Filoli, First in the Great Houses Posts

Filoli House

Great houses. I’ve got three in my photograph album, all in California—yes, there are great houses here. Lots.

Filoli, San Simeon, Scotty’s Castle, among others.

Filoli, an estate 30 miles south of San Francisco, was built with mining money. San Francisco mining wealth was—maybe still is—astronomical. “Gold in Peace, Iron in War” once was the city’s motto, and William Bowers Bourn the Third had plenty of it in 1917 when he and his wife Agnes walked through the chateau’s door. 364 acres, 16 of which are lush, formal gardens. The Bourn family didn’t live long enough to enjoy the view, and the property was picked up by the shipping heiress Lurline Matson Roth who, lucky for us, had a great passion for horticulture.

In 1975 Roth turned the house over to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It is open on Saturdays for guided tours—a few years ago, myself, the husband and our in-laws walked through astonishing gardens “planted in everything from exotic Chinese tree peonies and European hornbeam trees to sturdy geraniums and old-fashioned roses.” Smithsonian Magazine, May 2010.

The name Filoli, by the way, was coined by Bourne from his own personal motto: Fight for a just cause; Love your fellow man; Live a good life.” Of note Filoli, while not well-known was the setting for several films, and an overhead shot of the estate graced the opening credits of the lurid prime time soap opera of the 1980’s “Dynasty”.

Photos courtesy of my Leica D-LUX 3–It’s sad that it’s handful of megapixels scarcely measure up to those in my phone.

One of many courtyards

Shading pumpkins with Japanese umbrellas

One of the many pools

Lavender beds

One small Filoli visitor



About Jill Zeller

Author of numerous novels and short stories, Jill Zeller is a Left Coast writer, 2nd generation Californian, retired registered nurse, and obsessed gardener. She lives in Oregon with her patient husband, 2 silly English mastiffs and 2 rescue cats—the silliest of all. Her works explore the boundaries of reality. Some may call it fantasy, but there are rarely swords and never elves. More to the point, she prefers to write as if myth, imagination and hallucination are as real as the chair she is sitting on as she writes this. Jill Zeller also writes under the pseudonym Hunter Morrison


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