SSPF Beginnings: Resistance, Determination, & Partnership

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The beginning of the Hellman-Ehrman Estate, also known as Pine Lodge, was a simple one.

In 1897, San Francisco businessman Isaias W. Hellman acquired nearly 2,000 acres at Sugar Pine Point on the west shore of Lake Tahoe and completed his stately summer home, Pine Lodge, in 1903. The estate was a summer family retreat for three generations as an escape from the busy city life of San Francisco. Summer days consisted of horseback riding, fishing, boating, lawn games and good food. In 1965, the property was sold to the state of California to be used as a California State Park.

The original intent of the State was to tear down the “outdated” buildings create a lakeside campground.  However, a group of locals believed that the buildings were too beautiful to tear down and worked with the State for their preservation. Although the process was already underway (the estate was stripped of its furniture), the group persisted in applying pressure to all levels until the process halted and the mansion was saved! The group continued, selling firewood and hosting art shows to raise money to furnish The Mansion and support historic house tours. This amazing force of nature later became known as the Sierra State Parks Foundation.

In 1974, the Sierra State Parks Foundation became an incorporated Cooperating Association supporting California State Parks from Bodie to the south and Donner Memorial to the north…and six other park units in between located at Lake Tahoe. The rest is history!

So many incredible accomplishments came after that and continue to this day! Some momentous events include:

  • SSPF funding over $2 million dollars of park improvements since 1974
  • SSPF supporting education and interpretive programming to over 5 million park visitors since 1974!
  • Annual events such as the Donner Gala and Tahoe Gal Liar’s Cruise increased SSPF fundraising revenues and visibility in the community!
  • Money raised was used to complete restoration projects to keep Vikingsholm and the Hellman-Ehrman Estate open and running!

And there is so much more to be done! Check out our current projects here.