From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Exterior of Filoli, used as the Carrington Mansion on the television series Dynasty
Location86 Cañada Road, Woodside, California
Coordinates37°28′13″N 122°18′39″W / 37.4704°N 122.310703°W / 37.4704; -122.310703Coordinates: 37°28′13″N 122°18′39″W / 37.4704°N 122.310703°W / 37.4704; -122.310703
Built forWilliam Bowers Bourn II
ArchitectWillis Polk
Architectural style(s)Georgian Revival
Governing bodyNational Trust for Historic Preservation
Official nameBourn-Roth Estate
DesignatedAugust 28, 1975
Reference no.75000479[1]
DesignatedFebruary 8, 1977
Reference no.907[2]
Filoli is located in California
Location of Filoli in California
Filoli is located in the United States
Filoli (the United States)

Filoli, also known as the Bourn-Roth Estate, is a country house set in 16 acres (6.5 ha) of formal gardens surrounded by a 654-acre (265 ha) estate, located in Woodside, California, about 25 miles (40 km) south of San Francisco, at the southern end of Crystal Springs Reservoir, on the eastern slope of the Santa Cruz Mountains.[3] Now owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Filoli is open to the public. The site is both a California Historical Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[1][2]


Bourn family[edit]

Filoli was built between 1915 and 1917 for William Bowers Bourn II, owner of one of California's richest gold mines and president of Spring Valley Water Company, supplying San Francisco's water,[4] and his wife, Agnes Moody Bourn. They wanted a country estate nearer to their home in San Francisco.[5] The principal designer, San Francisco architect Willis Polk, used a free Georgian style that incorporated the tiled roofs characteristic of California.[6] Polk had previously designed Bourn's houses in Grass Valley and on Webster Street in San Francisco.[7] Polk's friend, artist and designer Bruce Porter was commissioned to collaborate with the Bourns in planning the gardens, which were laid out between 1917 and 1922. The horticulturist who designed the plantings and fixed the original color schemes was Isabella Worn; she supervised the garden's maintenance for 35 years.[5]

Filoli served as one of the Bourns' residences from 1917 to 1936. The name of the estate is an acronym formed by combining the first two letters from the key words of William Bourn's credo: "Fight for a just cause; Love your fellow man; Live a good life."[8]

Bourn's Spring Valley Water Company owned Crystal Springs Reservoir and the surrounding area. Bourn called the Crystal Springs Reservoirs "Spring Valley Lakes" for his company. The original Spring Valley was between Mason and Taylor Streets, and Washington and Broadway Streets in San Francisco, where the water company started. When the company went south for more water, the Spring Valley name was carried south too.[9]

Bourn also owned Muckross House in Ireland and is reputed to have used Muckross as a model for Filoli.

Roth family[edit]

Following the deaths of William and Agnes Bourn in 1936, the estate was sold the following year to Mr. William P. Roth and Mrs. Lurline Matson Roth, heiress to the Matson Navigation Company. The Roth family built Filoli's botanic collections of camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas, notably in the Woodland Garden, and added the serene swimming pool and the screened-in teahouse.[10]

Current status[edit]

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.[11] The estate operates as Filoli Center, a private, non-profit organization with its own Board of Governors, staff and volunteers.


The house is 54,256 square feet,and has 56 rooms total. This includes a ballroom, a reception room, a dining room, cozier family rooms, and servants quarters. While the home was empty when it reached the National Trust, much of the original furniture and art has been donated, to help them recreate the original appearance of the home.[12] This is an ongoing effort; in 2022 (the year this edit was created) they restructured the gentleman's lounge to include new period typical additions to the room and add a recreation of the original wallpaper.[13]


Filoli houses two libraries with resources related to the families and the estate; the Friends Library Collection and the Sterling Library Collection. The Friends Library is a circulation library that holds 1,500 books, 125 videos, lectures, or oral histories, and several copies of movies filmed on the estate. The Sterling Library is a research library with 1,800 books and 40 journals. Both libraries are only open to Filoli members or researchers.[14]


The 16 acres (6.5 ha) of gardens are structured as a series of formally enclosed spaces framed within brick walls and clipped hedges, which open one from another, providing long axial views, in which profuse naturalized plantings of hardy and annual plants contrast with lawns, brick and gravel paths, formal reflecting pools, framed in walls and clipped hedging in box, holly, laurel and yew (illustration, right) and punctuated by massive terracotta pots and many narrowly columnar Irish yews, originally grown on the estate from cuttings. Filoli is an outstanding example of the Anglo-American gardening style reintroducing Italian formality, that was pioneered at the end of the nineteenth century by Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll in British gardens and exemplified in the U.S. by designs of Charles A. Platt and Beatrix Farrand.[15]

