Almanac

News - April 10, 2013

Portola Valley icons up for sale

by Dave Boyce

The historic Villa Lauriston on upper Alpine Road in Portola Valley is for sale, as is its now-unassociated gatehouse, the intriguing black stone castle-like tower that greets passersby at 451 Portola Road. The estate, when it was intact, encompassed hundreds of acres and was used to grow medicinal herbs, according to Linda Hymes, an agent for Intero Real Estate.

Ms. Hymes is marketing the 100-year-old gatehouse — now called the Castle at Willow Brook Farm — and is asking just under $5.6 million. "It's just been completely renovated," she said. "It's really beautiful." The home is about 5,800 square feet and the property includes a stone guest cottage, workshop, pool, enclosed garden and orchard, Ms. Hymes said in a statement.

Villa Lauriston, built by entrepreneur Herbert Law early in the 20th century, is up for auction at 1 p.m. Sunday, April 21, with starting bids at $8.88 million, auctioneer Guy Masters told the Almanac. "The grounds are superb and the house is extraordinary," he said.

Mr. Law used his estate to grow medicinal herbs for sale through Viavi, a health-remedy company that he owned, Ms. Hymes said. The gatehouse was home to a botanist hired to oversee the farm. The stone for the house came from nearby Corte Madera Creek, she said.

The estate was also once home to a second unfinished mansion begun in 1929 and meant for Mr. Law's daughter Patricia, according to a 2000 account in the Almanac by Nancy Lund, a Portola Valley historian. The plans included a main residence, garages, stables and gardens, Ms. Lund wrote.

"During the construction of her mansion, Patricia was growing up a privileged child, largely isolated from the world," Ms. Lund wrote. "In 1926 a newspaper reporter had written about her as a two-year-old child living alone in her own San Francisco penthouse, cared for by servants, while her parents were abroad. She was educated mainly by tutors. The late John Skrabo, who grew up in Portola Valley, used to ride horses with her and remembered her as beautiful and an excellent horsewoman. Not many details of her life have survived."

Go to tinyurl.com/Lauriston123 for more.

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