The first time I went to the Tallac Historic Site was to model in a fashion show in 2019. Not for the Gatsby Tea fashion show; this one was an informative comparison of how fashion changed from the 1890’s to the 1920’s. My family was recruited by Mary Gibson, the head costumer, as models to wear the outfits in the presentation. It was fun and so cool to see the parts of the Pope House the public doesn’t normally get to see. We were invited back the next year and my sister and I were “floozies” and wore glitzy flapper girl-style dresses. It was so interesting learning about the history of fashion and how people lived 100 years ago.
Creegan Family participating in the 2019 Gatsby Festival
I have always been interested in history, especially the history of Lake Tahoe, mostly because I have lived here my whole life. After helping Mary with the fashion show the second year, I wanted to volunteer at the site more, not just during the Great Gatsby Festival. I had been planning on volunteering occasionally the next summer, but after COVID-19 I pursued a more permanent position. Jude Markward, the Director of Operations for the Tahoe Heritage Foundation (the non-profit partner at the Tallac Historic Site) took me on as a local volunteer intern and I was at the site 2-3 days a week for most of the 2020 summer.
My first day volunteering on-site I set up one of the servants’ cabins on the Pope Estate. There are about 8 outdoor exhibit rooms, set up how they would have looked when servants lived in them in the 1920’s. Every year in the fall they’re broken down and safely packaged away and in the spring they’re set up again for viewing. I set up the Nanny’s Cabin, and it was an interesting process. All of the small items and fabrics are tucked away in the bed, which is actually a tin-lined wooden box to keep out mice and other rodents. Each room has a binder with pictures, so the exhibits are consistent from year to year. It took me the whole day to set up the room, and it was so cool to actually see the dainty tea cups, dolls, and baby clothes that are used in these rooms. Most of the pieces are ascecioned as well, meaning they’re verified to be from the 1920’s. Setting up the room was such a valuable experience, I learned so much about how the Nanny and the children she looked after actually lived. Society has changed so much and it’s important to step back and see how we have adapted.
My sister and I, Gatsby Festival 2019
Setting up the site was great, but I spent most of my time managing and creating content for the social media accounts. I had photoshoots where models dressed up in specific costumes and were photographed where they would have lived and where they would have worked. I focused on the servants, who were the backbone of the compound. I got to tell the stories of the maid, seamstress, washer women, tutor, nanny, chauffeur, and gardener in complete photo shoots for the Pope Estate Servant Series. I also did a series of Guests at the Pope Estate, with what children would have worn, what women would have worn to hike, and how musicians would have looked. It was a lot of work, as every costume had to be checked for accuracy by our head costumer, Mary, and we went to a few locations around the site for photos.
My costume for a glitzy flapper girl-style dress
We also had to be careful to wear masks, socially distance, and clean high-touch surfaces so all the volunteers could remain safe. It was such a rewarding process, educating people about what life was like and showing how much fashion has changed. There were also benefits to no tours in the Pope House; we had free-range to take pictures in any location and I used Mr. Pope’s office as a staging room to style my models. It was also very fun; all of my models were either my friends (who kindly agreed to help me) or volunteers, who I got to know better. I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to do this, and the pictures and videos posted online helped the site become more well-known. Check out this fun video!
Overall, it was a great experience. Aside from the serious photos of servants and guests, I made some more fun videos of lots of different costumes that women in the 1920’s would have worn, and pictures of ducks, trees, and the gorgeous architecture across the Tallac Historic Site. It’s also just such a beautiful place to be that oftentimes after volunteering I would jump in the lake and swim for half an hour, or longer if the photoshoot that day had been with my friends. I learned so much about the interesting history and heritage of Lake Tahoe. Please be sure to follow us on FaceBook or Instagram to see the aforementioned series and photos!
Guest Blogger: Darby Creegan, Volunteer Intern 2020, Tahoe Heritage Foundation |Tallac Historic Site