Skip to content

The History of Camp Whitsett


San Fernando Valley emerges:

Meanwhile back in the San Fernando Valley, one major promoter was William Paul Whitsett, San Fernando Valley developer and founder of Van Nuys. Born in Pennsylvania, Whitsett was a successful businessman who contracted tuberculosis and moved, first to Arizona for rest and to be cured, then to Los Angeles for his continued good health in 1905. In 1911 he joined the syndicate purchasing San Fernando Valley property and became the sales manager for the new community of Van Nuys. Whitsett energetically promoted the sale of town lots, holding barbecues, providing transportation, and offering inducements to prospective purchasers. The promotion was very successful, and Whitsett made Van Nuys his home for the rest of his life. As one of the commissioners of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, and long-time board member of the Metropolitan Water District, Whitsett involved himself in water politics and the promotion of Owens Valley. By the end of his life he had seen the population of Van Nuys and the San Fernando Valley grow from 250 people in 1911 to one million in 1965.


WILLIAM PAUL WHITSETT came to California from Pennsylvania in 1905 for health reasons. He was instrumental is establishing the city of Van Nuys, California, and helped open the San Fernando Valley through real estate development. He bought a half-interest in a one square mile townsite in January 1911, and sub-divided it into residential parcels. With the help of a friend, Harry Chandler, the subdivision was named “Van Nuys” with Whitsett’s slogan “Van Nuys — The Town That Was Started Right”. It formally opened on Washington’s Birthday (Feb. 22) in 1911. Whitsett helped subdivide many other portions of San Fernando Valley land, creating cities and his personal fortune. Because he was a community-minded citizen, he served on the Metropolitan Water District, becoming its chairman in 1928.

According to stories, Whitsett used to travel to the Kern Plateau region of the Sequoia National Forest north of Camp Whitsett, in the 20s and 30s on hunting and camping expeditions. He spent many idyllic days in the Sierras and came to love them as much as his own home.