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Sugar Pine Point getting a face-lift

Susan Wood, Tahoe Daily Tribune

The Ehrman Mansion, a historic Tahoe West Shore landmark built in 1903 in what now is Sugar Pine Point State Park, is undergoing a $2.2 million restoration of its grounds.

California State Parks and Recreation is funding — as part of an environmental enhancement program — a new walking path to add to its trail system, picnic sites, two bathrooms, revegetation, an irrigation system and a parking lot to accommodate 150 cars.

The parks service found it needed to create new spaces “because people would just pull into the forest,” thus jeopardizing the environment, Parks Superintendent John Knott said on a tour of the grounds this week.



The department has also removed 27 stumps and replaced them with sugar pine and cedar trees to match the exterior of the mansion. The entrance station will also receive a face-lift.

“We’re not changing (the essence) of the entrance from the highway because we want the park to keep its historic mansion feel,” Knott said.



As the mansion grounds are being worked on, people have still accessed the grounds to the popular site located nine miles south of Tahoe City.

“We’ve tried really hard to let the public access the area,” he said. Limited tours are offered. The job on the grounds is expected to be completed in August 2003.

Other work has been completed, or soon will be.

“It’s a constant process to maintain historic buildings,” Knott said.

The mansion has sported a new $98,000 roof since last summer, thanks to the funding of a private donor. Inside, an Oakland artist, Lee Jester, is building craftsman furniture to be modeled after the turn-of-the-century decorator pieces once adorning the house designed by Walter Danford Bliss. The job is expected to take months.

When the furniture decorates the mansion, the public will have access next year to the living room where reading material from the early part of the century will be on hand.

“They could treat it like their front room,” Knott said.

Even one of the historic boats is undergoing a restoration. The two-seater “Mercury,” a blinding-bright aluminum 34-foot boat, was considered one of the fastest boats on Lake Tahoe in the 1920s. It travels 50 mph, but the parks service has no intention of pushing the boat to that speed, Knott said.

In 1965, the mansion and grounds were taken over by the parks service. Today, it is maintained as a museum and opulent example of summers at Lake Tahoe.

Florence Hellman Ehrman inherited the Hellman-Ehrman estate from her father, San Francisco businessman I.W. Hellman. Family and friends spent the summers at the vacation home, considered one of the finest in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

But the home is only a piece of the pie at the 2,000-acre state park, Knott pointed out.

“This park has it all. It’s got the outstanding features of what we’re trying to do in our state parks,” Knott said, adding spotted owl nesting sites have also been located in the park.

Knott listed the parks department’s three missions carried out at Sugar Pine Point — preserving history, protecting natural resources and offering access to recreation.


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