Vikingsholm ~ A Hidden Gem Full of History Located in a State Park
Vikingsholm is a 38-room mansion on the shore of Emerald Bay at Lake Tahoe, and on the National Register of Historic Places. Even though Mrs. Knight is best known for building Vikingsholm, a more historical fact is that she and her husband were the primary backers of Charles Lindbergh‘s non-stop solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927.
Vikingsholm is one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture in the western hemisphere. Mrs. Lora Josephine Knight purchased the property encompassing the head of Emerald Bay and Fannette Island in 1928 for $250,000. Before starting construction of the summer home late that year, Mrs. Knight and her architect traveled to Scandinavia to gather ideas for the construction of the house. Two hundred workers were brought to Emerald Bay and started hand hewing the timbers, carving the intricate designs, hand planing the wood for the interior walls, and forging the hinges and latches.
Vikingsholm was completed in the fall of 1929 and occupied by Mrs. Knight and her staff of 15 beginning in June of 1930. Mrs. Knight enjoyed 15 summers at Vikingsholm. She always had a home full of guests to share this magnificent summer home with her. Mrs. Knight passed away at the age of 82 in 1945. After her death, the home 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, as well as the Vikingsholm itself outright, if the State would pay him the other half. This arrangement was agreed upon, and in 1953 the house and property were acquired by the State. Vikingsholm is considered to be one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture existing 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 in the summer months and the grounds and magnificent scenery may be enjoyed all year around by those wishing to visit this beautiful setting.
Tours of Vikingsholm Castle are available seven days a week from Memorial Day weekend until the end of September. The first tour of the day starts at 10:30 A.M. and the last tour at 4:00 P.M. All tours are guided tours and take approximately one-half hour. The maximum number of people on a tour is 30. Bus service to the parking lot is available from both North Shore and South Shore. A one-mile steep, but well defined, trail leads from the parking lot to Vikingsholm. Many scenic views can be enjoyed during this walk. There are various resting places along the trail. It is to be stressed, though, this is a steep trail at an elevation of over 6,300 feet. There is no public boat service to Vikingsholm, but Vikingsholm can be reached by private boat. A dock is provided for loading and unloading only. Beaching a boat is allowed in the bay from dawn to dusk. Tour boats are available from South Shore and North Shore. These boats allow passengers to view Vikingsholm from the water, but they do not dock in Emerald Bay. Limited handicapped access is available. Please call 530-583-9911 to make access arrangements.