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By Mike Hazlip—
If the grass and trees of 7828 Old Auburn Rd. could talk, they would tell stories of a bygone age before city hall and Sunrise Mall, when the name “Citrus Heights” was just a marketing slogan conjured up by a land developer looking to sell subdivided lots to citrus growers.
The 4.7-acre lot changed hands in 2021 and again this last June, and remains one of the few remaining larger, undeveloped properties in Citrus Heights. Another similar-sized lot at 7542 Hackney Ln., about a mile west of the Old Auburn Road property, also sold earlier this year.
Today, Mariposa Avenue separates the two properties, but they were once part of larger ranches owned by neighboring families, the William Berry Ranch to the west and the Wheadon ranch to the east.
Citrus Heights Historical Society President Larry Fritz relayed the history of the properties to The Sentinel in an email, noting that Berry was a French Canadian who traveled to San Francisco in 1859 by boat. He settled in Citrus Heights, which was then known as Center Township, and eventually acquired 280 acres. Berry’s property was bounded by what is now called Watson Way to the north, Mariposa Avenue to the east, Old Auburn Road to the south and Auburn Boulevard to the west.
The other adjacent ranch was owned by Theodore and Isabel Wheadon, who were some of the first settlers in Center Township, Fritz said. They eventually acquired 320 acres through the homestead act in an area bounded by streets now named Watson Way to the north, Sunrise Boulevard to the east, Nelson Lane to the South, and Mariposa Avenue to the west.
Theodore died in 1871 at the young age of 37, leaving the ranch to Isabel who continued to operate it for many years, Fritz said.
Around 1910, both ranches were purchased by the Trainor & Desmond real estate company and subdivided into parcels ranging between four and 10 acres, records show. Trainor & Desmond coined the phrase “Citrus Heights” to attract citrus growers looking for smaller parcels to farm. Berry’s 280 acres were purchased for $49,000, Fritz said.
The company also separated the Berry and Wheadon ranches by a road they initially named Citrus Avenue in keeping with the theme. That road is now Mariposa Avenue.
“It’s interesting to note that the parcel at 7828 Old Auburn took at least 15 years to sell after it was placed on the market in 1911, and it is one of the rare properties that has not been further subdivided,” Fritz said.
As for the Berry ranch, Trainor & Desmond labeled it Citrus Heights “Addition No. 5,” and Louis E. Pickering purchased four of the 10-acre parcels in the mid 1940s. As land values increased after WWII, Pickering further subdivided the property while living there through the remainder of the decade.
Zane and Fern Feller purchased a land-locked parcel from Pickering in 1946, where an easement was required to connect the Feller’s property with Auburn Boulevard. Today, that easement is Hackney Lane. The Fellers lived at 7542 Hackney Ln. for more than 25 years, Fritz said.
Almost three acres of the Berry ranch still remain at 7542 Hackney Ln. and 7546 Maple Ave. Current records from the Sacramento County Assessor show two residential buildings on the site with a total living area of 1,826 square feet. The homes were built in 1927, according to records.
The property at 7828 Old Auburn Rd., once part of the Wheadon Ranch, is situated across from Holy Family Catholic Church and most recently sold in June, 2022, for $770,000, records show. The property has an 1,180-square-foot home with three bedrooms and one bath, according to a real estate listing.
*Editor’s note: This story was inspired by a reader’s question regarding the history of these two larger properties. The article is available only to The Sentinel’s paid subscribers, who make stories like this possible. To submit a news tip or story idea, click here.
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