Fight for a just cause,
love your fellow man,
live a good life.
--William Bowers Bourn II

The Filoli estate covers 654 acres along the foothills of Woodside, California. The gardens alone cover 16 acres. The house (often called on of America's castles) was built in 1917 by William Bowers Bourn II. For several years the origin of the name was a mystery that Mr. Bourn kept to himself until one of his friends realized the name was built from the key words in Mr. Bourn's motto.

William Bourn II had studied in Cambridge for some time prior to his father's sudden death. When William Bourn II returned home to manage the Empire Mine (and the bottoming out of the mine) near Grass Valley, California. It was under William Bourn II's management that the vein that made Empire Mine famous was found. Mr. Bourn also owned and presided over the Spring Valley Water Company which handled Crystal Springs Lake (now part of the San Francisco Water Department).

While in England, Mr. Bourn had become enchanted with the classical architecture and had the house done in a similar design. The architect for the house was Willis Polk, who used a combination of a variety of styles in its design. The house is a classic example of the California eclectic style, popular in the decade following the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 as many of the wealthy built estates outside of San Francisco rather than rebuild in the rubble of the city (incidentally, Filoli is built almost on top of the San Andreas Fault). Filoli contains many elements - a Flemish brick exterior, French windows, Spanish tile roof, and a general English Country House design. Construction started in 1917 and lasted two years. The cost of building the house (43 rooms) was about $500,000 at that time.

Much of the gardens were built during this time. Unlike most formal gardens which extend out from the house with the center of the long axis of the garden running through the center of the house, the gardens of Filoli have the central axis line up with the valley and the lake. From the high garden, one could originally look through all of the gardens and see Crystal Springs Lake. This was one of the favorite places for Mr. Bourn late in his life when he would be wheeled out there to that place just to look back.

Mr. and Mrs. Bourn died in 1936 leaving with no heirs (Maud Bourn was their only child, and she died shortly before her parents did, childless). In 1937 the house was purchased by William P. Roth - the owner of the Matson Navigation Company. He and his wife lived there with their children (it was under his ownership that the swimming pool was added to the garden in 1946 - apparently teenagers always want a pool). The Roth's owned it until in 1975, Mrs. Roth donated 125 acres (including the house and the garden) of the land to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the remaining land was donated to the Filoli Center.

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