The People

The People of Filoli

Born in 1857, William Bowers Bourn II was raised as a wealthy son in post-Gold Rush San Francisco. In 1881, he married Agnes Moody, a family friend.

William’s main source of income was the Empire Gold Mine. Foreseeing the future value of water and electricity as the Bay Area population boomed, he also invested heavily in utility companies.

Together, Agnes and William created Filoli to fulfill their vision of a self-sustaining country estate. The Filoli House was completed in 1917.

William saw Filoli as a refuge: “My idea is to devote the afterglow of my life, this is the next 40 to 50 years or so, in personal supervision of its development. There, I hope to grow young.” 

After Agnes and William Bourn’s deaths in 1936, the Roth family purchased Filoli. Lurline Matson Roth was the daughter of Captain William Matson, founder of the Matson Navigation Company. Lurline’s husband, William ‘Bill’ Roth, would later take over as company president

The couple and their three children are pictured on a cruise to Hawaii in 1927. 

While the Bourns had the vision to create the Filoli House and Garden, the Roths stewarded the estate forward.

Lurline Roth took great interest in the garden, working with the Bourns’ original garden designer to add to its beauty.

After Bill’s death, Lurline moved to a smaller home and later donated the House and Garden to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, explaining, “Filoli is too beautiful to be private.”

Bourn-era staff members in 1929. The staff helped build and care for the estate and the families who lived there. Up to 35 staff lived and worked at Filoli at one time. It was typical of the time for staff to work 14-hour days, with a single day off every two weeks. 

Roth-era butler Teikichi Taga in the Reception Room. Most of the historic staff immigrated or migrated to California, creating a new home built from different cultures, languages, and beliefs.

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