Friday, December 14, 2018

Feast your eyes on Filoli for history, holiday splendor

Each room of Filoli is artfully decorated for the holidays. This one showcases a painting of the flower-loving second owner.




FILOLI IS A WONDROUS place all year round, but the historic Bay Area setting truly decks the halls for the holidays -- inviting families, friends, tourists and regulars to share the wonder.
Home, garden and nature preserve all in one,
Filoli is tucked unobtrusively into the hills.
Filoli is a country house set on a beautifully landscaped 16 acre estate.  Formal gardens and walking paths accent the grounds of the Woodside, California, mansion, built by the owner of one of the state's richest gold mines between 1915 and 1917 and lived in by only two appreciative families.
Elegant holiday touches, including wreaths and trees, 
enhance the beauty and appeal of Filoli near San Francisco.

You'll find Filoli nestled into the hillside as if it has always been there -- 25 miles south of San Francisco, at the southern end of Crystal Springs Reservoir, on the eastern slope of the beautiful Santa Cruz Mountains. A popular holiday show, “Luminous - A Celebration of Color and Light,” makes Filoli even more enticing this time of year.
Each room is dressed in color-themed finery. A gorgeous garden light show pays tribute to the  lovers of Filoli who have kept it alive and alluring.  Surely they would be pleased.
Penelope Margaret and James Brian Ganner
survey the grounds in a late-autumn stroll at Filoli.
WHEN WILLIAM Bowers Bourn II decided to build Filoli more than 100 years ago, he called on the gifts of his artistic wife, Agnes Moody Bourn, to help with the design, a blend of Georgian and Colonian Revival styles. When I asked a docent the meaning of "Filoli," she told me: "Mr. Bourn came up with the name.  He decided on Filoli, which combined letters of his life’s credo: “Fight for a just cause; love your fellow man; live a good life."
The last of the grand California estates built in the 20th Century, Filoli is today a property of the

Writer "Cookie" Meyers and
photographer Bruce Keller
by a Filoli Christmas tree.  
National Trust for Historic Preservation.  It remains the sole intact estate from an era when San Francisco’s wealthiest families created grand showplaces south of the city in the years after the 1906 earthquake. The visionary Bourn built for posterity. Filoli, he predicted, "could prove to be interesting a few hundred years from now.”
Filoli's autumn splendor is enhanced  
by night with thousands of lights.  
Special  holiday tours are on tap.
Filoli offers docent led tours throughout the year, 
with special treats in store at holiday time.
The ground's chief horticulturist for three decades, Lucy Tolmach, says the charm of the place has to do in part with the landscape, an eye-catching variety of plantings, "everything from exotic Chinese tree peonies and European hornbeam trees to sturdy geraniums and old-fashioned roses." She describes the grounds as “exquisite and elegant without being fussy” and says the gardens, grasslands and redwoods “lend a measure of privacy and surprise.” The same could be said of the interior.  Impeccable craftsmanship and quality materials merge with pleasing personal touches -- paintings,
Ornate design elements make for a
fascinating visit to Filoli.
antiques, books, pianos -- to lend a "lived in" look.
Through Dec. 23, visitors may join guided docent-led tours to learn about the history of the original owners and the second family, William and Lurline Roth, (she was a shipping heiress) who purchased it after the Bourns' deaths. She developed the extraordinary gardens. Both interesting families are brought to life, along with stories of holidays past and lavish celebrations. The estate is a popular wedding venue today. Concerts and special events are scheduled year-round. For the holidays, Santa is visiting, music acts are on tap, along with an artisan market.
(650) 364-8300, press 1; 

This market in Barcelona featured everything from
beautiful cheeses and jams to candles and wreaths.

UP NEXT: Just back from a tour of the Mediterranean, we sample with you some of the food, festivities and markets that light up Europe during the holidays. It's a photo essay featuring a few of our favorite sights and meals -- with touches of red and green for the holiday. We hope you'll enjoy our tribute to the holidays --  whether you are having a low-key time at home or are planning your holiday away. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a fresh look at travel, the arts, nature, and family.

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