Lurline Matson Roth

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Lurline Matson Roth
Born September 3, 1890
San Francisco, California
Died September 4, 1985
Burlingame, California
Residence Filoli
Why Worry Farm
Education Miss Hamlin's
Spouse(s) William P. Roth
Children William M. Roth
Lurline Coonan
Berenice Roth Spalding
Parent(s) William Matson
Lillie Berenice Low
Relatives Charles F. Spalding (son-in-law)

Lurline Matson Roth (1890–1985) was an American heiress, equestrian and philanthropist from San Francisco, California. She competed in horse shows in the United States, and bred award-winning horses. She donated her estate, Filoli, to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.


Early life[edit]

Born Lurline Berenice Matson on September 3, 1890 in San Francisco, California.[1][2] She was named Lurline after sugar magnate Claus Spreckels's yacht.[3] Her father, William Matson, was the Swedish-American founder of Matson, Inc., a shipping corporation.[1] As such she was an heiress to the Matson fortune.[4] Her mother was Lillie Berenice (Low) Matson (1864–1930).[3] She had two older brothers, Walter Joseph (1877–1926) and Theodore William Matson (1883–1936). The family wintered in a rented house in San Francisco and summered in a house near Mills College.[3]

She was educated at Miss Hamlin's, a private all-girl school in San Francisco, where she studied music and art.[3]


She competed in horse shows every year and won national medals.[5]

In 1924, her mother purchased the Why Worry Farm in Woodside for Lurline, where she bred horses.[1][3][6] She owned a five-gaited horse, a three-gaited horse, a Standardbred road horse, a Hackney horse, a Hackney pony and a jumper and hired a trainer, thus turning it into a show stable.[3] After she stopped competing, her horses won many equestrian awards.[1] Two of her best-known American Saddlebred horses were Chief of Longview (born at Longview Farm in Lee's Summit, Missouri) and Sweetheart on Parade.[3]


During World War II, she volunteered for the American Red Cross.[3] A decade later, in 1964, she renovated Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco with her son.[1][4][7] The renovation cost US$10 million.[4]

In 1975, she donated Filoli to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.[1][8]

Personal life[edit]

She met William Philip Roth (1879–1963), a stockbroker from Honolulu, in 1913.[3] Even though her father was opposed to their relationship, they got married a year later in San Francisco, on May 27, 1914.[1][3] They had a son, William M. Roth in 1916, and two identical twin daughters, Lurline Roth Coonan and Berenice Roth Spalding, in 1920.[1][3]

They resided at Why Worry Farm with Lurline's mother, and they had another estate in Hawaii.[1][9][10] In 1937, they purchased Filoli, an estate in Woodside, California, from heir William Bowers Bourn II.[11] They often entertained guests at Filoli, including the pianist Ignace Paderewski and the aviator Amelia Earhart, who took her on a plane ride in 1937.[1]

After her husband died in 1953, she raised her children by herself at Filoli.[1] One of her daughters, Berenice, married Charles F. Spalding, an advisor to John F. Kennedy, television screenwriter, investment banker and heir to the Cudahy Packing fortune.[12]


She died on Wednesday, September 4, 1985, in Burlingame, California.[1][2] She was ninety-five years old.[1]

Further reading[edit]

Susanne B. Riess, Lurline Marston Roth, Karl Kortum, Toichi Domoto. Matson and Roth family history, a love of ships, horses and gardens: oral history transcript / and related material, 1980–1989. Ulan Press. 2011. 328 pages.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Burt A. Folkart, Matson Line Heiress Roth Dies After 95th Birthday : Philanthropist Lurline Roth Dies at Age 95, The Los Angeles Times, September 6, 1985
  2. ^ a b Lurline Matson Roth, 95, daughter of the founder of the Matson shipping line, Orlando Sentinel, September 8, 1985
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Filoli: The Roths: Lurline Matson Roth & William P. Roth
  4. ^ a b c Harriet Swift, The Virago Woman's Travel Guide to San Francisco, Book Passage Press, 1994 [1]
  5. ^ Thalia Lubin, Bob Dougherty, Woodside, Arcadia Publishing, 2011, p. 99 [2]
  6. ^ Gerry Frank, Gerry Frank's Friday surprise: a collection of his columns from The Oregonian, Gerry's Frankly Speaking, 1995 , pp. 112; 175 [3]
  7. ^ Douglas Martin, William M. Roth, Shipping Heir Who Became Lifelong Public Servant, Dies at 97, The New York Times,
  8. ^ Andrew Purvis, Filoli: Garden of a Golden Age, Smithsonian Magazine, June 2010
  9. ^ Felicia Warburg Roosevelt, Doers & Dowagers, New York City: Doubleday, 1975, pp. 47; 49 [4]
  10. ^ John R. K. Clark, Clark: Beaches of the Big Island, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1985, p. 135 [5]
  11. ^ Filoli: The Roths: The Roths at Filoli
  12. ^ Charles Spalding, San Francisco Gate, December 30, 1999

External links[edit]