After the Donner Party put Truckee in the history books, a man named Wallace “Wally” Gellatt helped make Truckee a popular year-round destination by opening a summer resort on Donner Lake and working to improve transportation to bring winter tourists to the area. While Truckee is still developing, Gellatt helped wake this sleepy mountain town up.
Gellatt lived in San Francisco and began coming up to Truckee in the summer months. For 21 years he owned Camp Donner, a popular lake resort community with lodging and a restaurant located where West End Beach is today.
He also promoted winter vacations to Truckee. Gellatt sat on the committee to extend Old Highway 40 through Truckee and had excursion trains come to Truckee in the winter months, which helped bring visitors here for the 1913 Ice Palace — said to be the greatest one Truckee had completed, with ice-skating and rooms with fireplaces — and the 1916 Winter Carnival. Gellatt was a big promoter of dog sled races as well.
Donner Lake once had a post office named after Gellatt on the current corner of South Shore and Old Highway Drive. He was also responsible for the Donner Lake Orchestra, which provided entertainment at his resort, as well as traveling to Reno to perform. He was also a member of the Truckee Lodge of Masons.
Gellatt died at age 64 in San Francisco after a long illness. His name is not well known today, but Gellatt saw what Truckee had to offer and succeeded in showing the world.