Friday, June 25, 2010

FILOLI, part 1

A few months ago there was a beautiful spread in Smithsonian magazine about Filoli, an estate not far from here. I knew that Sandy, a good friend, was a docent there, so I emailed her to ask when was the best time to visit. Her response was delightfully astonishing -- she invited Cliff and me for a private deluxe guided tour, and we accepted with alacrity.

Yesterday was the chosen day, and what a tour it was! Amalie and I had been on many guided tours, but this was the first time that the guide not only gave her full attention to us, but was also quite mindful of where I could go on my scooter. And Sandy was just full of stories about not only the owners, but many details about the estate, both inside and out.

Of course I took pictures (as you can see). In fact I took about 90 all told, and will have to show these over at least a two day period. Today we are seeing the inside, but I still need to sort through the outdoor shots.

The property was built for Mr. and Mrs. William Bourn. Construction started in 1915 and was completed in 1917. Mr. Bourn created the 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.”

Maybe you recognize this mansion, even if you’ve never visited. It has been the site for some 11 movies and 8 television programs, the most notable, perhaps, being the TV series, Dynasty.

When the Bourns passed away in 1936, the property was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. William Roth, owners of Matson Navigation Company. The Bourns and the Roths were
the only two families ever to live at Filoli.

Elegant dining!

There is an interesting story on how Filoli is pronounced, with a long ‘I’ as in ‘fight’ which is what Mr. Bourn intended, or a short ‘I’ as in ‘if’, which is what Mrs. Roth preferred. She didn’t like the notion of ‘fight’, so she changed the ‘Fi’ to ‘Fidelity’. Sandy told us that these
days the docents are told to use the long ‘I’.

As you might expect, the house is immense. It contains 36,000 square feet of interior floor space on two floors and a mezzanine. My mobile home would fit inside the ballroom -- easily!
It takes a lot of help to maintain this estate, and Sandy told us that
Filoli has nearly 1200 volunteers.

Mrs. Roth liked to have fresh flowers in the house, and the
volunteers have kept up that lovely idea.

Welcome to the kitchen.

Mrs. Roth made Filoli her home until 1975 when she donated the entire estate to the National Trust for Historical Preservation.

This is a model of the Roths' yacht, Lurline.

That's Mrs. Roth over the fancy fireplace.

Some furnishings are original; others donated.

Mrs. Roth bought a horse farm just a few miles up the road from Filoli, but was commenting to her mother one day that the farm had no name. Mother replied, “Why worry about it?” and so the farm was named...




This used to be a safe for storing gold. Now
it stores wine.

And after all that you want something funny? well ...

One good turn gets most of the blankets.


  1. How many of those 1200 are needed just to dust? There needs to be a room just for the feather dusters!

  2. I wonder how much bird life the gardens there attract--just as a non sequitor.