An Elephant Once Lived At This Mysterious Lake Tahoe Mansion

June 26, 2020
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Have you ever noticed the mysterious house on the undeveloped east side of Lake Tahoe? It has a crazy past involving a reclusive millionaire and his exotic pets. 

According to Atlas Obscura, the undeveloped Nevada side of Lake Tahoe is all thanks to millionaire George Whittell Jr. (a.k.a. "the Captain"), an accidental conservationist who bought 40,000 acres of land to house his pet Sumatran elephant named Mingo and his lion named Bill, among other exotic pets. 

The Captain bought the land in 1936 with the intention of building a high-end resort and casino. However, he learned he absolutely loved having zero neighbors and chose to keep the land all for himself and his pets. Instead, he built a Tudor Revival-style stone mansion on the lake, along with a card house, caretaker's cottage, butler's house, a boathouse, and an elephant barn for Mingo. 

Legend has it the Captain would take his pet lion, Bill, everywhere with him, too. He'd even bring Bill for rides around the lake in his convertible. Could you IMAGINE driving alongside a convertible with a lion in the passenger seat? That's something straight out of the Hangover. Lol. I mean, it's 2020 so I wouldn't exactly rule something like that out today. 

The Captain became a conservationist unknowingly when he passed away in 1969, and most of his land was purchased by the State of Nevada and the U.S. Forest Service. Today, that land is the Lake Tahoe-Nevada State Park. The only privately owned piece is Thunderbird Lodge, which is owned by the nonprofit Thunderbird Lodge Preservation Society which turned the property into a museum and wedding & event venue. 

Interested in tours and experiences at this eccentric historic site? Check out Thunderbird Lake Tahoe's website here

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