Stanford Mansion

More From Sacramento More From California

The spirit of the original owner’s son comforted his parents.




This glorious, 19,000 square foot, Renaissance Revival and second French Empire, 4 story mansion was fully restored in 2005, after 14 years of raising funds and precise restoration work, at the price of 22 million dollars. It is both a state park and is used for the “venue for the governor to entertain dignitaries, lawmakers and pals.” State Legislators also use it for their functions. The current governor also has an office in this mansion, following a tradition set by other Governors in the past, beginning with Leland Stanford. The mansion was so large, that Leland continued to let other governors elected after Leland’s term also have an office there.

Looking at the front of this mansion, architectural enthusiasts may notice that the second and third floors are designed in the Renaissance Revival style, while the first and fourth floor are designed in the French second Revival style, complete with a Mansard Roof! Huh? You may wonder what they were smoking or drinking in the 19th century.

There is an explanation for this! The original architect, built a 2 story, 4,000 square ft upscale home in the Renaissance Revival style, popular before the Civil War in 1856, for city councilman and successful merchant Shelton Fogus. Fogus sold this mansion to Governor-elect Leland Stanford in 1862, changing its future for the good, because of the kind of person Leland Stanford was.

A first generation American, Leland Stanford came from a family of movers and shakers, and contributed much to California and business. Besides serving a 2 year term as the 9th Governor of the state, he had many accomplishments throughout his life.

In politics, besides being the first Republican Governor in California for a 2 year term (1862-1863), Leland Stanford founded the Californian Republican Party, helped to pass legislation to cut the state debt in half, helped to get legislation passed to increase the term from 2 to 4 years.

Leland was involved in running railroads, owned various enterprises, like a winery and a horse farm, started Stanford College in response to a heart-rendering, personal tragedy and was a Senator representing California from 1886-1893, until he died of heart problems.

Under Leland and Jane Stanford’s ownership, it is not surprising that this mansion became much larger and grander, eventually becoming California’s version of “The White House”, beginning when Leland Stanford moved in with his wife. Their only son, Leland Stanford Jr., was later born here in 1868.

When living by a river, inevitably sooner or later houses located there will become flooded as homeowners Leland and Jane Stanford found out. Stanford had to go to his own gubernatorial inauguration via rowboat, after exiting a second floor window of the family mansion. Because the flooding of the Sacramento River was a huge annoyance when it happened, Leland Stanford, with the support of his wife, decided in 1871, to raise up the entire mansion 12 feet and add a first floor and a fourth floor, designed in the popular French second Empire style, expanding the square footage, nearly 5 times, to 19,000 Sq. Ft, transforming this roomy upper-class home to grand mansion status!

In 1872, a local paper, The Chronicle, gave a description of the splendor and class found within this remodeled mansion, in an article written in their Feb. 7th edition:

“(The mansion) contains 44 rooms, all most elaborately and luxuriously furnished and fitted up. Good taste and cultured imaginations have been exhausted in furnishing the establishment. Magnificent and costly furniture in every room; lace curtains of the finest fabric; carpets that receive with noiseless tread the footfall, frescoes beautiful in design and exquisite in artistic perfection adorn the walls and ceiling.”

When Leland died in 1893, his estate was in a mess, and the fledgling junior college was heading toward bankruptcy. Jane kept the dream alive by selling their Knob Hill mansion, and some other properties to pay taxes and to bail out the university. She oversaw the running of the young university until she died. This junior college eventually became a full blown university, Stanford University, a magnet for the best and brightest young men and young women.

For good measure, she left Leland Stanford Mansion and most of its furnishings to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento, with the condition that this property be used for the children of California. She and Leland lived their faith and were generous in their giving to others.

The Sisters of Mercy were in charge of an orphanage/settlement house for 32 years, The Stanford & Lathrop Memorial Home for Friendless Children. The sisters had the foresight to put in storage the chandeliers, and other furniture of the Stanford family and took good care of the woodwork, being the best stewards of the property as they could be during their time there.

The mansion was transformed into its new use. Parlors and dining rooms were partitioned, walls and ceilings were painted off-white, etc. The Leland Stanford Mansion was turned from a family home to a practical institution, ready to be home to children who were homeless and had no family. A settlement house to help the poor also eventually was located here as well. Around the turn of the century, and in the early 1900s, various church denominations set up orphanages & settlement houses to serve the needs of the poor.

With the coming of the New Deal, many children were able to stay with their families and the need for a settlement house lessened. However, the need for a group home for teen girls was apparent. In 1932, the mansion was turned over to the Sisters of Social Service, and was transformed into a residence for teen girls. In 1940, a fire did heavy damage to the fourth floor, but didn’t go to the other floors. This home for teen girls was in operation until 1987, despite the fact that the state of California bought the property in 1978, with the plan to make it a state park.

In 1987, The National Parks Service got into the act, probably after reviewing the information gathered in American Buildings Survey taken by experts who examined the property. The National Parks Service declared the Leland Stanford Mansion a National Historic Landmark.