The gardens extend southeast of the house running up an easy slope. The sunken garden is the first of four main rooms; the rectangular pool at its center that houses hardy and tropical water lilies is flanked by twin panels of lawn and two olive trees, within the hedge of clipped Japanese yew. The walled garden consists of a series of enclosures, including the stained glass window design outlined in clipped box

After it was acquired by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1975, Filoli has been open for public tours. Attractions include self-guided tours, guided tours, and nature hikes.

The formal gardens include several areas, including the Wedding Place, named for Berenice Roth's wedding location in 1941. Lurline and Berenice both had their wedding receptions at Filoli, but Berenice's wedding is the only one that has ever taken place at Filoli when it was a private home. The largest gardens are working gardens for the production of cut flowers for the mansion and for the growing of some vegetables.


Filoli Gentlemen's Orchard was started by Bourn family in the early 20th century, however the Roth family did not maintain the orchard and by the 1970s it was in poor condition.[16] In 1997, the California Rare Fruit Growers began donating rare plants to restore the orchard.[16] Many of the current 650+ trees in the orchard are lost varieties of fruit and include: 275 varieties of apple trees, 59 pear varieties, 42 peach varieties, 6 medlar, and many more.[16][17]

Ecology and conservation[edit]

Coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) on Laguna Creek tower over the oaks (just below Filoli's lower parking lot on main entrance road).

Laguna Creek, locally known as "Orchard Creek", flows northwest from its origin on the western slope of Edgewood County Park to Upper Crystal Springs Reservoir where its waters eventually join San Mateo Creek, and descend to San Francisco Bay.[18] In November 1769, Laguna Creek was the route of the Portolà expedition as they descended from their discovery of San Francisco Bay on Sweeney Ridge down San Andreas Creek to Laguna Creek and then southeast down the San Francisquito Creek watershed to El Palo Alto. After crossing to the west side of Cañada Road, Laguna Creek is joined on the left (heading downstream) by the South Fork Laguna Creek, then after crossing under the main entrance road to Filoli it is joined by locally named Fault Creek, then Spring Creek (possibly named by Bourn for his Spring Valley Water Company), then on the right by an unnamed creek, then by waters from the Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct and Pulgas Water Temple just before entering Upper Crystal Springs Reservoir. Historically, the San Mateo Creek watershed hosted runs of anadromous salmonids, including coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) and steelhead trout (coastal rainbow trout) (Oncorhynchus mykiss irideus) coming up from the Bay. In 1877, Laguna Grande, a natural lake on Laguna Creek, was dammed with an earthen causeway[19] (now crossed by Highway 92) blocking further salmonid migration up into Laguna Creek and its tributaries on Filoli. Stream resident rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), continue to run up the creeks of Filoli from the reservoir to spawn.[20]

San Mateo County historian Frank Stanger cited sizeable groves of redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) in the Laguna Creek watershed. In the area around Filoli he described two historic lumber mills. The historic "Smith Mill" on Fault Creek was destroyed by fire in 1854. Pinckney's mill in "the largest gulch", which would be Spring Creek, was built in 1855 and later purchased by S. L. Mastic. Although information on these mills is limited, they support the idea that "the area was thoroughly logged".[21] A large redwood tree remains on Laguna Creek just below the lower Filoli parking lot and on the main entrance road.

Estate Trail[edit]

In 2017, Filoli added The Estate Trail, which gives visitors the opportunity to walk through the outer nature preserve of Filoli. This trail passes through the horse pasture, a field of native plants, the former horse barn, and a former barn that has been turned into the Sally MacBride Nature Center.[22] It also leads to a bridge over the San Andreas Fault, which cuts through the property.[23]

Film location[edit]

Filoli has served as the set for many Hollywood films.[24] Most famously, it is the mansion seen from the air in the opening credits of the television series Dynasty. The mansion's plush interiors were also featured in the first episodes of the series but were subsequently replicated on sound stages at the Fox Studios, Century City. However the entire mansion served as the setting for the 2006 CBS Television special Dynasty Reunion: Catfights & Caviar in which cast members reunited to discuss their memories of the series. It was the first time many of the cast members had been to the actual estate.

