime Museum, focusing on the avant-garde women of Tahoe who raced runabouts.

The Baldwin Museum, the Dextra Baldwin Cabin and the Tallac Historic Site are open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week. For more information about programs, events and exhibits, or if interested in volunteering call the Baldwin Museum at (530) 541-5227.


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