It was 2002 and a small group of men and women from DMB Associates and Highlands Management Group were seeing things in the forest that weren’t there. Things like emerald fairways and impossibly white bunkers and a lodge with pools, masseuses, a fitness center, and a dining room with views that never quit. They talked amongst themselves in the silence of the place, poring over blueprints and conjuring dreams of things never imagined. There’d be a Family Barn with a bowling alley, theater, art loft, pools, and fishing pond. In a beautiful corner of the woods, there’d be a little Lost Library cabin with the simple intent of being a place of escape for all residents to enjoy, furnished with coffees and teas, classic books, daily papers from near and far, a fireplace, overstuffed chairs, and a swinging bench on the expansive porch. Some 26 miles of trails would seamlessly transform from walking paths to cross-country ski trails. A graceful 18 hole putting course would weave between homes. There’d be places for creeks and parks and possibly even a private ski lodge at the base of Lookout Mountain at Northstar California Resort, just minutes from home and steps from the slopes. And for the cherry on top, they’d give golf legend Tom Fazio the keys to design his masterpiece course.
What was being envisioned was a community of luxury and comfort, a place where family legacies would be born. It was a community with amenities and atmosphere the country hadn’t seen before. But perhaps the greatest achievement on that day was the decision to forego traditional architectural standards and rigid rules that often shackle architects and designers and instead come up with a set of guiding principles that encourage imagination and inspiration and that challenged those talents to produce their very best. This place that would come to be known as Martis Camp wouldn’t be a place of sameness. Rather, these homes would exude a grace, beauty and individuality as impressive as the land itself, a palette for a showcase of architecture that never ceases to impress and become arguably the best community of mountain architecture in the U.S.
This was the foundation that would guide the development of luxury mountain homes that owners and builders alike could take pride in.
Two men, Nick Hackstock and Jim Bartlett – longtime friends and development partners – were at the forefront and leading the development team of DMB/Highlands Group in making Martis Camp a reality. This same development group was responsible for neighboring Lahontan Golf Club from which they based their visions and refined their focus. “The whole time we were at Lahontan,” said Hackstock, “we were thinking of a community that – among other things – would elevate the architectural integrity of the Truckee/Tahoe area and would, as my daughter said, ‘provide elbow room for the soul.’” As Bartlett saw it, “we were giving owners and architects an opportunity to express themselves. We didn’t want them to have one arm tied behind their backs.”
Ron Todd, an architect with DMB/Highlands Group, recalls being given license by Nick and Jim to think wide, dream big and – above all – collaborate. “We were intent on devising not a recipe book but rather an idea book,” said Todd in regard to the Martis Camp guiding principles he and others helped forge. “What we ended up with,” he added, “were some design principles that attracted many of the nation’s finest architects and that encouraged owners to build the kind of homes that helped define their legacies.”
Those Martis Camp homes that have taken shape over the years vary in genre from – among others – mid-century modern to mountain contemporary, and Tahoe lodge to mountain farmhouse. Viewed individually, they are each a representation of the owners’ dreams and visions and a personal expression of creativity. Collectively, they make for one phenomenal showcase of style where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And in the company of such architectural gems as the Family Barn, Lookout Lodge, and Camp Lodge, that sense of totality becomes even more impressive.
“By incorporating great architecture into the pillars of Martis Camp it has created a ‘I want to be a part of this’ sensation that people are drawn to,” said Brian Hull. Having been with Martis Camp since the start of development in 2006 and as Broker/President of Martis Camp Realty, Hull sees the influence of those pillars on the development of Martis Camp. He and his team of agents get to experience it through the eyes of those getting their first tour of the community. “It never gets old to drive someone around Martis Camp for the first time and get to witness their wonderment for the extraordinary homes that exist throughout the community. Most of our clients are almost speechless after seeing the collection of luxury real estate at Martis Camp in conjunction with some of the finest amenities any luxury community has ever offered – Tom Fazio golf, private ski access, a private beach shack on Lake Tahoe – it just doesn’t get any better than this.”
John Sather, architect, land planner, and managing partner of Swaback, was instrumental in the design of many of Martis Camp’s main features, including the Family Barn and the Camp Lodge. An original member of the band of talented visionaries who’d set the tone for Martis Camp, Sather embarked on his vision quest in a fashion that was literally down to earth. “We worked to do what the topography offered us,” he said. “The land was telling us what to do.” Determined to align the amenities of Martis Camp with the winter sun, Sather spent three straight days snowshoeing the land (and falling into a creek) to arrive at what he deemed the ideal spot for the Camp Lodge, positioned – like so many homes in Martis Camp – to savor winter’s precious rays. “You look at the Camp Lodge now and it seems obvious that the rock outcropping was the ideal spot,” Sather mentioned, “but at the time – when it was all forest and rock – that spot was simply a part of the land.”
Sather’s uncanny ability to make reality of his visions has earned him some of the industry’s highest awards. Not only does the Family Barn and the Camp Lodge serve as evidence of his talent but so, too, do the 20-plus homes he’s designed within Martis Camp. The same is true of those who were with him on Day One in 2002 as they glanced into the future of Martis Camp, including designers Kim Anderson and Donna Vallone. Based in Arizona, their design style flourishes throughout Martis Camp, including the Camp Lodge, Family Barn, Lake Tahoe Beach Shack and Lookout Lodge.
While each architect, designer and builder approaches Martis Camp with a resolve to grow the body of impressive homes and fulfill the dreams of homeowners intent on creating homes that enhance their family legacies, each craftsman is challenged with furthering the architectural foundation created by those who, 20 years ago, stood before a “land that was easy to fall in love with,” as Jim Bartlett put it, and entrusted to nurture a collective vision that stirs big dreams, bold homes, and beautiful lives.