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Whitney's 12 bridges still dot the landscape

By: Gary Day, Special to the Placer Herald
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Editor’s Note: This is the third in a three-part series on the 12 bridges built by Joel Parker Whitney. Between 1883 and 1888 Joel Parker Whitney, who preferred being called Parker, built a 40-acre baronial estate in the middle of his 20,000 acre Spring Valley Ranch near Rocklin. The estate included a 20-room mansion known as The Oaks, tennis courts, and a nine-hole golf course. Parker also built 12 granite bridges in the style of the English countryside to connect the mansion with Rocklin and the northern parts of the ranch. What has happened to those bridges? There are at least nine granite bridges still visible in Rocklin’s landscape — at least six with English-style keystone arches. There is a barely visible bridge on the seventh hole of the Sunset Whitney Golf Course. It was almost buried during course construction in the early 1960s. That bridge is closest to downtown Rocklin and could be the first bridge on Parker’s road. There is also a mostly-buried bridge on the eighth hole, possibly the second bridge on that road. The third bridge is the often photographed centerpiece of Clover Valley Park. This is the largest and most picturesque of Parker’s 12 bridges. There are three bridges on the Whitney Oaks Golf Course. One is in daily use on the 12th hole. Another is in the rough on the 13th hole and a third is covered with vegetation on the 14th hole. There are three bridges in the Mansion Oaks neighborhood. One is in Mansion Oaks Park. Originally near Wyckford Avenue where it crosses Pleasant Grove Creek, the bridge was disassembled block-by-block and reassembled at its current site in 1991. Two bridges are in weedy fields nearby; one of these two shows extensive dismantling. In fact, the granite blocks in Parker’s bridges are similar to stones used in some home landscapes. There are three granite bridges on the Catta Verdera Golf Course in Lincoln. However, none of them features a keystone arch. These three were originally built on the north end of the ranch, out of sight of visitors to The Oaks and not important to the estate’s English countryside theme. All 12 of Parker’s bridges show rough, but skillful forming of their constituent granite blocks. And yet, none of the bridges contain granite from a Rocklin quarry. The granite appears to have originated in several places, including a quarry that may have been on the ranch near the corner of today’s Whitney Oaks Boulevard and Whitney Ranch Parkway. From Parker’s notes it appears that he might have contracted for construction of his bridges with a local quarry operation employing skilled stone cutters. Starting on March 14, the Rocklin Area Historical Society will host discussions on Rocklin’s history at 7 p.m. on the second and fourth Wednesdays at Old St. Mary’s Chapel, 5251 Front St. Public welcome.