History



“John Rosseter, a San Francisco industrialist, built this prized stable in 1915. It was a time when horse racing had been outlawed in California, and the horse industry was almost non-existent. Rosseter created a world-class collection of Thoroughbred horses, giving new life to the horse industry in Sonoma County.
 
Rosseter chose the oak-studded Mark West Hills as the site for his 800 acre ranch, with Mark West Creek running alongside.  The word “wikiup” means summer camp in Klamath Indian language. Rosseter spared no expense on his ranch.  The stable cost over $50,000.00.  Twenty-one thousand square feet in size, it was constructed of clear grain Douglas fir wood.  Rosseter challenged guests to find a knot anywhere in the building.  Silver-plated, hand-wrought and hammered bronze hinges decorate the stall doors.  A cobblestone walkway around the perimeter adds charm.
 
"In the 1920's the sport of horse-racing thrived on the East Coast as never before.  Man O’ War, of course, was a household name and brought much-needed publicity to what had been perceived to be a rather unhealthy sport.  He was well supported by such great ones as Black Gold, Sir Barton, Grey Lag, Sun Beau, Zev and Blue Larkspur.  Purses began a slow upward trend after the war, and favorable legislation was passed.

For California, however, the twenties was a bleak period for horseracing.  No recognized tracks were open except for two experimental non-betting meetings held at the old Tanforan Race Course in 1923.  Since the gates had closed in 1909 on “Lucky” Baldwin’s dream track, Santa Anita, the sport of horseracing in this state had dropped back into the dark ages of pre-1860.
 
One by one, horsemen began to leave the state, taking with them much of the stock that had once made the California breeding industry a force to be reckoned with.  Only a few men believed in the future of their sport in this state and were prepared to see out the bad times.  Among them were Neil S. McCarthy, A.K. Macomber, Adolph Spreckels and John Rosseter, director of the U.S. Shipping Board during World War I.  The San Francisco shipping magnate did more for the California Thoroughbred industry during the twenties than any other man.

Rosseter  created a world-class collection of Thoroughbred horses, giving new life to the horse industry in Sonoma County.  Rosseter’s success was based on three horses in particular: Friar Rock, Disguise, and Inchcape.  The most treasured of these, Disguise, son of Domino, won the Jockey Club Stakes over Triple Crown winner Diamond Jubilee, and placed 3rd in the Derby.  Friar Rock was Rosseter’s other lucrative sire.  His offspring, Inchcape, garnished Rosseter $115,000.00, a record price for a two-year-old colt. 

In 1926, the Rosseters put the social set on its ear with a joint birthday party for Disguise and Tod Sloan, the famous jockey who had ridden the stallion’s colts to victory. The party was written about in newspapers all over the United States and, for a decade or more, was the standard used for social events in the Bay Area. 

Sloan, wearing the  Rosseter racing colors, burnt orange and white, sat astride the twenty-nine –year-old stallion, who pranced like a two year-old, his mane curled and be-ribboned for the festivity.  A giant horseshoe-shaped table was set on the lawn with a “place” for Disguise in the center of the horseshoe.  The horse had a birthday cake of grain and mash, decorated with carrot candles while Jockey Sloan had a real cake to share with guests."
John Rosseter lived at Wikiup until his death in 1936.
 
During World War II, Rancho Wikiup serviced the United States army.  It was requisitioned by the army to house field artillery units which still used horse-drawn caissons.  The 74th Field Artillery was at first what they later called Camp Wikiup.  Also, the Army’s 13th Engineers billeted at Camp Wikiup while they constructed the Santa Rosa Air Field. 
 
Throughout the years, Rancho Wikiup functioned as a world-class horse stable until the late 1900’s, when it was converted to a home, and presently serves as a historic vacation lodge and event center.