Among the many striking mature trees on the grounds are a row of immense Italian Stone Pines and scattered specimen native Coast Live Oaks over 250 years in age, the latter of which are the backdrop for Warren Beatty's outdoor scenes in Heaven Can Wait.

Filoli was featured in Bob Vila's A&E Network production, Guide to Historic Homes of America,[25] as well as in a November 1996 segment of A&E's America's Castles: Garden Estates, the latter being shown continuously at the visitor center.[26]

The house also served as the Stanhope residence in the 1997 film George of the Jungle and was featured in The Game in the same year.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  2. ^ a b "Filoli". Office of Historic Preservation, California State Parks. Retrieved 2012-10-14.
  3. ^ "Filoli Mansion and Gardens". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey, United States Department of the Interior.
  4. ^ McDermott, Jeanne (March 1984), "Filoli", Horticulture, pp. 28–35
  5. ^ a b McDermott 1984:30.
  6. ^ Papoulias, Alexander (April 28, 2008), "'Country Elegance' in Woodside", Palo Alto Online
  7. ^ Weinstein, Dave (2009-01-03). "Architect had designs on San Francisco". SFGate. Retrieved 2020-05-04.
  8. ^ DeVere, Julia Bly (2017). Filoli: Family Home; Historic Garden; Living Museum. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 11–13. ISBN 9781784421557.
  9. ^ Erwin G. Gudde, William Bright (2004). California Place Names: The Origin and Etymology of Current Geographical Names. University of California Press. p. 372. ISBN 978-0-520-24217-3. Retrieved 2012-03-20.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  10. ^ McDermott 1984:31.
  11. ^ Seehaus, Karen (March 9, 2005), "Spring Fling: Ring in spring at one of the Bay Area's own historic treasures", The Wave Magazine, San Jose, California, vol. 05, no. 5, p. 30, archived from the original on September 27, 2007, retrieved July 18, 2007
  12. ^ "The House | Filoli". 2020-09-03. Retrieved 2022-04-05.
  13. ^ "Gentlemen's Lounge Restoration | Filoli". 2022-03-19. Retrieved 2022-04-05.
  14. ^ "About Library | Filoli Historic House & Garden". Retrieved 2022-04-05.
  15. ^ McDermott 1984.
  16. ^ a b c Chapman, Robin (2017-01-18). "Silicon Valley Orchardists 2.0". Edible Silicon Valley. Retrieved 2019-06-13.
  17. ^ Lee, Christine (2018). "From apples to oranges". Palo Alto Weekly. Retrieved 2019-06-13. He volunteers at the Filoli estate in Woodside, maintaining its orchard of more than 650 fruit trees
  18. ^ Alan Hynding (1982). From Frontier to Suburb, The Story of the San Francisco Peninsula. Belmont, California: Star Publishing Company. p. 15. ISBN 978-0-89863-056-5.
  19. ^ Ferol Egan (1998). Last bonanza kings: the Bourns of San Francisco. University of Nevada Press. p. 167. ISBN 978-0-87417-319-2. Retrieved 2012-03-20.
  20. ^ Christopher Wingate Lanman (2013). Beyond the Back Gate: Filoli's Wild Garden. Los Altos, California. p. 84. ISBN 978-0-615-81816-0. Retrieved 2014-01-11.
  21. ^ Frank M. Stanger (1967). Sawmills in the Redwoods: Logging on the San Francisco Peninsula, 1849–1967. San Mateo County Historical Association. pp. 56–51.
  22. ^ "Explore Native Plants and the San Andreas Fault on Filoli's Estate Trail | National Trust for Historic Preservation". Retrieved 2022-04-05.
  23. ^ "The Estate | Filoli". 2020-09-03. Retrieved 2022-04-05.
  24. ^ It was the mansion featured in Heaven Can Wait and The Game. The garden was used as a set in George of the Jungle, The Joy Luck Club, and The Wedding Planner.
  25. ^ Bob Vila (1996). "Guide to Historic Homes of America". A&E Network.
  26. ^ America’s Castles "Garden Estates" was filmed at Filoli from April 14 to April 18, 1996. It was first aired on A&E November 24, 1996, Sunday, at 10 p.m. EST. The show featured three homes — Filoli in Woodside, California; Bellingrath Home and Gardens in Mobile, Alabama; and Maymont in Richmond, Virginia. America’s Castles was produced by S. Alex Alexander at Cinetel Productions.

External links[edit]