Filoli Estate & Gardens is just 25 miles south of San Francisco. Filoli estate is surrounded by nearly 700 acres of park land, 16 of which are beautifully landscaped gardens. Guided and self-guided tours are offered 6 days a week. Anyone interested in history or gardening will love this day trip.
Filoli was built 10 years after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and was seen at the time of its building as a symbol of hope amid ruin. Its English Renaissance gardens are considered among the finest recreated antique English gardens in North America.
Filoli has served as the set for numerous Hollywood films and television shows and has been featured on television programs like A& E’s Guide to Historic Homes of America and America’s Castles: Garden Estates.
Filoli Estate History
The house was built in 1917 by William Bowers Bourn, a San Francisco millionaire whose wealth came from gold mining. Construction of the large property took 2 years while it took 12 years to build the formal gardens, which were completed in 1929.
Its name was created by Bourn, using the first 2 letters from the keywords of his credo: “Fight for a just cause; Love your fellow man; live a good life.”
After the deaths of Bourn and his wife in 1936, it was purchased by William Roth, another prominent San Franciscan, who promoted it as an exemplar of a modern mansion combined with formal antique garden, and the home gained worldwide recognition. In1975 it was donated to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and to theFioli Center.
16 rooms are open to visitors, including the flower-covered portico, the grand marbled foyer, and a grand hallway with vaulted ceilings that runs the length of one of the house’s wings and is 174 feet long.
The must-see rooms in include the reception room, a small entertaining space with a parquet floor in Louis XIV Versailles mosaic style; the formal dining room, which seats 20 and has 2 marble fireplaces; the drawing room, which was designed to be a ladies withdrawing room and is furnished entirely with 19th century antiques and original silk draperies; the library, which is an exact copy of the library at Denham Place, England, which was built in 1690; and the massive kitchen, with its stove that was made to be used on a ship and has been at Fioli since the mid-1940s.
The centerpiece of the interior of the home itself is the ballroom, which is the largest room in the house. It contains 8 splendid crystal chandeliers, which are copies of those that hung in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles during the signing of the Peace Treaty in 1920. The walls of what was once called “the grandest ballroom west of the Mississippi, are completely covered by 5 murals, painted by Ernest Peixotto and depicting landscapes and great homes of Britain.
Delicately beautiful flowers, huge trees, manicured lawns and shrubbery fill 16 acres of a planned, English-style formal garden. The garden is constantly changing based on the season, and staffs provide a great deal of information about individual flowers and plants.
The visitor’s center and free printed guides explain the history of the English country garden and how it was interpreted for 20th century California. There are 2 working orchards and a clock tower, an allée made of plane trees through which guests can stroll, an impressive collection of camellia and citrus plants, a large area entirely devoted to Japanese bonsai plants, and numerous open spaces in which to enjoy the planned serenity of the estate’s gardens.
A Garden Resource Center located inside the garden offers extensive information about individual plantings, seasonal displays, gardening techniques and conservancy, and the history and evolution of the Fioli gardens. It also serves as a gardening and horticultural resource for the entire area, offering lectures, blogs and lecture series.
Fioli offers a wide range of events and programs throughout the year, including a Mother’s Day flower show, a yearly Jazz at Fioli concert, special Christmas programs, and once-a-month afternoon teas.
The small gallery showcases a rotating program of art and decorative art exhibits and on Thursdays between June and August, the entire compound stays open late for special programs like sunset hikes or a “Step Back in Time” party that recreates life at a country estate in the 1920’s. Monthly event calendars can be found on the website, http://www.filoli.org/
Guided tours, self-guided walking tour maps, information about the history of the estate and a small cafe can be found at the visitors’ center at the front of the garden.
The Fioli complex is large but easy to cover in under a day. Parking is available near the entrance, and the visitor’s center can be found just past the ticket kiosk. Before you start your visit, stop by the visitor’s center for maps, schedules of guided tours, and to get an overview of this magnificent estate.
Fioli is located at 86 Cañada Road, Woodside, California 94062 Open Tuesday through Sunday