Sierra Tract house leveled |

Sierra Tract house leveled

by Timothy Bowman

You can’t close the door when the walls cave in.

South Lake Tahoe’s only four-story home at 1068 Reno Avenue was torn down Thursday by Olcese Construction Company at the request of owner John Oliver.

The reason for the demolition is uncertain. Oliver could not be reached for comment Thursday. The building was vacant for more than a year and was in disrepair.

The structure was built in 1954 by John LaPointe of San Francisco. A number of renovations to the structure took place over the years. By the time the building was torn down it boasted eight bedrooms, four bathrooms, a fire escape and an elevator.

Babe Delulio, a Tahoe resident since the early 1950s, said the structure was an elaborate home in its day. Delulio knew LaPointe personally, and actually helped paint the house after its construction.

“(LaPointe) took stuff from the Palace Hotel in San Francisco (to decorate the home,)” Delulio said. “He used to come up every weekend and build on it. He used to work for some big electrical company in San Francisco. It must have taken him about five years to put it together.”

In 1989 the deed for the home was passed from LaPointe to his son, Alan LaPointe. In the years that followed the home was split into three apartments. It was occupied until January of 2000 when a fire destroyed much of the basement and third floor. When firefighters quelled the blaze they noted a number of code violations in the home including faulty wiring.

Many residents in the Sierra Tract subdivision are happy the abandoned building was demolished. They said it was a hazard in a neighborhood with children.

“It has been an eyesore,” said neighbor Mary Sandwisch, who lives across the street from the demolished home. “The kids have been going in and out even though they weren’t supposed to. I was afraid someone would get in there to get out of the cold and set fire to it again.”

Neighbors said the home may have had a questionable past role in the community.

“Rumor had it that it was a (brothel) back in the 1950s,” Sandwisch said.

Sandwisch’s son, Russell Sandwisch added, “Most of it was all rumors, but I don’t doubt it the way it was built. It looked like it used to be a lot of rooms. Not apartments like it was now.”

Delulio refutes any claim that the LaPointe home was a house of prostitution, insisting it was “all legitimate.”

While many residents are happy to see it go, Delulio says he will miss the old home.

“Hate to see it go,” Delulio said as he watched the demolition crane tear at the home. “It is an old landmark. There are a lot of memories with it.”

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