Thoughtful Husband and I recently had the opportunity to take a tour of one of the last remaining “country estates” on the Peninsula, that thin strip of crowded and expensive real estate between San Francisco and San Jose. One hundred years ago, the land between San Francisco and San Jose was mostly rural. It was where the rich, usually those who had built their fortunes in gold or silver, in railroads, and in banking, built their “summer homes”. Though it’s not far from The City, the climate on the Peninsula, particularly in the summer, is much warmer (and therefore more desirable) than that of foggy San Francisco. You might even recall Mark Twain’s remark about the coldest winter he ever spent being a summer in San Francisco. That’s no joke, and the wealthy of the early 20th century knew it, building opulent summer places where they could get away from the “fog belt” of San Francisco and warm up a bit.
We toured Filoli Estate, located about 30 miles south of San Francisco, near the town of Woodside, a popular place to live for those who made their fortunes in the “second gold rush” that was the Silicon Valley heyday of the 1980s and 90s. Filoli is now part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Tours of the house and its many acres of fantastic gardens are available year ’round, and are well worth it, if you are ever in the area.
Designed between 1915-1917 for the Bourn family, whose wealth was earned from the gold of Grass Valley, California’s Empire Mine, the house has a very interesting history which, if you like California history as much as I do, you can read about here.
When we visited last Saturday, April 3, the gardens were in the first blush of a beautiful spring bloom. You can see a few of my photos of the gardens here.
I admire gardens, but I do not have a green thumb. I was most interested to see the interior of the house, and especially to see whether the house had a Library (with a capital “L”) that befits its elegant and opulent character.
I was not disappointed.
Now, I know you’ve seen pictures of the “Library” at my house. Despite my fervent wishes, it does not (yet!) have a ladder, it does not (yet!) have oak-paneled walls, and it is not (yet!) papered in illuminated manuscript leaves. It doesn’t even have a room of its own (yet!), as it’s in the hallway of my home, which, while it is on a charming piece of Peninsula land, is on the smallish side.
Here’s a photo of my recently “improved” Library, which for the first time, has floor to ceiling shelves with glass doors. It’s modest, yes, but I am quite proud of it, as it was built with some of the money I’ve earned being an antiquarian bookseller:
The Library at Filoli is, to say the least, inspiring. Here’s what I thought when I first gazed upon it:
Note the ladder (left), the wood paneling, the antique globe! And the books! Look at that model ship!
The tour continued through equally impressive drawing rooms, parlors, dining rooms, and a 2,200 square foot ballroom accented with gold leaf from the Empire Mine. After the Bourn family, the Roth (Matson Navigation Company) family owned the home until 1975 when the house and formal gardens were donated to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The house was used in the movie Heaven Can Wait and for exterior shots for the 1980s television show, Dynasty.
We ended our tour of the rest of the fabulous house with a tour through the 16 acres of gardens. Despite the very last of winter rain, nice people took our photo out in a spot in the garden known as High Place:
I enjoyed our visit to Filoli, and I think it’s a lovely home. I don’t need a large home to be happy, but I can’t stop thinking about someday building, for a customer or for myself, a beautiful Library like the one in Filoli.
It will be mine. Oh yes, it will be mine. 🙂
See you in the stacks!