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Rocks, Rails & Ranches

Joel Parker Whitney’s Oaks Mansion

GPS coordinates: (N 38° 49.739', W 121° 15.114')
By: Gary Day, special to the Placer Herald
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Rocklin History Tour

This is the 17th installment of a 19-part series in which Gary Day takes readers on a tour of Rocklin’s historic sites. Find the sites yourself with a handy Rocklin History Tour booklet, available at the Rocklin History Museum, 3895 Rocklin Road. GPS coordinates were provided by Brian Ignaut. Short stories about Rocklin’s history are at www.rocklinhistory.org/history_series.asp.

 

A plaque marks the location of Joel Parker Whitney’s now-demolished three-story, 20-room Oaks Mansion. The plaque is in front of a private residence at the end of Knoll Court in the Mansion Oaks neighborhood of Rocklin.

Western Rocklin is astride the southern 12,000 acres of Whitney’s Spring Valley Ranch of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The mansion was the centerpiece of a 40-acre plot in the middle of the ranch that Whitney set aside as a baronial estate for his wife and their three small children in the mid-1880s. He started work on the mansion in 1884 at about the same time as he started his 12 granite bridges on the road that wound through the ranch from downtown Rocklin.

The mansion was constructed entirely of redwood, except for the floors. There was a fireplace faced with expensive tile in every bedroom, and every room on the first floor except the kitchen and pantries.

The mansion looked southeast with a view of the far-off state Capitol and the ranch’s headquarters near today’s Granite Oaks Middle School. The grounds included stables, a carriage house, servants’ quarters, tennis courts and dog runs for Whitney’s greyhounds. Later, Whitney’s son Vincent built a golf course on the plain and slopes below.

The mansion fell into disuse after the death of Whitney’s youngest child, Helen Beryl Whitney Blaine, in 1935, and the property reverted to animal pasture as Whitney’s family gradually sold off the ranch in the 1940s. The Horseshoe Cattle Company demolished the mansion in the early 1950s to save property taxes.