Located on the north shores of Lake Tahoe at the head of Emerald Bay State Park, Vikingsholm is considered one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture in the United States. This magnificent “castle,” situated among towering pines and cedars, is known worldwide as one of the most scenic attractions in the Lake Tahoe area.
Mrs. Lora Knight of Santa Barbara built Vikingsholm in the 1920s as a summer home where she entertained family and friends. She had been impressed by the Nordic design of the home of Swedish-born architect Lennart Palme and commissioned him to create a home for her that would celebrate this heritage. Palme intended that it should stand as a historically faithful adaptation of a medieval chieftain’s castle circa 1200 – 1400 A.D.
The foundation was laid in the summer of 1928. In the spring of 1929, more than 200 highly skilled workmen were brought to Emerald Bay and housed in temporary barracks on the property to complete the project. During the summer months of 1929, the timbers were hand hewn, the interior wall boards were hand planed, intricate wood carvings were executed, and metal fixtures (such as fireplace screens, hinges, and latches) were hand forged – all at the site. There are no nails or fasteners in much of the house.
Outstanding exterior features of Vikingsholm include round granite boulders embedded in mortar typical of stone churches and castles built in the 11th Century in Southern Sweden; massive hand hewn timbers characteristic of those used by the early Norsemen; carvings around the doors adapted from early European church entrances; carvings extending along roof ridges with dragon heads crossing at the roof peaks and a sod roof seeded with wildflowers. The interior of the house also carries out the Scandinavian motif, such as delicate paintings on ceilings and walls, Nordic fireplaces located throughout the home, and two intricately carved “dragon” beams, modeled on those that hung originally in very old Viking castles, hanging from the ceiling in the living room. Furnishings were carefully chosen by Mrs. Knight to enhance and carry out the Scandinavian theme.
Within the state parks system, historic buildings have typically been under-funded and this situation has been exacerbated by severe budget trimming. CSPF is working to help restore and preserve Vikingsholm to ensure that more than 40,000 visitors annually will continue to enjoy one of our country’s most architecturally significant buildings. Currently we are working to upgrade the residence’s 80-year-old electrical system.
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