Publication Date: Wednesday, February 27, 2002
The house that Jackling built
The house that Jackling built
(February 27, 2002) A prestigious architect and a copper tycoon have ties to the Woodside house that Apple Computer's Steve Jobs seeks to demolish
By Andrea Gemmet
Almanac Staff Writer
What do Steve Jobs, Daniel C. Jackling and George Washington Smith have in common?
If you're wondering who the last two guys are, you're probably not alone. Outside of architectural circles and the mining industry, the big-spending copper baron and the talented architect are hardly household names.
The historical importance of the two men, however, are among the reasons that Steve Jobs is running into complications with his plans to tear down the 1926 Jackling mansion on Mountain Home Road in Woodside.
The 14-bedroom, 17,250-square-foot house was designed in the Spanish colonial revival style by Mr. Smith, one of the leading architects of the time, to resemble a medieval village.
Mr. Jobs purchased the six-acre property in 1984, and filed for permission to demolish the house and several outbuildings last year. But thanks to its connection with Mr. Jackling, who lived on the property until his death in 1956, and its design by Mr. Smith, whose architectural contributions are especially prized in the Santa Barbara area, the estate is eligible for California's historic register and can't be torn down without an environmental study of the effect of its removal.
Currently, the town is in the midst of hiring a consultant to prepare an environmental impact report to assess what measures can be taken to lessen the effects of the mansion's loss, according to Hope Sullivan, Woodside's planning director.
The Jackling story
Mr. Jackling, a self-made millionaire who revolutionized the copper mining industry, moved to San Francisco around 1915 and amazed the upper echelon of society with his lavish lifestyle and profligate spending. He married the socially prominent Virginia Jolliffe, and the couple set up housekeeping in the top-floor suite in the St. Francis Hotel, and later moved to the top of the Mark Hopkins, according to June Morrall, a local history columnist.
When not ensconced in their penthouse suites, they traveled the world in a private railroad car and a custom-built yacht. The much-photographed vessel was one of the largest private yachts on the West Coast at the time.
"They were known for choosing fabulous places to live," said Ms. Morrall.
Mr. Jackling was of the most prominent and influential men in California during the first half of the 1900s, and his life reads like a Horatio Alger story. The man who hobnobbed with J.P. Morgan and was related by marriage to the wealthy Spreckels family was born in Missouri in 1869 and was orphaned by the age of 2. According to some biographical sources, his parents were killed when the family's house burned down __ the result of an accidental fire that he started.
He was taken in by various relatives and attended public schools. After working and saving for several years, he attended college at the Missouri School of Mines (now the University of Missouri-Rolla) and graduated in 1892.
After working for mining operations in Colorado and Utah, he developed a way to extract copper from low-grade ore that was previously thought to be too unprofitable to mine. With several partners, he formed the Utah Copper Co. and put his theory into practice at a pit mine in Bingham, Utah.
His timing was auspicious. With the growth in the use of electricity, demand for copper was high at the turn of the century, and Mr. Jackling's copper holdings grew. According to the Utah History Encyclopedia, by 1950 more than 60 percent of the world's copper production resulted from Mr. Jackling's copper ore processing methods.
With wealth, came prestige for Mr. Jackling. He served as the director of the government's explosives plants during World War I and was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal by President Woodrow Wilson.
Less than a year after his first wife died, he married into the prominent Jolliffe family and became a society-page mainstay in San Francisco.
He acquired honors and awards for his mining and business acumen and was referred to as "Colonel" Jackling, although there's no evidence that he ever served in the military. He was particularly lauded in Utah, where a 9-foot-tall bronze statue of him (made largely from copper from his mines) stands in the rotunda of the state capitol building. However, his high profile was not without its drawbacks.
In 1925, Virginia Jackling was the target of a botched kidnapping plot devised by a criminology student attempting to hatch the perfect crime, according to Ms. Morrall.
