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Friday, September 24, 2010

Thunderbird Garden

In my experience, a garden consists of dirt into which  plants are planted along with some decorative features and probably a few pieces of furniture, at least a chair or bench from which to relax and enjoy the garden. Many gardens I have known have had a rock or two placed strategically for interest. The garden at Thunderbird Lodge near Incline Village, Nevada has changed my experience.  Thunderbird's garden is completely stone with a few plants strategically placed.




Boulders are the "bones" of the garden rather than trees as is usually the case.  Stones have been laid for structure and transportation while a few trees and shrubs have been allowed to grow in the small spaces between boulders.   





The non profit organization responsible for preservation of Thunderbird Lodge has planted a small lawn on the lake side of the lodge.  Our wonderful guide, Tim explained that the lawn is important to events held at the lodge such as weddings.  These events are important for financial support of the ongoing expense of keeping the lodge maintained.
To learn more about the work of the Thunderbird Lodge Preservation Society and learn more about the lodge, click on this link:  THUNDERBIRD LODGE

George Whittell  had Thunderbird Lodge built in the 1930's by architect Frederic DeLongchamps. Whittell was a bit paraonoid and used architectural features such as this stone pagoda to hide listening devices so that he could hear his guests' private conversations. He also had small one way mirrors placed so that he could see his guests without them seeing him.

If guests knew of this lack of privacy, it didn't seem to stop them from enjoying Whittell's hospitality.  From across the lake at the Cal Neva Hotel the rich and famous could check out the lights at Thunderbird Lodge to see if a party was happening.  If the appropriately colored light was lit, they would speed across the lake to be part of the party.  


George Whittell was famous for his parties. While the lack of guest rooms meant that revelers returned across the lake to sleep, while they were there, they thoroughly enjoyed Whittell's hospitality during their stay, frolicking in the now dry waterfalls (above) that ran into the estate's lagoon . . .

or walking along the dragon path, curving around the lake side of the lodge like a dragon's tail. . .
or having one of many drinks while sitting in the stone gazebo, enjoy the view of the lake.
For guests hardy enough for the many steep steps, walkways around the lodge provided interest . . .


winding around the lodge, in front of the lake or against the boulder strewn hill.

Flagstone paths lead to several patio areas where servants were always ready to ready to offer food or drink if needed. The few plants surrounding the lodge were meticulously kept providing little flashes of color in the stone beds.

The stone garden of Thunderbird Lodge were a perfect accent to the larger-than-life setting of the surrounding Seirra Nevada Mountains encircling Lake Tahoe and rising high above the lodge. Dark green pines and firs needed nothing to increase their beauty but the paths, patios and gazebos of the Lodge were a perfect place to enjoy the natural beauty all about the estate.

After a full day and evening of drinking, swimming and general playing it must have been nice to sit back and enjoy the lake with sparkling diamonds shimmering across its blue surface as the sun gently sank below the distant mountains.


Many thanks to Tim and the Thunderbird Lodge Preservation Society for making our tour possible. We couldn't have had a better guide.

3 comments:

mary said...

Nelle, I really liked this. All that stone. Doesn't it make you want some? Did you bring back a Tahoe stone for your garden? or for me?

omatahoe said...

Thanks, Nellie for the informative blog about our wonderful Thunderbird gardens. I'm one of the garden volunteers and it's rewarding to hear kind words as yours. The gardens are a challenge but we prevail and at the same time learn from the Thunderbird experience about what grows and won't for our own High Altitude, short season gardens. Our fearless leader, Diane, with her sidekick M.J. are a gold mine of horticultural information and energy.
I feel privileged to be a volunteer at the Lodge.
Cornelia K.

Beyond The Garden said...

Cornelia, Thanks for visiting my blog. We did have a great time walking around and over all that stone. The tunnels were so interesting, but I was partial to the gardens. I wrote all about the lake in a few of my other blog entries during the 2 weeks we visited our kids at Incline. The tahoe blogs will be mostly around Sept 20. I think I caught a picture of the lodge from the lake aboard the Hyatt's catamarand. www.waverlytotahoe.com
Nellie

December 3, 2010 11:23 AM