Stanford Mansion History
The stately brick and plaster Renaissance Revival home at the corner of 8th and 'N' Streets in Sacramento
has special historical and architectural significance for California. In its early years, it served as the executive
office of three governors: Leland Stanford, Frederick Low and Henry Haight.
It was also the site of California’s first presidential visit by Rutherford B. Hayes and General William T. Sherman
and is the oldest house in Sacramento open to the public.
A Brief History
Built about 1856 as a two-story structure for prominent businessman Shelton Fogus, it was sold in 1861
to Leland Stanford, President of the Central Pacific Railroad Corporation, who became California’s eighth
governor in January of 1862. Soon thereafter, Stanford added new landscaping and a wing to the east side
of the building to become his governor’s office. One exuberant writer characterized the property as
“the most perfect specimen of a house in all of California.”
After serving a two-year term as governor, Stanford returned to private life and traveled frequently on
railroad business. The State then rented Stanford’s furnished home for the next governor, Frederick Low.
Henry Haight, who succeeded Low as governor, rented Stanford’s office until a new governor’s office was
opened in the Capitol in 1869. Meanwhile, the Stanfords moved back into the home in late 1867, and Jane
Lathrop Stanford gave birth to Leland Junior the following spring. Stanford University was later founded
in memory of the boy, who died of typhoid in his teens.
By early 1872 the Stanfords had remodeled and greatly enlarged the home. The fashionable four-story
structure they created better suited their extended family and growing public stature. The next year the
Central Pacific Railroad offices moved to San Francisco and the Stanford family soon followed, though they
still used their Sacramento home on occasion.
The Mansion in the 20th Century
In 1900, the widowed Jane gave the home and most of its furnishings to the Diocese of Sacramento to
become a home for “friendless children.” For nearly 90 years, it was a haven for youngsters, mostly women,
of various ages and backgrounds. In the late 1950’s, the expense of upkeep led Bishop Alden Bell to write to
the governor to suggest the State buy the home to restore. The State purchased the historic property in 1978,
which included some remaining Stanford furnishings.
State Parks staff and docents fascinated visitors with ‘archeology tours’ of the building, as painstaking
investigations by historians and archeologists began to reveal some of the secrets of its construction. In
1989 the State Parks Commission approved a General Plan, which envisioned the unique dual role for the
rehabilitated Stanford residence. The Mansion project gained momentum in 1991 with the formation of the
Leland Stanford Mansion Foundation, which created the opportunity for private fund-raising to assist
the monumental project.
A key funding piece came in 2002 when California voters approved Proposition 40, a bond act to
provide funding support for the "acquisition, development, preservation, and interpretation of buildings,
structures, sites, places, and artifacts that preserve and demonstrate culturally significant aspects of California's
history." Through continued public/private collaboration, the Stanford Mansion will open a new chapter
in its history, as a splendid house museum and perfect setting for some of California’s most