"The reason he wanted Mrs. Jackling is because they were so famous," said Ms. Morrall, who researched the story in old newspaper articles.
Mrs. Jackling got an urgent phone call supposedly from Mills Hospital, saying that her sister was desperately sick. What was supposed to happen was this: Unable to telephone her sister's house because the phone lines had been cut, Mrs. Jackling would be intercepted on her way to the hospital, while at the same time a ransom note for $50,000 would be delivered to Mr. Jackling, who was directed to send the money with a cab driver who was supposed to deliver it to a man standing on the side of the road with his arms crossed.
Instead, said Ms. Morrall, Mrs. Jackling's chauffeur managed to ditch the car that was tailing them, and when she didn't find her sister at Mills Hospital, she called her husband, who called the police. The police intercepted the cab driver, followed him to a restaurant/bordello in Colma, and apprehended the criminology student who was waiting (with crossed arms) to pick up the ransom package, she said.
Perhaps because of this incident, said Ms. Morrall, the Jacklings moved out of the St. Francis Hotel and into equally extravagant accommodations at the Mark Hopkins while their mansion in Woodside was being constructed on a 200-acre parcel. Rather than just summering in Woodside, which was fashionable at the time, they took up permanent residence there and Mr. Jackling commuted to his offices in downtown San Francisco.
The Smith connection
To design their estate, the Jacklings chose one of the pre-eminent residential architects of the time, George Washington Smith. Mr. Smith, who studied architecture at Harvard, set out to make a living as a landscape painter but found that people were far more interested in the Spanish-style house that he designed for his family, said Pamela Post, a Santa Barbara-based architectural historian.
From 1918 until he died of a heart attack in 1930, Mr. Smith was in constant demand by wealthy patrons, mostly in the Santa Barbara area, for his beautifully detailed interpretations of the Spanish colonial style, she said.
"He was the pre-eminent practitioner of that time, equal to, if not heads above, other architects," said Ms. Post. "Spanish colonial was his particular forte. I can't think of a design of his that was not good."
More than 50 of his commissions were in Southern California, and homes designed by George Washington Smith are a mainstay of Santa Barbara history and architecture tours. One of the most famous, Casa del Herrero, is a museum, she said.
The Jackling estate is one of the very few Smith designs built in Northern California. A few others can be found in Texas and in New York, she said.
While the Jacklings' house shows many of the earmarks of Mr. Smith's creations, such as imported tile and antique or antique-replicas of wrought-iron fixtures from Spain, it had many special touches that befitted the home of the man dubbed the "world's greatest copper industrialist." From the cast-bronze mailbox emblazoned with the name "JACKLING" to copper rain gutters and downspouts, Mr. Jackling's importance to the copper industry is echoed throughout his home, according to a report on the estate by architectural historian Michael Corbett.
Clotilde Luce, whose family bought the Jackling estate and lived there during the 1960s, said that not only are there solid copper pipes throughout the house, but there's a system of hidden copper pipes built behind the bougainvillea vines to keep them warm when the weather turns cold. Even the lawn sprinkler heads are custom-made, in the shape of art deco-style quail, she said.
Local newspapers continued to report on the Jacklings' comings and goings from their Woodside estate, writing about the coming-out party of Virginia Allen, the couples' favorite niece, and the burglar who crept into the house but was "routed by socialite's scream."
The house, its gardens and its furnishings, which included the Jacklings' extensive art collection, were much photographed, and the photos appeared in several architectural magazines.
After Mr. Jackling's death in 1956, which was followed soon after by Mrs. Jackling's death in 1957, the house and its contents were sold and the land subdivided. The bulk of the Jacklings' wealth was distributed to various colleges and charities, including Stanford University and Our Lady of the Wayside Church in Portola Valley, said Ms. Morrall.
