20 Aug 2014
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Who Is That Handsome Gent Looking Off Into the Distance?

Why it’s Dwight Whiting, of course, in this pensive publicity portrait.

Who Is That Handsome Gent Looking Off Into the Distance?

Considering that he was the founder of El Toro—and, ultimately, the city of Lake Forest—photos of Dwight Whiting are none-too-plentiful. 

There is, of course, , impeccably tailored, arms majestically crossed, and looking very much the late 19th century land tycoon.

Then there’s the photo published in 's Old El Toro Reader, apparently taken only a year or two before Whiting's 1907 death, in which the latter is aboard a state-of-the-art horseless carriage with fellow land baron . By then, however, Whiting—though still very much the nattily-attired gentleman—looks a bit too affluent, his face and form puffy, most likely from the effects of the high living that, for a bon vivant of that time, would have included fine cigars, rich food, expensive wines, and a minimum of physical exercise.

I prefer to think of Dwight Whiting as he is pictured here. As always, he is immaculately dressed. His jacket, shirt, and trousers obviously are of the finest fabric, his boots of the best leather, and he’s sporting a jaunty cap which, even then, probably helped conceal an already receding hairline.

But rather than looking directly into the camera, Whiting stares at a point beyond, dark and brooding, his brows just barely avoiding a Heathcliff-like scowl. His pose is that of a gentleman of leisure as he holds a book, his back eased into a wicker chair and legs crossed, looking both serious and debonair.

The provenance of this photo is uncertain. For many years it has been on display inside  at , but when and where it was taken remain a mystery, a tentative title, “Dwight Whiting on Porch” being its only identification.

After having researched Whiting and his career, though, I’ll venture to suggest that he probably is seated on the veranda of his El Toro home, and that the photo is likely to have been taken for publicity purposes, either during or possible prior to the visit of local media members, all eager to write about Whiting and .   

By the close of the century, however, Dwight would leave his country paradise. Reportedly urged on by , who, rumor had it, didn't  cotton to El Toro life, he would ensconce himself, Emily, and their three children—a daughter, Nathalie, as well as two younger boys, Dwight Anson and George—in a fine house at a fashionable Los Angeles address. 

It is my belief, then, that this particular portrait shows Dwight Whiting on the cusp of his success, demonstrating to those who view it that you, too, can live a life of rural splendor, reclining on the veranda of your ranch, amidst your highly profitable orchards, in the charming new community of El Toro, California.

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