Almanac

News - July 17, 2013

Woodside undecided on fate of Jackling House artifacts

by Dave Boyce

Noted architect George Washington Smith reportedly designed 54 homes in Santa Barbara and one in Woodside during the first three decades of the 20th century. The Woodside home — the Daniel C. Jackling house — is gone, demolished in 2011 by the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs, but a collection of artifacts from the house are in the hands of the town of Woodside.

The town has a tiny space to display them, but perhaps a resident or two in Santa Barbara might be interested in giving them a home in a house that Mr. Smith designed.

Sending artifacts to Santa Barbara was one of several new ideas aired at the Woodside Town Council meeting on July 9 in response to the persistent question of what to do with what remains of the Jackling House. The council asked the History Committee to look at this question again and make recommendations, including which artifacts to keep and ideas on how to exhibit them.

The collection was recently appraised at $30,825 and includes a copper mailbox, parts of a copper-and-iron flagpole and many interior furnishings, including wall sconces, chandeliers and a light for a pool table.

The History Committee, an advisory group to the council, made its selections in 2010 from the entire collection, after which two institutions that have an interest in Mr. Smith's work — the San Mateo County Historical Association and a museum at the University of California at Santa Barbara — made their choices. (The institutions "cherry-picked" the valuable items, Councilman Peter Mason said.) Of Woodside's collection, a few are on display in the tiny Woodside Community Museum, but most are in a weatherproof storage bin.

Woodside residents Qian Su and Ben Gilad have informed the town that they'd like to restore some of the artifacts for a Smith-inspired home they're planning on Whiskey Hill Road, and the History Committee supports this proposal, Planning Director Jackie Young said. The couple would hold an open house periodically to allow public viewing, Ms. Young said.

Council members expressed wariness about the couple's commitment, musing that they would tire of the artifacts. Councilman Dave Burow proposed that the couple should be required to modify the deed to their home to protect the artifacts in case they sell the house.

A knotty problem

The council returned repeatedly to the point of establishing a collection in the first place: to create a benefit for the public about the history of Woodside. But where? A rotating exhibit would also be costly to maintain.

"If we decided that something is significant enough to save it, and three years later we decide that we're not willing to (spend the money) to display it, we've proven that we do not have the moral fortitude to keep something for a period of time," Mr. Mason said. The town should not just salvage artifacts, but restore them, he added.

The town is not in the restoration business, Councilman Ron Romines said.

There are more items in the collection than could ever fit in the museum, Mayor Anne Kasten said.

Several council members wondered why the History Committee seemed ready to divest the town of artifacts without having expressed a desire to keep some. "The fact that they didn't do that, it contradicts everything I've come to believe about the History Committee," Mr. Burow said.

"The committee hasn't really talked about it. It comes back to storage space," committee Chair Richard Tagg told the council.

In his staff report, Town Manager Kevin Bryant proposed an auction to dispose of artifacts no one wanted. Council members Tom Shanahan and Mr. Burow suggested that Ms. Su and Mr. Gilad buy the artifacts they want in an auction. "We're not talking about astronomical prices here," Mr. Burow said.

"The town is not in the business of raising money and making that the tail end of this story," Mayor Kasten said. Exhibit them in town or find a way to use them in town, she said.

"I would rather see this stuff in an original George Washington Smith house," said Mr. Mason, who is an architect. Advertise their availability in Santa Barbara where they would be in the company of other "real artifacts," he said. "We know (Santa Barbara owners) are not going to throw them in the junk."

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