Filoli  garden 

 (Oct. 28, 2006) 

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UPDATED: 2006-10-31

Filoli, the famous mansion and 654 acre estate with formal garden is located about 25 miles south of San Francisco on the eastern slope of the Santa Cruz Mountains in Woodside, California. The house, garden and grounds are one of the most elaborately embel-lished estates in the United States.

Filoli was built for Mr. and Mrs. Bourn, prominent San Franciscans whose chief source of wealth was the Empire Mine, a hard-rock gold mine in Grass Valley, California. Mr. Bourn was also owner and president of the Spring Valley Water Company comprising Crystal Springs Lake and surrounding lands, which are now part of the San Francisco Water Department. Mr. Bourn selected the southern end of Crystal Springs Lake as the site for his estate. Mr. Bourn chose his longtime friend, the prominent San Francisco architect Willis Polk, as the principal designer for the house. He arrived at the unusual name Filoli by combining the first two letters from the key words of his credo: "Fight for a just cause, love your fellow man, live a good life".*

Construction of Filoli began in 1915 and the Bourns moved into the house in 1917; Filoli served as one of their residences from 1917 to 1936. Bruce Porter, who was known for his garden designs incorpo-rating parterres, terraces, lawns and pools, was enlisted to help the Bourns plan the layout of the extensive formal garden, which was built between 1917 and 1921. Both Mr. and Mrs. Bourn died in 1936, and in 1937 the estate was sold to Mr. and Mrs. William P. Roth who continued to maintain and enrich the estate. In 1975, Mrs. Roth donated the estate in its entirety to the National Trust for Historic Preservation for the enjoyment and inspiration of future generations.

The current mastermind of the Filoli gardens is Lucy Tolmach, director of horticulture, who knew and worked with the Roth family.

Filoli is open for public tours and nature hikes. Several formal gardens on the property are largely maintained by local volunteers.


*From the garden very formal appearance, it looks that the owners fiercely loved to line-up the plants.

Grabov Rat : photo gallery : Filoli garden (Oct. 28, 2006)

Krešimir J. Adamić