A Map of the California-Nevada Border as it passes through the pool at the Cal Neva Lodge
Strangeness with Style
The Cal-Neva lodge has several notable distinctions beyond the fact that the property, lodge and building all straddle the border between California and Nevada. The lodge was once partially owned by Frank Sinatra. Judy Garland was discovered there after singing in the fabled Celebrity Showroom. It has played host to many a celebrity including members of Sinatra's Rat Pack, and President Kennedy. Marilyn Monroe reportedly stayed there just a week before she died. There are tunnels underneath the hotel that assisted in the smuggling of alcohol during Prohibition. All that plus the fact that the lodge sits on the shores of Lake Tahoe, one of the World's most beautiful and clear alpine lakes.
As is the case with other places I've documented, sitting astride a border has its advantages. The lodge has always combined the rustic charm of the California side with the more sinful exploits of the Nevada side. Although gambling only became legal in Nevada in 1930, there are stories of illegal gambling before then. If the lodge was raided by Nevada police, the guests would simply move to the California side and vice-versa. There are also tales that the lodge's unique location enabled visiting Californian's to take advantage of Nevada's speedy marriage and divorce proceedings.
Celebrating the lodge's split personality is the Cal-Neva swimming pool, half in Nevada, half in California. The pool's mid-century modern kidney shape gives it an ironic, hipster charm today. The border is painted onto the bottom of the pool with the California and Nevada sides labelled appropriately. The pool is also a microcosm of nearby Lake Tahoe which is itself divided between California and Nevada. I've always been partial to the California side but a drive through the Nevada-side can be a fun celebration of motel signage kitsch.