Chautauqua Of George Whittell, Jr., At Dangberg Home Ranch Historic Park June 10

Posted By on June 1, 2015

Courtesy of Dangberg Home Ranch Historic Park

MINDEN, Nev.- Chautauqua performer Steve Hale will present “George Whittell, Jr., Playboy Millionaire Who Built the Thunderbird Lodge” at the Dangberg Home Ranch Historic Park on Wednesday June 10, at 6:30 pm. The event is open to the public and free to attend.

Photo provided by Dangberg Home Ranch Historic Park

Photo provided by Dangberg Home Ranch Historic Park

George Whittell, Jr., lived off the interest generated by the millions he inherited from his parents. His enormous assets allowed him to purchase the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe where he built the Thunderbird Lodge in the 1930s. The house was designed by prominent Reno architect Frederick DeLongchamps. This included a six-hundred-foot tunnel connected to a boat house to berth the “Thunderbird,” his fifty-five-foot mahogany yacht.

In his sixties, Whittell’s fondness for animals increased and his toleration of people waned. He often brought his favorite four-legged friends to Tahoe for the summer, including Mingo the elephant. He did maintain a small group of associates who joined him at the Thunderbird Lodge for high-stakes card games and all-night drinking parties in his Card House. Among his guests were baseball legend Ty Cobb and, purportedly, Howard Hughes. Following his death, Whittell left a legacy of public lands at Lake Tahoe and bequests to animal rights organizations.

The Chautauqua Series is sponsored by Bently Ranch, SoaringNV, The Record-Courier, and the Frances C. and William P. Smallwood Foundation. Hale’s performance is also made possible with the assistance of Nevada Humanities, an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Steve Hale has been presenting historical figures from the Lake Tahoe region for almost two decades. In addition to Whittell, they include John “Snowshoe” Thompson, Dr. James E. Church and John C. Fremont. He has performed at state parks in northern California, for the Norwegian consulate at the Squaw Valley dedication of a statue of “Snowshoe” Thompson, non-profit fundraising events, dinner theaters, commemorative events, U.S. Forest Service interpretive programs, Chautauqua venues, and in repertory with other Chautauqua performers.

Hale is returning to perform for the annual Death Valley ’49ers Encampment in Death Valley National Park in November as part of a series highlighting the 19th-century western pioneer movement. Most recently Hale has been commissioned to perform Stephen T. Mather, the first director of the National Park Service, in Yosemite Valley as part of the 2016 centennial celebration of the National Park Service.

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This is a free outdoor event. The park is located at 1450 Hwy 88, ¼ mile north of the Carson Valley Veterinary Hospital. Visitors are encouraged to bring a lawn chair or use one of the park’s chairs. Dogs are not permitted in the park, with the exception of certified service animals. For more information, visit or call 775-783-9417.

Other speakers in the series will be Juanita Westbrook portraying Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman, pioneer aviator, on July 8; Lisa Bommarito portraying Eilley Orrum Bowers, the famous “Queen” of the Comstock, on August 5; and Chuck Bauldauskas and Doc Durden portraying Buffalo Bill Cody and Wild Bill Hickok on September 2.


The Dangberg Home Ranch Historic Park is the 2012 and 2013 Reno-Tahoe Territory winner of the Nevada Commission on Tourism’s “Discover Your Nevada” contest. The site preserves the home of Heinrich F. Dangberg and three generations of descendants. The Dangbergs were a prominent ranching family in Carson Valley history and founded Minden in 1905. The Park includes eight historic structures built between 1857 and 1917, along with a large collection of artifacts, documents and photographs. Programs include guided tours, exhibits and other public events. The Park is operated by Friends of Dangberg Home Ranch, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, in cooperation with its owner, Douglas County.