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LANDMARKS / COUNTY HISTORICAL SITES : Whale-Shaped Rock Looms at Ranch

* HISTORY: Whale Rock Ranch was built as a honeymoon retreat in 1916 for Harry M. Gorham and Florence Halliday Rogers. Gorham, a miner from Virginia City, Nev., had moved to Santa Monica about the turn of the century and became president of California Bank. A widower, he met and married Rogers,

a widow formerly of Boston. The ranch belongs to fourth-generation family members.

* LOCATION: Ojai’s east end. The rock is not visible from the street.

* HOURS: Contact the Ventura County Cultural Heritage Board for permission to view.

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A giant outcropping of rock in the shape of a whale looms behind the boyhood home of Sam Gorham, now of Paso Robles.

“We played all over it--cops-and-robbers kinds of things,” Gorham said of the Ojai landmark in a recent interview.

The former resident also remembers his grandfather, Harry Gorham, inviting the Ojai Presbyterian congregation to celebrate Easter sunrise services on the “whale.” For years, up to 70 people gathered atop the rock for services and then hiked back to the stone house where they were served cocoa and cookies.

The house was originally built as one huge room, using stone found on the land and a tile roof. A tile floor was designed by Gladding McBean, employing a rug motif with the initials of Harry and wife Florence entwined in the border.

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For distinctive beams in the 15-foot-high ceiling, Harry Gorham obtained a broadax from England, and ordered a local carpenter to hew logs that had been hauled to the site by mules.

“He was very romantic,” said Patsy Norris, who with her husband Frank now occupies the house.

When the Gorhams moved to the property in 1932, they built a home addition that included the present kitchen and bedroom. A larger stucco wing was added in 1969.

A second home was built on the property for the late Constance Wash, Norris’ mother, in 1948. This house, which is stucco with a tile roof and casement windows, was designed by Ojai architect Austen Pierpont.

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The stone house has a balcony that commands a wide view of the Ojai Valley and the citrus orchards planted on the original ranch. The Gorhams installed a scroll to dedicate the house that still hangs in the main room and features a line from Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”: “Journeys end in lovers meeting, as every wise man’s son doth know.”

Norris said her mother, who was apparently less inclined toward romance, insisted that the rugged front exterior of the house “looked like a Yosemite Park comfort station.”


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