Whether it’s tales of Italian actor Rudolph Valentino screening his latest film or the lengths turn-of-the-century San Francisco bankers went to highlight their wealth, the Pope Estate offers a taste of Lake Tahoe’s colorful history.
The nearly 130-year-old Main Pope House recently opened to tours for the summer. The estate is owned by the U.S. Forest Service and is part of the larger Tallac Historic Site near Camp Richardson. A half-dozen people took the early afternoon tour of the Pope House on Thursday.
“There’s so many stories in this place, it’s just amazing,” volunteer Jim Weber said during the tour.
A remarkable wooden ceiling without a single knot and a bookshelf carved from a single piece of wood were among the points of interest highlighted on Thursday’s tour. The house represents the first private estate construction on lakefront property in the area and has numerous notable architectural elements, according to documents filed with the National Register of Historic Places
“The architectural significance of the Main House lies in its remarkable design qualities, particularly interior; importance as an architectural example of its era, status as a key building in a recognizably unique environment, and importance as a cultural representative of an era of great wealth and personalities that contributed to the growth and development of the state,” according to the documents.
The Pope House tour takes about an hour and is one of several tours offered at the site.
Some tours include interpreters playing characters to provide a unique perspective on the history of the site. Tami Africa, an historic interpreter for the Forest Service, said the servants’ tours, highlighting the less-opulent side of the estate’s history are her favorite. Between 30 and 35 servants were employed by the various owners of the estate when it was occupied during the summer months, according to information from the tour.
The Tallac Historic Site has been restored and preserved with the help of The Tahoe Heritage Foundation, which formed in 1996 order to protect the resources of the by-gone area, which had fallen into disrepair in the not-so-distant past.