By Mark McLaughlin ·
Lora Josephine Moore’s legacy is enshrined in the magnificent Scandinavian castle Vikingsholm that she had built at Emerald Bay in 1929, but her first property at Tahoe was located at Chinquapin, a sheltered cove just east of Dollar Point in Carnelian Bay.
It was 100 years ago, in 1914, that Mrs. Josephine Moore (eight years before her marriage to Harry Knight) purchased the land at Chinquapin from descendants of Lake Tahoe timber baron Duane L. Bliss. It was there that Mrs. Moore built a charming lakefront estate that she fondly called Wychwood.
During their long, happy marriage, Lora and her husband, James Moore, a wealthy lawyer and entrepreneur, travelled extensively, visiting California, as well as foreign countries. Otherwise, they spent their time at their luxury home in Evanston, Ill., or their summer chateau, Loramoor, at Lake Geneva, Wis. This opulent summer home was a three-story, Elizabethan-Gothic mansion with 27 rooms, a wine cellar and a two-lane bowling alley. The horse stable was big enough to house 60 thoroughbred equines.
Life was good for the Moore’s, but after Lora’s 1914 purchase of the Tahoe property, her husband’s health began to fail. In early 1916, they purchased another home in Montecito, a suburb of Santa Barbara. They may have been hoping that the mild Mediterranean climate might improve his condition, but James Hobart Moore died on July 20, 1916, leaving an estate worth $15 million to his loving wife.
In 1922, Lora Moore married Harry French Knight, a stockbroker from St. Louis. Unfortunately, they were not happy together and divorced after a couple of years. For many years, Lora enjoyed her summers at Wychwood, hosting friends and family members with generous hospitality. Mrs. Moore had at least two powerboats, the nearly 50-foot-long cruiser “Chipmunk” and a small tender named “WychCraft,” but there is little history written about them. Tahoe maritime expert and author Carol Van Etten has stated: “A boat thought to be hers [Lora Moore Knight) was Chipmunk, a toothpick-beamed launch with an enclosed cabin.” Photographs of the two vessels indicate they were classic, well-appointed beauties.
Although their marriage was short-lived, Lora and Harry Knight were among the small group of St. Louis, Mo., businessmen who were the principal financial backers of Charles Lindbergh’s famed 1927 flight across the Atlantic from New York to Paris.
The Knight’s had previously met the young airmail pilot when they asked him to help site a home they were building. Lindbergh took the couple up in a plane and they surveyed the expansive landscape from the air. He then dropped sandbags to mark the best location for their new home.
Lindbergh met the Knight’s again at a St. Louis airfield where Harry Knight was taking flying lessons. Mr. Knight was the president of the St. Louis Flying Club and an aspiring aviator himself. Lindbergh approached them about helping fund his attempt to be the first to fly nonstop across the Atlantic Ocean and they agreed to be major supporters. In later years, Charles Lindbergh frequently visited his friend and benefactor Lora Knight at her Santa Barbara estate, Cima del Mundo (Crest of the World), and probably her beautiful Vikingsholm castle, as well.
Lora Moore Knight had a life-long reputation for her generous hospitality, philanthropy and numerous financials contributions to youth groups in California and Nevada. Mrs. Knight loved Wychwood, but in 1928 she sold her beloved lakeside Shangri la to Robert Stanley Dollar Sr., a wealthy San Francisco businessman and philanthropist. Stanley Dollar Sr. was the son of Capt. Robert Dollar, a legendary shipping line owner who was often called, “The Gran Old Man of the Pacific.”
Lora then immediately purchased about 240 acres of land at the head of Emerald Bay, as well as Fannette Island and another parcel from the William Henry Armstrong family for $250,000. It was there that she built her majestic Vikingsholm the following year. That classic Tahoe story will have to be told another day.
In 1968, the Moana Corporation purchased the old Wychwood estate and created Chinquapin. When the housing units were built on the waterfront site, developers spared most of the trees and also preserved numerous historic artifacts and structures from earlier periods. Left untouched are corral posts and a stone crusher that was used for the small quarry there.
Today, Chinquapin is a modern, gated community, but the historic buildings from the Wychwood era are still standing and in reasonably good shape. There is a small power house building installed by the Dollar family in the early 1930s that still contains the original electric generator that converted mechanical energy produced by a water-driven pelton wheel into electricity. There also are large rock and wood structures that offered sleeping accommodations for summer visitors and household staff.
The main Wychwood building is perched over the water and has a kitchen equipped with the original flat top cooking stove and a dining room ready to sit a roomful of guests. The guest houses, main building and a small honeymoon cottage were built in the Craftsman brown shingle style of architecture. There also is an outdoor fireplace with a rock chimney that faced a large, rectangular wooden dance floor for those who wanted to kick up their heels. A flat stone patio adjacent to the main building still attracts Chinquapin homeowners or guests that fancy a pleasant outdoor repast or libation with stunning views of Lake Tahoe.
Some members of the Chinquapin community would like to see these historic buildings renovated as testament to the Tahoe legacy they represent, but the decision is fraught with challenges — financial and environmental. The property has important ties to Lora Moore Knight and the Stanley Dollar family, both of which contributed to Lake Tahoe’s maritime history, especially Stanley Dollar Jr., who was obsessed with speedboat racing on Big Blue.
For a region that has lost so many historic or significant buildings over the past 50 years, it seems that maybe we shouldn’t be in a rush to tear the rest down. But, sometimes that’s easier said than done.
Special thanks to Rob Reis, Bob Duffield, Ralph Coppola, Kathy Payne and others for their help with this untold history of our Tahoe heritage.
Tahoe historian Mark McLaughlin is a nationally published author and professional speaker. His award-winning books are available at local stores or at thestormking.com. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his blog at tahoenuggets.com.