Before Filoli

Year Constructed

1917

Year Opened to the Public

1977

Property Acres

654

House and Garden Acres

16

The Filoli estate is located on the traditional territory of the Indigenous Ohlone people. When Spanish explorers arrived in 1769, the Bay Area was home to more than 50 distinct groups of Ohlone people, who lived by hunting, fishing, and harvesting plants — including acorns from these valley oak trees. 

By 1850, the Spanish occupation and mission system had decimated the vast majority of the Indigenous population. This area was parceled out as a 12,545-acre Mexican land grant and officially mapped in 1856 after the United States annexed California. The rancho was later broken up into smaller pieces — one eventually became the Filoli estate.

After the 1906 earthquake and fire, wealthy San Franciscans migrated south along the Peninsula to escape the city. Grand estates popped up in Hillsborough and Woodside. Though the Peninsula seemed more insulated from earthquakes, the Bourns went on to build their new house 200 yards away from the San Andreas fault.

An early view of the newly completed Filoli from Cañada Road in 1918. The first owner William Bourn dubbed the estate Filoli, a made-up word drawn from the first letters of his personal motto: “FIght for a just cause; LOve your fellow man; LIve a good life.” 

Timeline

900 to 1500

Indigenous Ohlone people maintain a seasonal village in the area.

1769

Spanish explorers from the Portolá Expedition camp in present-day San Mateo County on their return south from San Francisco Bay. 

1800s

The land in this area is used for ranching and logging, as control of the California territory passes through Spanish, Mexican, and American hands.

1914

The Bourns purchase 709 acres for $89,000 ($2.3 million in 2020 currency).

1917

Construction of the Filoli House is completed.

1936

Agnes and William Bourn pass away.

1937

The Roth family buys Filoli.

1975 - 1981

Lurline Roth gifts 125 acres, including the House and formal garden, to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

1977

The nonprofit Filoli Center purchases an additional 528 acres from the Roth family, and opens to the public.