Key Facts / Backgrounders
For media and public relations inquiries please contact Christina Syrett:
The first quarter of the twentieth century was a time of incredible growth and wealth in California. Many estates were created on the
peninsula south of San Francisco both before and after the 1906
earthquake. William Bowers Bourn, owner of the Empire Gold Mine,
hired the prominent architect Willis Polk to design his retirement
estate, which was built between 1915-1917. Filoli is set on roughly
654 acres at the south end of the Spring Valley Lakes, (now the
Crystal Springs Reservoir).
house is adopted from several architectural styles such as Georgian, Stuart, and Mediterranean and is appropriately referred to as a "Modified English Georgian Country House." Supporting details to this mixture of architectural styles include the rigid symmetry in all the finished elements, the Flemish bond brickwork of the exterior, and the red clay tile roof and iron balconies. It was a modern house for the time and even boasted electric lights, electric wall outlets, and an elevator.
- Size: The house is 36,000 square feet containing 43 rooms,
17 bathrooms, 17 fireplaces, and 18 ft. high ceilings on the first floor.
- Ballroom: The watergreen and gold ballroom is 72 ft. long,
30 ft. wide, with 22 ft. high ceilings containing massive murals
by Ernest Peixotto, French chandeliers, and silver-trimmed drapes.
- Dining Room: The baronial, oak-paneled dining room includes a French
Escalette marble fireplace, original draperies, and a 1703 oil
painting by Jan Weenix entitled, "Still Life with Dead Game."
- Drawing Room: This room contains a white Carrara marble
fireplace, Louis XIV crystal
chandeliers, and padded linen walls. A piano and harpsichord (dating
from 1749) and a card table (dating from 1740) are among the antique
pieces of furniture frequently displayed in this space.
- Reception Room: The Reception Room
served as the main meeting area to welcome guests to the estate.
Among the furnishings of the room is a white Carrara marble fireplace
inlaid with red Verona marble in a Greek key motif, a Chinese, palace-sized,
Coromandel screen, and an antique Persian carpet with Arabic lettering.
- Library: Stately in nature, this room contains 19th century Italian
Renaissance-styled bronze chandeliers and sconces, a Tavernelle
marble fireplace, furniture from the 17th and 18th century, and
a sizable Agra carpet which was originally in Osborne
House, Queen Victoria's home on the Isle of Wight.
- Additional rooms downstairs: The Butlers Room, the Kitchen, the
Study, and the Trophy Room and downstairs servants quarters. (Note: The downstairs servants' quarters are not open for public viewing).
- Additional rooms upstairs: The bedrooms, bathrooms, and two libraries which house reference books pertaining to horticulture, garden design, and decorative arts. (Note: The upstairs bedrooms and bathrooms are not open for public viewing. The libraries are available to members by appointment).
- Staircase: The black marble staircase with intricate wrought iron
balustrade rises through a 40 ft. high stairwell to the
- Furniture: The 17th and 18th century antiques throughout the house
are primarily English and Irish in origin.
- Bourn and Roth Portraits, Paintings, and Tapestries: The house contains
a collection of English and European paintings and tapestries from
the 17th and 18th century, as well as detailed oil paintings, charcoal
representations, and black and white photographic collections of
both the Bourn and Roth family.
- Maritime Collection: Enclosed in display cases in what was once
the Butlers Room, is a diverse collection of antique model
ships, scrimshaw objects, and nautical instruments reflecting the
Roth ownership of Matson Navigation Company. For more information regarding the Matson Navigation Company, visit: http://www.matson.com/corporate/about_us/corp_background.html.
Filolis sixteen acres of formal, Italian Renaissance-inspired
gardens were designed in 1917 for the original owners, Mr. and Mrs.
William Bowers Bourn II during the Golden Age of American Gardens,
(1890-1940). Bruce Porter, Bella Worn, and Arthur Brown, Jr. directed
the architectural layout, horticultural selection, and exterior
building design for the site. In 1936, Mr. and Mrs. William P. Roth
purchased the property and while they retained the original layout
first created in 1917, the Roths enhanced the gardens by adding
new areas, new structures, and new plantings.
A series of classical garden rooms, each with its own distinctive
character and unique horticultural selection, are arranged along
a north to south axis in conjunction with the house. These include:
- The Sunken Garden
- The Walled Garden, consisting of the Wedding Place, Dutch
Garden, and Chartres Cathedral Garden
- The Woodland Garden
- The Rose Garden
- The Knot Garden
- The Cutting Garden
In addition to the garden rooms, the overall design is enhanced
by the following areas:
- Northwest Terrace
- Southwest Terrace
- Tennis Court, Bowling Green, and Swimming Pool areas
- The Orchard
important element to the formal garden is the presence of the evergreen,
Irish yews, which permeate the space creating strong, vertical lines.
