This is the first of several posts «Louis» will do about the Filoli Estate. In this post, «Louis» will give you the history of the estate. Posts following this will be photos referencing this post.
The Filoli Estate is a surprisingly little-known gem located on the San Francisco peninsula thirty miles south of The City on the eastern slope of the Coast Range. The 654-acre Filoli estate contains as its central portion a historic house and sixteen acres of formal garden. The house was occupied from 1917 to 1936 as a private residence for its original owners, William Bowers Bourn II and his wife, Agnes Moody Bourn. In 1937 the property was sold to William and Lurline Matson Roth, who continued to maintain and enrich the estate. Lurline Roth donated Filoli to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1975.
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. 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.”
Mr. Bourn chose his longtime friend, the prominent San Francisco architect Willis Polk, as the principal designer for the house. Polk had previously designed the Bourns’ cottage in Grass Valley, as well as their home on Webster Street in San Francisco. An inventive architect, Polk frequently combined several styles in the design of a single building, an eclecticism clearly evident in Filoli’s design.
Construction of Filoli began in 1915 and the Bourns moved into the house in 1917. Bruce Porter 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. The estate was then purchased in 1937 by William and Lurline Matson Roth, who owned the Matson Navigation Company. Under the Roths’ supervision, the property was maintained and the formal garden gained worldwide recognition. Mrs. Roth made this her home until 1975 when she donated 125 acres, which included the house and formal garden, to the National Trust for Historic Preservation for the enjoyment and inspiration of future generations. The remaining acreage was given to Filoli Center.
A prime example of the California eclectic style, Filoli provides an inspiring vision of a "new Eden," with bountiful land, plentiful resources, and an emphasis on self-sufficiency. Built more than sixty years after the California Gold Rush that inspired massive migration to Northern California, and ten years after the devastating 1906 earthquake and fire in San Francisco, Filoli represented a desire to create a magnificent and enduring country estate.
Now operated by Filoli Center, the estate represents an excellent example of architecture and garden design from the first part of the twentieth century. The house is furnished with some of the Bourns’ and Roths’ original furnishings. During the blooming season, exquisite specimens of Mrs. Roth’s collection of orchids are displayed in the rooms. The beautiful flower arrangements throughout the house are created with flowers from the Lurline Roth Garden by the Friends of Filoli Flower Arranging Committee.
Matson Navigation is the principal carrier of containerized cargo and automobiles between the U.S. Pacific Coast and Hawaii, the Hawaiian Neighbor Islands and the Mid-Pacific Islands. The company was founded in 1882 by Lurline Matson Roth's father. Before airplanes became the favored transport to Hawaii, Matson operated passenger ships between the west coast ports, principally San Francisco, and Hawaii. Mason is credited with introducing mass tourism to Hawaii with the opening of the Moana Hotel (now known as the Moana Surfrider Hotel) and the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki on the island of Oahu. One of the most famous of the Matson passenger ships was the "Lurline." The ship was not named after Mr. Matson's daughter - it was the other way around; the most recent Maston "Lurline" steamship (built in 1932) being the forth ship of the company to bear that name.