Before Filoli

year constructed


year opened to the public


property acres


house & garden acres


Filoli sits on the unceded ancestral homeland of the Lamchin, an independent tribe of the Ramaytush Ohlone peoples, the original inhabitants and stewards of the San Francisco Peninsula. Read Filoli's full Land Acknowledgement and commitment to action.

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.” 

900 to 1500

Indigenous Ohlone people maintain a seasonal village in the area.


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


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


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


Construction of the Filoli House is completed.


Agnes and William Bourn pass away.


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.


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

Curious about Filoli's history?

Curious about Filoli's history?