These compliment the formal design and serve to guide the viewers
eye to important features such as the Christopher Wren-inspired
cupola, the High Place, and in the opposite direction the Crystal
Springs Reservoir. Additionally, stately live oaks, majestic trees,
saucer magnolias, flowering cherries and crabapples, and a variety
of heritage fruit trees are found throughout various parts of the
- Spring Bulb and Flower Display: Over 50,000 tulips and 15,000
daffodils along with hundreds of other spring-flowering bulbs are
planted on an annual basis. Camellias, magnolias, flowering cherries,
azaleas, wisteria, and dogwoods are also in full bloom.
- Historic Plant Collection: An assortment of historic cultivars of
wisteria, magnolia, camellia, ivy, tree peony, Japanese maple, flowering
apricots, and dahlias are part of this nationally-know collection.
- The Sunken Garden: An architectural flower garden that contains
a rectangular, reflecting pond and a box parterre surrounding two
grass panels. The garden is planted throughout the year with bulbs
and annual flower displays.
- The Chartres Cathedral Window Garden: This garden is designed after
a stained glass window known as the, "Tree of Life Window,"
in the Chartres Cathedral in France. The low, boxwood hedges represent
the lead design between the glass panes along with the roses and
annual flowers which represent the colored stained glass.
- Woodland Garden: A comprehensive selection of camellias, azaleas
and rhododendrons, as well as flowering dogwoods constitute this
- Rose Garden: More than 500 hundred varieties of roses are found
throughout this and other sections of the garden. The roses are
in bloom in late spring and throughout the summer months.
- Knot Gardens: Two traditional, open, English knot gardens are made
up of hedges of lavender, santolina, dwarf barberry, and gemander
which interlock to create unique, geometrical patterns. The knot
gardens bloom in late spring and throughout the summer months.
- Perennial Border: A 300 foot mixed border with repeating sweeps
of pale lavender, catmint, purple sage, and purple smoke bushes,
woolly lambs ears, and shrub roses are displayed against a hedge
of English laurel.
- Daffodil Field: Approximately 200,000 daffodils blanket this gentle
hillside from late February through the end of March.
- Fruit Orchard: Filoli is home to the largest, private collection
of fruit in North America.
- Fall Color: Japanese maples, cherries, Virginia creepers, hawthorns,
fruit trees, viburnums, ginkos, and other rare plants provide a
fall foliage display in early December when the garden is open for
Filolis annual holiday event.
History and Families of Filoli
- The word, "Filoli" is derived from the three creeds that Mr. Bourn felt that every person should live by:
Fight for a just cause; Love your fellow man; and Live a good life
- Over 100,000 people visit Filoli each year.
- The Friends of Filoli organization is comprised of over 1,200 dedicated volunteers, which is governed by the Board of Directors of the Filoli Center.
- Mrs. Lurline Roth gifted Filoli to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1975.
- The Filoli property covers approximately one square mile.
- There are three working wells on the property.
The First Family's Background
- William Bowers Bourn II was the owner of the Empire Gold Mine, which was the largest producing gold mine in the state of California. He was the President of the San Francisco Gas Company and owner of the Spring Valley Water Company, which provided water to San Francisco. Additionally, Mr. Bourn owned the Greystone Winery (now the California Culinary Institute of America), as well as serving as the President of the San Francisco Symphony and as a Trustee of Stanford University.
- Mrs. Agnes Moody Bourn founded the Hillsborough Garden Club in 1922, which later became a member of the Garden Club of America in 1929.
- The Bourns built Filoli as their retirement home and lived at the estate from 1917 until their death in 1936.
The Second Family's Background
- Mrs. Lurline Matson Roth was daughter of Captain William Matson, founder of the Matson Navigation Company.
- Mr. William P. Roth married Miss Lurline Matson in 1914 and later became President and Chairman of the Board of the Matson Navigation Company.
- Mr. and Mrs. William P. Roth purchased Filoli in 1937.
- Mr. Roth died in 1963. Mrs. Lurline Roth continued to live at the estate until she moved in 1973.
- The exterior walls are 4 ft. thick.
- The main, transverse hallway is 147 ft. long by 9 ft. wide.
- The wine cellar (located in the basement), has racks to hold up to 2,847 bottles of wine.
- The Tiffany silver (originally the Bourns) includes more than 500 pieces.
- The servants quarters originally consisted of twelve bedrooms and six bathrooms.
- Two diesel boilers heat the house.
- There are seven different species of oak trees at Filoli: Coastal, Southern Live, White/Valley, Northern Red, Cork, Holly, and Scrub.
- The recently renovated orchards have over 700 fruit trees and over 115 table grapes.
- The North-South path through the garden is approximately one-third mile long.