Chauncey Clarke was born in 1858 in Peoria, Illinois, where his family made a fortune by developing the Clarke Distilleries. In the 1890's, Chauncey moved to Phoenix, Arizona, for his health, and there he purchased hundreds of acres of desert land and established a successful gold mining enterprise.
Marie Rankin Clarke, an only child, was born in 1868 in Afton, Iowa. The Rankins were well established in Phoenix, Arizona, when Chauncey Clarke moved there. Her father, a mining engineer, encouraged her to excel in many masculine pursuits. Frequently, she rode horseback with him to the mines on prospecting trips. A lifelong friend of hers once said, "She could ride a horse with as much grace, and shoot as accurately, Annie Oakley."
One day, while riding horseback on his mining property, Chauncey met the high-spirited Marie Rankin. They were married in 1894, and made their first home in Peoria, Arizona, founded by Clarke himself. Their 35 year, success-story marriage began.
They moved to California in 1904, first to Altadena and then to Los Angeles. During this time, they purchased ranch property in Downey, Pico Rivera, and Santa Fe Springs. They chose the 60 acres of citrus groves they owned in Santa Fe Springs as the site for their country home. It is not known why Mrs. Clarke selected Irving Gill as the architect, but the choice of someone so innovative was consistent with her worldly and modern outlook.
Shortly after the Clarkes moved into their new home in Santa Fe Springs, oil was discovered on their land, and the smells and noises of oil production made it necessary for them to leave. Although they lived in the home for a short time, they sometimes entertained their friends by showing movies outdoors in the courtyard. The screen was rolled down from the upstairs balcony, and the projector was situated on a specially designed balcony on the opposite side of the courtyard.
During 1922 to 1926, the Clarkes began purchasing several parcels of land in the Coachella Valley. They reestablished themselves on a new ranch called "Point Happy Date Gardens". The property was developed into one of the finest date ranches in the Coachella Valley.
In addition to date farming, Chauncey Clarke began raising purebred Arabian horses. He believed that the climate of Coachella Valley was similar to the Arabian climate, and made the ideal environment in which to raise these horses. Because of failing health, he was unable to continue the development of Point Happy. He sold his horses shortly before his death in 1926.
Mrs. Clarke stayed on at Point Happy and pursued many interests, including the cause of world peace and education, motion picture photography, classic theater production, and reading. She was known as a superb conversationalist and narrator. She predicted the downfall of white colonialism in the Far East, and felt that wars could be averted if people would strive to find their common likes and similarities. She was known to have said, "He who is different from me, does not impoverish me; he enriches me."
When she died in 1948, the bulk of her estate was left to Claremont College. Since she had no children, the home in Santa Fe Springs was left to a friend and two relatives. Once of the heirs, James Siemon, lived in the home until 1986 when it was purchased by the City of Santa Fe Springs.
At her own request, her ashes, along with her husband's, were scattered in the mountains near their Arizona gold mine.
The Estate / The Architect