“tahoe's hidden castle”
Emerald Bay provided the setting for one of the first summer homes at Lake Tahoe. Ben Holiday, stagecoach magnate and early-day transportation king, constructed a home there in the late 1860s. His land was eventually sold to Paul Kirby in 1880. The Kirbys built a number of cabins, intended for resort use, on the parcel of land where Vikingsholm now stands. The William Henry Armstrong family acquired the property in 1892 and they used the cabins as their summer residence for over 32 years. In 1928, Mrs. Lora Josephine Knight bought the Armstrong’s land with the desire to build a summer home that would compliment the magnificent natural surroundings. Emerald Bay reminded her of fjords she had seen on numerous travels to Scandinavia. She commissioned her nephew by marriage, Lennart Palme, a Swedish architect, to design the home. Vikingsholm was completed in the fall of 1929. The exceptional summer home was enjoyed by Mrs. Knight and her guests, for 15 gratifying summers, until Mrs. Knight’s death at the age of 82 in 1945.
The estate was sold to Lawrence Holland, a rancher from Nevada. He subsequently sold it to Harvey West, a lumberman from Placerville, California. In the early 1950s, Mr. West, a noted philanthropist, negotiated with the State of California and said he would donate one-half of the appraised value of the land and the Vikingsholm outright, if the State would pay him the other half of the land value. These terms were agreed upon, and in 1953 the house and property were acquired the the state.
Vikingsholm is considered one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture in the United States. It is now a part of the Harvey West Unit of the Emerald Bay State Park. The house is open for tours during the summer months and the magnificent scenery may be enjoyed all year around by those wishing to visit this beautiful setting.
Vikingsholm is located at the head of Emerald Bay, one of the most photographed spots in the United States. This magnificent structure, now a national and California landmark, is considered one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture outside of the Nordic countries. The property on which Vikingsholm is built includes 232 acres of Tahoe’s most beautiful vistas, the only island in Lake Tahoe, and the only waterfall that flows directly into the lake. It is a great destination for a day of sightseeing, hiking, boating, and swimming.
Vikingsholm can be reached by walking a one-mile trail from the parking lot on Highway 89, or by boat. The home is open daily for tours in the summer months from June to September. These tours are conducted by guides employed by the Sierra State Parks Foundation. A visitor's center adjacent to the main building is available for further information and the sale of tour tickets and other items.
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