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Historic Lake of the Pines

Historic Lake of the Pines


Creating a Mid-Century Community

The 1960s brimmed with change: Civil Rights, anti-war, and counterculture. Another change was the re-creation of the "community." The grand idea was an “if you build it, they will come” type enterprise. It was about enticing people to leave the busy city and step into nature. How? Easy – buy land, build a lake large enough for boating and recreation, then sell off the land in parcels. Purchasers could leave their lots as-is or build vacation or permanent residences. To make the community more appealing, a membership-based clubhouse with amenities such as dining, golf, and special events lured buyers.

In 1966, US Land, Inc., backed by an investment firm out of Boston, bought 3,000 acres of ranching land in-between Auburn and Grass Valley, just off historic Hwy 49, near Higgins Corner. Western Lake Properties, now known as Lake of the Pines or simply LOP, was the first man-made lake community venture in California. Parcels within the new development were sold with the allure of investment and potentially high returns.

Additionally, US Land, Inc. acquired Quail Valley Enterprises, and assumed Magnolia Field land along Magnolia Road, where the three public schools now reside. During the 1960s, however, it was used as a gun club. After the land was assumed by US Land, the company bought a Winchester trap and skeet shooting franchise and opened as the Winchester Gun Club. Unfortunately, the club was short-lived. In 1970 the near-constant sound of guns firing left residents in uproar, and the club was closed.


In 1971, legal woes for Western Lake Properties result in the official transfer of community management and title to the Lake of the Pines Association and its property owners. The LOPA also purchased the out-of-commission gun club and its property. Until 1977, the old gun club facilities were used for members that elected to not buy into the LOP country club and amenities. The LOP Board of Directors, with the support of the community, decided to sell the Magnolia Field land in 1977 for funds used to expand the lakeside clubhouse.

Fun Fact: In 1977, Magnolia Field was sold to Nevada Joint Union High School District. In 1986, Bear River High School opened its doors to students.

The Great Debate:

Rumors abound regarding the reason Lake of the Pines is Auburn rather than Grass Valley. Contrary to speculation, it is not because “Auburn sounded better.” Rather, it is because the Auburn Post Office managed the mail route that serviced Higgins Corner and Magnolia Field. According to sources, the Grass Valley Post Office thought the area was too far to go for so few residents. When Western Lake Properties assumed the land for Lake of the Pines, the United States Postal Command decided to keep Auburn on the job, making postal boundaries the Bear River.

Fun Fact: Long before ranchers grazed their cattle on Magnolia Field and its surrounding areas, the area was home to Native Americans, the Nisenan (Foothill Nisenan or Southern Maidu). While there was no environmental impact or archaeological surveys conducted prior to or during the construction of Lake of the Pines, there is noted evidence of Nisenan and their predecessors, Martis, occupation along Magnolia Creek from a later development study.

*Special thanks to all who contributed information and pictures for the creation of this page.