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Filoli: A Rare Gem

Filoli, also known as the Bourn-Roth Estate, is a country house set in 16 acres of formal gardens, surrounded by a 654 acre estate. It is located in Woodside, California about 25 miles south of San Francisco, at the southern end of Crystal Springs Reservoir on the eastern slope of Santa Cruz Mountains. It is now owned by the National trust for Historic Preservation.  The site is both a California Historical Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Anhad Jai Singh & Monica Reddy train their lens on the beauty of this magnificent Estate. 

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Filoli was built between 1915 and 1917 for William Bowers Bourn, owner of one of California's richest gold mines and president of Spring Valley Water Company, supplying San Francisco's water. The principal designer was Willis Polk who used a free Georgian style that incorporated the tiled roofs characteristic of California.

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Filoli has served as the set for many Hollywood films. Most famously, it is the mansion seen from the air in the opening credits of the television series Dynasty. The entire mansion served as the setting for the 2006 CBS Television special Dynasty Reunion: Catfights & Caviar.

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Filoli was featured in Bob Vila's A&E production, Guide to Historic Homes of America, as well as in a November 1996 segment of A&E's America's Castles: Garden Estates. The house also served as the Stanhope residence in the 1997 film George of the Jungle and The Game. 

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The Sunken garden is the first of four main rooms; the rectangular pool at its center, that houses hardy and tropical water lilies, is flanked by twin panels of lawn and two olive trees, within the hedge of clipped Japanese yew.  

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Reflecting pool and former carriage house. Filoli is an outstanding example of the Anglo-American gardening style reintroducing Italian formality, that was pioneered at the end of the nineteenth century by Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll in British gardens and exemplified in the U.S. by designs of Charles A Platt & Beatrix Farrand. 

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Filoli served as one of the Bourns' residences from 1917 to 1936. The name of the estate is an acronym formed by combining the first two letters from the key words of William Bourn's credo: 'Fight for a just cause; Love your fellow man; Live a good life.'

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Drawing Room: The house is 54,256 square feet, and has 56 rooms. This includes a ballroom, a reception room, a dining room, family rooms, and servants quarters. Much of the original furniture and art has been donated, to help recreate the original appearance of the home.

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Filoli houses two libraries with resources related to the families and the estate; the Friends Library Collection and the Sterling Library Collection. The Friends Library is a circulation library that holds 1,500 books, 125 videos, lectures, or oral histories, and several copies of movies filmed on the estate. The Sterling Library is a research library with 1,800 books and 40 journals.

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Lotus in the sunken Gardens. Every season gifts the visitor something special. Winter allows one to appreciate the spectacular structure or ‘bones’ of the garden. Stately evergreens stand out, bare tree architecture holds a new importance, and 10-foot-high brick walls and wrought-iron gates become more prominent. Camellias, magnolias, orchids, and citrus are blooming. A visit to the estate shows how Filoli’s owners connected the inside of their home to the garden outside through fresh floral arrangements that were picked from the Cutting Garden.

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The Filoli gardens are a jewel set amid the rolling hills of the San Francisco Peninsula. The sunken garden and reflecting pool were established right after construction of the Georgian country mansion in Woodside in the early 1900s. Today, Filoli is a beautiful place for a stroll and quiet contemplation.

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The 16 acres of gardens are structured as a series of formally enclosed spaces framed within brick walls and clipped hedges, which open one from another, providing long axial views, in which profuse naturalized plantings of hardy and annual plants contrast with lawns, brick and gravel paths, formal reflecting pools, framed in walls and clipped hedging in box, holly, laurel and yew. 

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Filoli Gentlemen's Orchard was started by Bourn family in the early 20th century, however the Roth family did not maintain the orchard and by the 1970s it was in poor condition. In 1997, the California Rare Fruit Growers began donating rare plants to restore the orchard. Many of the current 650+ trees in the orchard are lost varieties of fruit and include: 275 varieties of apple trees, 59 pear varieties, 42 peach varieties, and many more.[

Filoli: A Rare Gem: Arts Articles
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Anhad Jai Singh & Monica Reddy are software Engineers based in Silicon Valley. They love travelling in their free time and are skilled photographers. 

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