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Fantastic Filoli Historic House & Garden - Woodside, CA

Fantastic Filoli Historic House & Garden - Woodside, CA

Old Oct 5th, 2021, 12:21 PM
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Fantastic Filoli Historic House & Garden - Woodside, CA

Tracy and I had to wait a year from our original reservations, but it was all worth it when we visited Filoli Historic House & Garden in Woodside, CA, earlier this year. The 654-acre estate, complete with 16 acres of formal gardens, makes for a terrific diversion when visiting the Bay Area.. A short half hour drive from San Francisco transports you from the bustling city to a tranquil world of color and beauty. In addition, the tour of a small portion of its 54,000+ square foot home with 56 rooms is well worth the experience. Story with colorful photos in link below ... story without colorful photos and with possible spelling errors below two photos.


Following our Oregon/Northern California trip, Tracy and I decided to make one last stop at a gorgeous spot she had been wanting to visit for years. Located about 25 miles south of San Francisco in Woodside, Filoli Historic House & Garden is a 654-acre estate that includes 16 acres of formal gardens and a historic 1917 Georgian revival mansion.

After the massive 1906 San Francisco earthquake, a lot of people decided to move south along the San Francisco Peninsula. Soon, a number of “grand estates” were constructed in Hillsborough and Woodside. Although it seemed safer from earthquakes than in The City, the Bourne family constructed their house only 200 yards away from the San Andreas fault. In a bit of irony, the Bournes experienced an earthquake the same month they moved in, but there was minimal damage to the house.

Its first owner, William Bourn (owner of one of California's richest gold mines and president of Spring Valley Water Company, which supplied San Francisco's water), named the estate Filoli, “a made-up word drawn from the first letters of his personal motto: “FIght for a just cause; LOve your fellow man; LIve a good life.” I guess that motto sums up the Bourn identity.

William and wife Agnes died in 1936, and the estate was purchased by the Roth family the following year, so the property is also called the Bourn-Roth Estate.

In 1975, Mrs. Roth donated the estate in its entirety to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, with an endowment that helps support annual operating expenses, and the property was opened to the public in 1977.

On a sunny, stupendous spring morning we headed south from Bodega Bay, crossed the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge and arrived at Filoli shortly before its opening time at 10 a.m. (timed tickets purchased online a month previous to our visit.) They weren’t kidding about mask wearing, and they had the sign to prove it.

We were given the lay of the land, walked around the huge house we would tour later, and started our hike through along the Estate Trail.

The first stop we made was at the Sunken Garden. Its reflecting pool was full of water lilies with the top of the old Carriage House (now the gift shop) Clock Tower peeking out above the yew hedge. “It had to be yew,” I crooned to Tracy, who pretended not to hear me.

In the other direction stands another pool with large trees serving as a backdrop.

The Garden House is located near the reflecting pool.

With its gated portico beckoning us, we headed toward the one-acre Walled Garden.

First we walked by a plaque honoring Lurline Roth, who bequeathed the gardens.

The gardens contain components of both English and Italian Renaissance designs.

The Heirloom Lavender Hedge was humming with bees.

When I saw these boxes for Carpenter Bees, I knew we had only just begun.

Here comes the Sun … dial.

Filoli also serves as a wedding destination site. This terraced garden is the perfect place to stage the nuptials.

The Rose Garden explodes with English roses, hybrid perpetuals and standard roses dotting the various beds.

Tracy loves rose gardens, and I always wonder how much it will cost at the nursery when we arrive back home. (we currently have 78 roses in our garden, but there is always room for more, or so Tracy tells me).

These beauties lit up like firecrackers

There are plenty of trails and even a trailer.

We walked through this entrance to another area that’s name completely escapes me.

Although it wasn’t really early, this bird caught his worm.

There’s also a one-hour Estate Trail that passes over the San Andreas Fault, but since we had about a six-hour drive ahead of us, we passed, through no fault of our own.

Walking through the gardens with very few people present gave us an air of tranquility.

Soon we were back at the Garden House.

I think this is our favorite spot in the garden.

The views of the old Carriage House can be seen at various points throughout your walk around the grounds of Filoli.

Now, it was time to take a quick tour of the 54,000+ square foot. house. It contains 56 rooms. including 17 fireplaces, 15 bathrooms, 14 staff bedrooms and 10 family bedrooms. Fortunately, the self-guided tour only takes you to a relatively small number of rooms.

We passed by the Grand Staircase and entered the Reception Room, where both the Bourn and Roth families held their large parties.

A European “Table Carpet” has hung here for 100 years. It was originally used as a tablecloth.

According to its website, “Though William and Agnes Bourn initially conceived Filoli as a humble “country place,” the House was designed as a space for entertaining on a grand scale. The large Ballroom and Reception Room hosted concerts and debut balls, and formal dinner parties were held in the elegant Dining Room.”

Humble it is not.

The Bourn’s library showcased some of the family book collection.

This beautiful room also contains some interesting Objets d'art.

The Dining Room reminded us that we needed to get an In-N-Out burger on the way home.

Although there was no Starsky in the dining room, we did find a hutch.

Hi Ho Silver! This Tiffany & Co. family sterling silverware service for 18 comes from the early 1900s. It contains 581 pieces, including 77 serving pieces. Doesn’t everyone need a bon bon spoon, pickle knife or shears for cutting grape stems?

Throughout the house there are examples of the prejudice that existed back when the Bourns and Roths lived in the house.

The kitchens at the House are large …

… complete with pantries. Since we were good to the last drop, we decided to head for the hills.

We exited the house and took a last look at the reflecting pool.

Although I tried to steer Tracy away, she found a door, and soon we were inside the Clock Tower Shop spending money on plants that would travel southward with us as we drove home.

We spent a little less than two hours walking through the gardens and touring the house. Filoli Historic House & Garden is a worthwhile stop if you’re planning on spending time in the Bay Area. Although just a half hour drive from San Francisco, you’ll soon feel at home in the surrounding countryside, where one feels light years away from city life.

maitaitom is offline  
Old Oct 5th, 2021, 08:48 PM
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It's been years since I visited Filoli. Your great report makes me think a trip down to the Peninsula is in order.

(My mom and dad sailed from SF to Hawaii in 1961 on the Lurline - Lurline Roth's father owned the Matson line and he named the ship after her. Wild history - Amelia Earhart sailed to HI on the Lurline with her plane on board; the ship was half way between Oahu and SF on Dec 7, 1941 and was converted to a troop ship for the return voyage.)
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Old Oct 6th, 2021, 08:22 AM
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wow-thanks so much. It's now on my to do list! I will try to find the Starsky.
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