A Vision for the Future with an Eye on the Past
Laura Whitaker serves as president of Castle & Cooke, Mainland Communities Division. In that capacity, she oversees the development of retail shopping centers, residential and active adult master planned communities, office developments, golf courses and water companies across the country. Laura, a Michigan native, has been a resident of Bakersfield for many years.
Laura assumed the leadership of a company whose profile here in Bakersfield has long been viewed as a major pillar in the city’s development. Castle & Cooke has brought a new aesthetic to Bakersfield and introduced the concept of gated communities among other unique community features. While the company has made significant contributions to the landscape here, the origins of Castle & Cooke date back to the mid-19th century.
A Seed of an Idea
Samuel Northrup Castle and Amos Starr Cooke could never have imagined that the partnership they formed in 1851 would survive into the 21st century. Their paths coincided when they both booked passage on the bark Mary Frazier, sailing from Boston to Honolulu in 1836. They were amongst a group of Protestant missionaries bound for what was then the Kingdom of Hawai’i. The voyage lasted four months and required circumnavigating Cape Horn, off the coast of Chile—the Panama Canal wasn’t completed until 1914. They worked with the missionaries and established a general store. The firm of Castle & Cooke was born. Cooke died in 1871, while Castle died in 1894.
In 1910, the company sought to broaden their capabilities and invested in Matson Navigation Company, a shipping firm. By 1931, Castle & Cooke had purchased a 21 percent share of The Hawaiian Food Company that later became known as the Dole Food Company.
Modern History—Go West, Young Man
In the 1920s while the Castle & Cooke Company was developing in Hawaii, a young meteor who would change the company’s course forever, was born. David Murdock was born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1923. He came from a family of very modest means. David was drafted in 1943 and served in The Army Air Corps during World War II. After the war, David settled in Detroit. A sympathetic, acquaintance lent him $1,200 with which he bought a dilapidated diner, fixed it up and sold it 10 months later for a $700 profit. With a little success under his belt and some cash in his pocket, he moved to Phoenix, where his real estate career flourished in the post-war boom.
He became very successful, and by the mid-1980s, David saw a golden opportunity. Within the same year, 1985, he sold Canon Mills and bought the Castle & Cooke Company. He had created an extensive real estate portfolio of both residential and commercial holdings and the Dole division became the largest producer of fruits and vegetables in the world. In 1987, he made more acquisitions in the form of assets formerly held by Tenneco and Flexi-Van. A sizable portion of Bakersfield real estate was included in the deal, some of which has been developed into what you see here today.
Castle & Cooke, a 26 year legacy in Bakersfield
David’s vision to create beautiful communities where families can thrive is artfully displayed in the creation of Seven Oaks. The influences of classic architecture of the Georgian period abound in the homes, clubhouse, walls and gates. While red brick is a signature element of traditional Georgian homes in Williamsburg, Virginia, and throughout the country, it also gives a nod to those first homes David built in Arizona after the war. Castle & Cooke also conceived and built the Shops at Riverwalk, The Marketplace as well as significant office park developments.
Castle & Cooke is a leading real estate developer in the United States. Laura Whitaker now assumes history’s mantel and will steer the company into the future. Bakersfield is poised to benefit from her competent vision and the future holds great promise with significant growth anticipated for the city. Laura has been involved in many community organizations including Employers Training Resource, Bakersfield Police Activities League, Assistance League of Bakersfield and Honor Flight Kern County.
As a former military veteran herself, Laura is proud to support our local veterans.
Highgate at Seven Oaks
Today and tomorrow Castle & Cooke shines a bright and beautiful light on new development in Bakersfield. Throughout its storied history, Castle & Cooke has proven to be a dependable and stable company. Highgate is the newest Castle & Cooke addition. A brick clock tower stands sentinel at the gated entrance, a reference to time, past, present and future. The new community will feature Highgate Regents, Highgate Estates, Highgate Proper, Highgate Shires and Highgate Square. A swim and fitness clubhouse will be the central highlight. Elegant new homes are energy efficient and green-built. One of many innovative features is waterwise technology that delivers hot water in six seconds triggered by a motion detection sensor that senses an individual approaching the bathroom and assures that hot water is always near at hand. Model homes are now open and ready for viewing. Castle & Cooke has come a long way since those early days in Hawaii without running water or electricity.
While it took four months at sea in 1836, today, the travel time from Boston to Honolulu is approximately 13 hours with a stop!