Donor underwrites endowment to maintain Tahoe "castle"
INCLINE VILLAGE ” An anonymous donor has emerged to underwrite a majority of a $5 million endowment fund to preserve the historic Thunderbird Lodge at Lake Tahoe, the curator at the estate said.
The Thunderbird Lodge Preservation Society was charged with raising the funds by June 20 in order for Michigan-based Pulte Homes to forgive a $10 million lien placed on the property.
Bill Watson, manager and curator of the estate, said the endowment should pay out
$200,000 to $300,000 a year in interest for upkeep of the 72-year-old property formerly owned by real estate magnate George Whittell.
The lodge was Whittell’s summer estate until he died in 1969 at age 87.
The “Castle” ” as it also was known ” had never been open to the public until 2002, when a land deal transferred ownership to the nonprofit group.
The society has been trying to raise $5 million since March, when Pulte Homes agreed to permanently forgive a nearly $10 million note and convey its interest in the property to the nonprofit society on the condition that the deadline is met.
“I am cautiously optimistic the preservation society will meet the deadline thanks to the generosity of a significant donor underwriting the majority of the endowment,” Watson told the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza.
“Other preservation society donors must still chip in millions, and we are presently tallying up the pledges and payments,” he said. “Pulte Homes is cooperating to ensure we bring this campaign to a timely and successful close.”
How much the donor will need to underwrite still is up in the air, Watson said, as many donations were given in stock, and the changing nature of the market makes a firm assessment of a stock’s value difficult.
Tony Addario, a part-time Incline resident and Thunderbird donor, said getting the deed to the property is the first step in making upgrades to the estate.
“One of the things we can start to take care of once we have the deed is upkeep, such as completing the fire-suppression system at the lodge, restoring the pools and ponds, a lot of deferred maintenance,” Addario said.
Without the lien, it will be easier for the lodge to embark on a capital funds drive, Addario said, since the lodge will have clear title to the property.
“Setting up the endowment is really just the first step,” Addario said.
He said he felt compelled to donate to the lodge after he and his wife moved to Incline a few years ago and toured the property.
“We fell in love with the surroundings and the story,” Addario said. “The story of the Whittells and a lot of people like them at that point in time was fascinating.”
Located five miles south of Incline Village, the lodge has been hailed as one of Lake Tahoe’s top tourist attractions.
From its perch on a forested, rocky promontory, it offers a panoramic view of the lake famous for its clear blue waters and is a link to a bygone era when prominent San Francisco Bay area families spent summers at opulent Tahoe estates.
On the Net:
Thunderbird Lodge Preservation Society: http://www.thunderbirdlodge.org