Dollar Point History

Dollar Point History

A Brief History of Dollar Point

Dollar Point residents know that we live on one of the choicest residential sites at Lake Tahoe, but would we have been as anxious to follow a realtor around a tract called “Old Lousy?”

Our area was originally part of Chinquapin, a name given by the Washoe Indians describing a scrub tree with edible nuts that grew plentifully in the region. However, in 1872 a bedraggled, land squatting cordwood cutter named Griffin helped himself to a patch of land on the promontory, where he built a shack. It was his custom to wander into Tahoe City and drink at J. B. Campbell’s over water Custom House, where he liked to sit by the stove and warm himself while picking crawling vermin off his person. This practice revolted the hard drinking mountain men of that time, who encouraged “Old Lousy” to return to his shack and stay there. Other possible origins of the name are attributed to Robert Watson, who said the waters surrounding the point were “lousy with trout”, and Captain J. A. Todman, who had difficulty navigating his boat around “the lousy point.”

A more flattering name was coined when James Lick, the San Francisco philanthropist, offered to give $1,000,000 for the construction of an observatory on the site. He liked the clear atmosphere and the relatively light snowfall during the winter. He was supported by Duane Bliss and Henry Yerington of Glenbrook, who owned a half section of land at Old Lousy and offered to donate 140 acres to Lick if his plan materialized.

The San Francisco Bulletin enthusiastically backed the observatory project, saying that “Old Lousy” had a fine harbor and 40,000 gallons of pure spring water available every 24 hours from the creeks now known as Watson and Burton. However, Nevada, as usual, had other ideas. The Virginia City Chronicle claimed that Mount Davidson, then known as “Sun Mountain” or “Peak” would be a better astronomical choice. They contended that their location—-“lacked the humidity which we are positive exists at Tahoe, and besides, hadn’t the point been named Lousy in the first place?”

The observatory claim was tossed back and forth, with dark horse factions supporting locations at Donner Summit and Carson. In the end, the observatory was built on—“a miserable goat hill in the Pacific Range”, Mount Hamilton overlooking Santa Clara Valley. Residents of Tahoe, Truckee, Carson and Virginia City retreated to their corners and spoke no more about the project, but the name Observatory Point thankfully replaced “Old Lousy.”

In 1884 the Glenbrook Mills reached across to Observatory Point and timbered 337 acres. Hunting and fishing continued to be excellent, despite the commercial activity in the area. The D. L. Bliss interests took over the title to the point in 1898 when they formed their Lake Tahoe Railway and Transportation Company. In 1916 Mrs. Laura Moore Knight of St. Louis bought the acreage from Bliss’s heirs and built a cluster of chalets around a main structure that she named “Wynchwood”. In 1927 Mrs. Knight sold the property to Stanley Dollar Sr., the San Francisco shipping magnate, and she purchased the sweep of land and the island at the southwest end of Emerald Bay. Here she built the famous “Vikingsholm Castle”, completed in 1929, for which she is remembered today. Dollar added another tract of land which encompasses today’s Chinquapin development adjacent to the point, together considered to be one of the best residential areas on Lake Tahoe.