Last Monday, Linda and I spent a most memorable day with my sister, Karen, who was visiting us from Georgia. After a thirty-minute drive, we motored onto the gorgeous grounds and gardens which surround the Filoli estate, situated on many of the choicest acres to be found in the San Mateo County of Northern California. The day had dawned bright and beautiful, with cloudless sky and a stillness in the air. A warm sun was already dissipating the bracing cool of the early-morning air as we headed to the reception center. Filoli is one of our absolute-favorite places…anywhere! Its beauty rivals many of the most majestic estates we have visited in our European travels.
After we checked-in and received our yellow/green Filoli “visitor dots,” we headed off to the far-reaching gardens which are always both familiar, yet ever-new thanks to the incredible horticultural staff which constantly renews and refreshes the grounds while busily planting new bulbs and flora as the seasons leisurely parade past. Filoli is always ablaze with seas of brilliant color – about as good as it gets insofar as gardens go.
As for me, personally, I was badly in need of Filoli’s soothing, healing effects due to recent events which had generated considerable stress. As we meandered through the seas of floral color, nature’s perfume enveloped us at every turn. Despite many past visits to Filoli, I have never had a more beautiful experience, there, than last Monday afforded. Truly, there is no equivalent to the natural beauty of a garden vis-a-vis the ability to soothe nerves while providing renewal and peaceful perspective. For that, on Monday, I was most thankful – and remain so!
The 54,256 square foot mansion was constructed beginning in 1916 by William Bourn and his wife, Agnes. Bourn held a principal stake in the Empire gold and silver mine in California’s Grass Valley region – east of Sacramento. The Empire mine was one of the most bountiful of all California mining sites, making Mr. Bourn a very wealthy man, indeed. The mansion and its elegant furnishings coupled with the huge tract of choice land which comprises the estate made an unbelievably fine retreat for the Bourns. In later years, William suffered a debilitating stroke which led to the purchase of the property in 1937 by the Roth family, operators of the lucrative Matson shipping lines. The iconic Lurline trans-Pacific ocean liner was the famous flagship of the Matson Lines in the nineteen-forties, fifties, and sixties. Sailing between San Francisco and Honolulu on the Lurline was the epitome of luxury in those days.
The house and grounds were bequethed by the Roth family in 1975 to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The house and grounds remain today, as they were back then, in beautifully maintained condition: how fortunate are us locals!
“Toto of Filoli”
The mansion is ably guarded by numerous plaster clones of “Toto,” the real-life French bulldog owned by the Bourns and who roamed the mansion over one-hundred years ago. On Monday, I suggested to a lady in Filoli’s elegant gift shop that they would sell dozens of Totos each week if they could only commission a worthy version from some supplier. The lady offered that they hear that same sentiment from many visitors!
This post is intended as an “appetizer” for a more extensive photo-layout and history of this beautiful estate. Stay tuned for that upcoming post!