By 1987, The Leland Stanford Mansion was a true fixer-upper opportunity, despite the efforts and care of the Sisters over the years. It was in need of restoration and TLC, to be provided by historical enthusiasts and craftsmen, who were eager to transform this mansion back into its pristine state, to be opened as a historical museum.

They would have some great sources to do so. Many details were gathered from not only from the above mentioned Historic American Buildings Survey, but also through studying a large collection of photographs of the home taken in 1868 by Alfred A. Hart, and again in 1872 by Englishman Edward Muybridge. These pictures were taken, because of the people who owned it, Leland and Jane Stanford. Both sources, photos, and survey work were very helpful in determining the original Victorian decor and the original state of the rooms. This ambitious restoration plan was a very expensive goal, and people had to wait years for a joint private/state effort to raise the money.

The campaign to raise the large amount of funds to be matched by the state of California, began in 1991, spear-headed by Governor Pete Wilson and his wife, Gayle, with the idea of also having official government events at the property, as well as it being a historical museum. For 9 years, Leland Stanford Mansion Foundation worked hard to raise their 10 million dollar share of the costs, while the state waited for their share of the funds to somehow be found. In 2000, a bond measure passed, and money became instantly available from the state. The slow process of restoration began.

New information was discovered, after the restoration process began, bringing icing to the cake! Under the white paint, the original colors chosen by Leland and Jane Stanford were discovered. Over 5 years were needed to fully restore the mansion back to its original decor so enjoyed by Leland and his family, and the three other governors who had offices there. New additions were created as well; a Visitor’s Center & Store, and an event center.

While the historical restoration of this mansion was detailed and carefully done, Leland Stanford Mansion State Park also has modern features needed for its new life as a historical museum with security and as an up-to-date Protocol social event venue. Electricity has been added, with many plug-ins and circuits needed to meet the needs of the press for other events. A new modern kitchen has all the bells and whistles, and “a network of cables for computer, security and audiovisual systems,” were placed in the walls.

Now called, “Leland Stanford Mansion State Park”, it opened as a historical museum for the public on July 11th, 2006, as a place that the governor could once again have an office, and as a place to entertain state visitors and hold events for the legislators.

In the Visitor’s Center, the visitor can experience “Interactive exhibits, artifacts, and an orientation film” FOR FREE. The Museum Store is also located inside the Visitor Center. The Visitor Center is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. On the tour offered by the museum, the public can see life in 1868 with the Stanford family, the children’s orphanage, as well as California’s Protocol Center: (tour schedule)



In 1883, Leland Stanford and his wife suffered an awful loss.

Stanford’s precocious 15 year old son, Leland Stanford Jr., the light of their life, died of typhoid fever in Italy, while studying the great, Italian art masters. Both Leland and Jane were devastated and had a painful recovery.

Often when a child dies, the marriage is torn apart too.

This didn’t happen to Leland and Jane Stanford, for they found a positive course of action in their unbearable sorrow, which helped to heal their deep pain; Giving their resources and establishing places that can help children and youth.



The entity of his son, Leland Jr.

The entity of Leland Stanford Jr. first appeared to his father, sometime after Leland Stanford Jr.’s death.

Leland Jr. comforted his father and asked him to put his money and effort into building a university for young men, giving them a chance to learn, grow and contribute to society.

Leland Stanford, always a mover and a shaker took this request to heart. With his wife, Jane, the couple founded Stanford University, starting it as a junior college in 1891 on the land of their Palo Alto Horse Farm.

Even though their son’s death ended a promising life, they could establish a college where other young men could further their education.


Unknown at this time. No paranormal investigations have been done here, and the only experience reported is that of young Leland Jr., though religious groups usually don’t report their experiences, keeping it within its organization, and dealing with it themselves if necessary. Time will tell. Entities usually will let their presence be known, and personal experiences of staff and visitors/guests will report these happenings if this property is indeed haunted or spiritually supervised.

The appearance of young Leland Stanford could’ve been just this incident, appearing for a certain purpose: Comforting his heart-broken father, and giving him an idea to put his grief to work for something positive.

Sometimes spirits appear for a specific purpose.

Or perhaps the entity of Leland Jr. is still there, as he died before he was ready to do so. He loved art and was on an art tour in Italy when he became sick and died.

Renovating a building can stir up paranormal activity. This mansion is over 100 years old, and there may be some spirits, who were alive during its long history and are attached to the place, or a piece of furniture/decor in it.

Buildings that were used by institutions where a lot of people pass through, and where dedicated employees worked, sometimes have spirits not ready to go to the other side because of unsolved issues, or an unwillingness to leave one’s life work.


802 “N” Street
Sacramento, California 95814
(916) 324-0575

Leland Stanford Mansion State Park and its gardens are located 2 blocks west of Sacramento’s Capitol building on the corner of 8th Street and N Street. Follow the brick path to the Visitor Center at the rear of the property.




Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr

Haunts in Sacramento Haunts in California