Round Hill Pines Resort
Standing like a scene from a horror film, what sets the abandoned cabins of the Round Hill Pines Resort apart from any other collection of log cabin lodge buildings are the real estate that they sit on. Occupying a hillside vantage point set atop the lakeshore in Lake Tahoe’s exclusive Zephyr Cove area, the former Nevada resort site covers acres beneath picturesque pine trees overlooking Tahoe’s emerald waters.
Though several old ghost towns, mill sites and mining camps lay throughout the Lake Tahoe area, the high value of the area has left this resort a rare outlier in that it sits adjacent to the lake itself, remaining empty and in an uncertain state of preservation since 1969 when, owing to the need for sewer improvements, the resort closed.
Bordered by Marla Beach to the north and Zephyr Cove to the south, the first recorded owner of the land surrounding Round Hill (known also as Round Mound and Folsom’s Knob) was John Marley, who grew vegetables on the land to sell to travelers along the road that circumnavigated Lake Tahoe. Prior to the road’s completion in 1931, most travelers accessed areas along the lake by steamboat or sailboat. Marley purchased the land in 1864, however would lose it due to unpaid back taxes six years later.
The subsequent owners would fell the lumber, and cut the undergrowth for cordwood, using a dock at the site of the current Round Hill Pines Beach Resort to ship the wood to Glenbrook for milling.
An automaker named Norman DeVaux purchased the land in 1919, and would divide it and sell it off in pieces over the ensuing years. During his ownership, DeVaux constructed a log cabin on a hillside overlooking the lake. This would become the lodge building – constructed in 1922. A woman named Elizabeth Strom Lauder Kellum would purchase the land and buildings from DeVaux that would eventually become the Round Hill Pines Resort.
In 1931, Arthur K. Bourne, an heir to the Singer Sewing Machine Company bought the land from Kellum. With the highway around Lake Tahoe completed later that year, making more of the lake accessible to the wealthy visitors, as well as sparking an interest and accessibility for middle class travelers to begin visiting the area in increasing numbers, Bourne constructed several more buildings, which would come to include structures for housing maids and caretakers, laundry, a garage, and ice house and a gas house. In 1951, Bourne would construct a home about a mile to the north, and would turn the land near Round Hill into the Round Hill Pines Resort, adding lakeside amenities and operating the resort through the summer season. Five years later, a motel would be constructed atop the hill near the lodge, which had a concrete terrace built atop a mortared stone retaining wall and overlooked Marla Bay to the north.
By 1963, the resort had 30 units and operated annually from June 15th to September 15th. By 1969, necessary sewer improvements led to the closure of the resort, the cabins have remained empty since.
The land was purchased by the US Forest Service in 1984 for $8.95 million, and the beach section has been reopened with a concessionaire contractor operating new buildings at the lakeside location. The hilltop cabins, however, remain empty and boarded up. A survey determined that some of the cabin buildings are eligible for historic status in the National Register of Historic Places, being examples of Resort Rustic architecture and for their significant role in the early development of tourism at Lake Tahoe. However most of the buildings were built during later eras and not deemed eligible for historic status.
Most of the buildings still standing remain in poor condition, with tarps put in place in attempts to prevent the High Sierra’s annual snowfall from further damaging the structures. Some buildings have collapsed completely, leaving only more permanent remnants such as stone ovens or chimneys to mark their location.
With the high value of property around Lake Tahoe and the 2018 grand re-opening of the beach portion of the old Round Hill Pines Resort for visitors and tourists, along with the poor and deteriorating condition of the resort buildings, an hourglass most likely hangs over these buildings, a ghostly reminder of the area’s past.