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Highest lighthouse in North America is near collapse

INCLINE VILLAGE ” Winter storms have eroded the base of the Thunderbird Cove Beacon Lighthouse, raising fears the Lake Tahoe landmark could crumble into the water.

But supporters hope to raise $90,000 for structural and cosmetic repairs to both save the structure and make its light shine again.

Bill Watson, manager and curator of the historic Thunderbird Lodge on the eastern shore, said winter storms in January and February delivered significant damage to the beacon’s rock foundation.



The structure was among the first built on the George Whittell property, either in 1936 or 1937, Watson said.

According to Lighthouse Digest, the beacon and its sister lighthouse, which also sits in the water next to the property, are the two highest lighthouses in North America, given Tahoe’s elevation at more than 6,225 feet above sea level.




The beacon used to hold colored lights and the Whittells’ alarm system, Watson said.

Structural repairs to keep the battered beacon from falling into the lake are expected to cost around $40,000, Watson said.

About $50,000 would cover the cosmetic work and electrical repairs that would make the beacon operational again.

About $20,000 already has been raised by three organizations, the Tahoe Yacht Club Foundation, the Lahontan Community Foundation and the National Parks Service.

And an estimated $10,000 was raised at a Winemaker’s Dinner held at the lodge Sunday.

The remainder of the funds must be raised before the end of summer to ensure the work is completed before next winter, Watson said.

Additional Winemaker’s Dinners, on Aug. 17, Sept. 21 and Oct. 19, will benefit other preservation projects at Thunderbird Lodge.

Individual dinner tickets are priced at $250 per person ($175 of which is a charitable donation) and reservations may be made by calling (775) 832-8754 or registering online at thunderbirdlodge.org.

On a related note, Watson would not comment on a $5 million fundraising effort by the lodge to remove a lien on the property held by Michigan-based Pulte Homes. The deadline to raise the money came earlier this month.

Tahoe Daily Tribune City Editor Elaine Goodman contributed to this report.


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