Lake Tahoe is cupped below the summits of the Sierra Nevada rising up to 4,000 feet above the lake’s surface to the west, and the craggy summits of the Carson Range soar even higher to the east. Two hundred square miles of surface area, nearly forty cubic miles of water, 72 miles around — an enormous gleaming jewel in a pine-blanketed granite setting.
Tahoe’s first resort was built in 1863, at Glenbrook, to provide the leisured aristocracy of the booming Comstock with a vacation spot conveniently located at the head of the new turnpike to Carson City. It was a spa which could compare with the celebrated Saratoga in New York for elegance, gaiety, and the beauty of its surroundings. The elegant Grand Central Hotel was erected across the lake at Tahoe City in 1871, with walnut furniture, Brussels carpets, and an ornate cast iron kitchen range that cost $800. After that, Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin built his famous Tallac House farther down the beach. By the turn of the century, Tahoe was well-established as a toney setting for pleasure.
At Stateline that tradition is being maintained by the cluster of casino resorts that began to appear along US 50 — the same Johnson Cut-off Trail that the Pony Express and the Overland Stage had used. In 1956 Harvey Gross tore down the little cafe-cum-slot machines he had been operating at the state line on the South Shore and erected a gambling hall and hotel. The next year, Bill Harrah built a big casino across the street, with its gambling rooms in Nevada and its parking lot in California.
With the 1960 Winter Olympics at nearby Squaw Valley, Tahoe’s commercial exploitation accelerated rapidly and the California side of the border became a clutter of motels, gift stores, cafes, and other small retail enterprises. Some of that clutter was swept away when a number of aging motels were taken by right of eminent domain, paid for, demolished, scraped off the face of the earth and replaced by the modern new hotel you see next door to Harrah’s, and the base station for the mountainside gondolas that ascend to Heavenly Valley the year around.
The 18-hole Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course is a beautiful par 74 championship course open May through November. A little farther on the Kingsbury Grade (Nevada 207), intersects on the east, leading over the summit to the breathtaking descent into the Carson Valley.
A visit to Stateline can be anything you want it to be. You can ski, hike, fish, swim or sunbathe, depending on the season. You can spend a ton of money for a penthouse suite at Harrah’s or you can roll up in a sleeping bag and gaze at the stars for nothing. You can snack on goose liver pate or dine out on a Big Mac and fries, sip champagne or gulp a slurpee. You can rent anything to get around on from a helicopter to roller skates, including boats of every description — fast ones to pull you around on waterskis or slow ones for trolling. At night you can dance to a jazz band aboard the paddlewheeler cruise boat in the moonlight, or draw a “full boat” at the poker table at one of the gambling houses.