Estate of many attractions
Even after the end of the Jackling era, the parade of famous figures to the Woodside mansion didn't cease. Claire Giannini Hoffman, the daughter of Bank of America's A.P. Giannini, bought the parcel of land containing the estate's stables, also known as the Champagne Paddocks, and frequently came by the mansion, said Ms. Luce. A GOP fundraiser in 1962 brought Shirley Temple Black and Richard and Pat Nixon to the house, and Bing Crosby liked the place so much he wanted to buy it, she said.
The custom-made Aeolian pipe organ drew a steady stream of visiting organists, she said.
The house had several owners after the Luce family sold it and before it was bought in 1984 by Mr. Jobs, who also owns a house on an adjoining property. Between 1993 and 2001, President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary occasionally stayed in the adjacent house, and their Secret Service agents stayed in the Jackling mansion.
Ms. Luce was 9 years old when she moved in, she said, and taking care of the house was an ongoing project for the whole family.
"It was a palpable pleasure just to feel the tile, to go up the stairs and to have my own balcony," she said. "It was an impressive house, but it had a kind of somber, primitive beauty."
But beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder. Doug Aikins, the Portola Valley attorney representing Mr. Jobs, describes the house as "cold and gloomy," and said that the house's narrow, dark rooms are not very habitable from a Californian's sense of taste.
Demolition a certainty?
Mr. Jobs has no immediate plans for building something else on the site, Mr. Aikins said, but demolishing the house is not a matter of if but of when. Although the California Environmental Quality Act requires a historic analysis of the property in an environmental impact report, the most the law can do is impose conditions on the demolition, he said.
"There's no legal prohibition on the ability to demolish (something)," Mr. Aikins said.
To make up for the loss of the house, Mr. Jobs is willing to make certain concessions, said Mr. Aikins. Possibilities include a thorough photo documentation of the mansion, salvaging some of its interesting elements such as the wrought-iron light fixtures and the mailbox, and restoring and relocating the property's aviary, built in the same style as the house, he said. A Bay Area home has already been found for the organ, he said.
As can be expected, the pending demolition of the Jackling house is not sitting well with historic preservationists.
"I certainly would not hesitate to say that it shouldn't be demolished," said Ms. Post.
Jeanne Dickey, a former Woodside mayor and a member of Woodside's History Committee, said that the Jackling house is part of the golden age of architecture in Woodside.
"It's definitely an important property, architecturally and historically, to the town of Woodside," she said.
The committee isn't involved in the environmental impact report, but members would still like to see all, or even a portion, of the house preserved, she said.
Although Michael Corbett, the architectural historian hired by the town, found that the house is well-made and structurally sound, evidence of the neglect and deterioration that occurred over the past few years is evident, said Ms. Dickey. Doors and windows were broken or had been left open, the thick walls had been gouged open, and there was rain damage in the organ room from a leak in the tile roof, she said.
"Letting it collapse by neglect is a way of getting around demolition," said Ms. Luce, who is involved in historic preservation in Miami Beach, where she now lives. "For Woodside to allow someone to take down (a house) that would be considered a landmark by any other community is the height of irresponsibility."
Tearing down a George Washington Smith house is unheard of in Santa Barbara, which maintains its distinctive old-California look through strict preservation regulations, said Ms. Post. Nearly all his houses in Southern California are still lived in, although many have had their interiors updated, she said. But, she concedes, the houses were built for a very different, more formal lifestyle.
Mr. Aikins points out that Mr. Jackling's contributions to California history will outlive any of the physical structures connected with him.
"The elimination of a crumbling house will not affect Jackling's historical significance," he said.
In one of those odd little instances of historic confluence, Ms. Morrall notes that the vast quantities of copper that became available because of Mr. Jackling, which were so important at the dawn of the electrical age, continue to be vital to technology in the electronic age. The computer chip industry, particularly Intel, has turned to copper wiring to increase processing speeds, she said, so it's almost fitting that Mr. Jobs ended up with Mr. Jackling's house.
Ms. Dickey sees parallels as well. "He, in his own age, was almost as important a figure as Mr. Jobs is in our age," she said.