Designed by architect Willis Polk, the House took three years to construct and cost $425,000 ($8.5 million in 2020 currency), not including the Garden and auxiliary buildings.
Though William and Agnes Bourn initially conceived Filoli as a humble “country place,” the House was designed as a space for entertaining on a grand scale. The large Ballroom and Reception Room hosted concerts and debut balls, and formal dinner parties were held in the elegant Dining Room.
Filoli was also a family home with more intimate spaces. William Bourn’s personal Study, for example, was later used by the Roths as a Family Room — a cozy alternative to the Reception Room and other grand entertaining rooms in the House.
The south wing of the House was for staff work areas and housing. Staff prepared as many as nine meals a day in the massive Kitchen, which boasts a 17-foot-high coved ceiling to help keep the room cool after hours of continuous cooking. The Butler’s Pantry — the operational heart of the home — features a walk-in safe for storing the silver, an electric call board, and a dumbwaiter.
Furnishing a 56-Room Mansion
The House was empty when it was given to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The furniture and art collection had been sold at auction or taken with Lurline Roth to her new home. Since then, both families have donated items back to Filoli, and the ongoing support of generous donors continues to help Filoli appear as it originally did.