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July 20, 2005

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Publication Date: Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Woodside resident says he wants 1926 Jackling house Woodside resident says he wants 1926 Jackling house (July 20, 2005)

** Rundown mansion being given away by Steve Jobs.

By Andrea Gemmet

Almanac Staff Writer

Who, exactly, would volunteer to take a rambling wreck of a historic mansion off of Steve Jobs' Woodside property and, at a cost of millions of dollars, restore it to its former glory at a new site? At least one contender is Woodside resident Richard Pivnicka, the honorary consul general of the Czech Republic.

Mr. Pivnicka told the Almanac that he intends to submit a proposal to relocate and restore the 1926 Jackling house. Mr. Jobs is offering the 17,000-square-foot-plus mansion to anyone who will take it off of its Mountain Home Road site, with a few caveats, in order to build a new house for his family.

Although Mr. Jobs isn't charging anything for the Jackling house, it's not exactly free. Anyone who takes it must come up with the lion's share of an estimated $7.6 million dollars to move and restore it, hire a team of experts to oversee the work, and buy a plot of land large enough to contain the huge, Spanish colonial revival-style house.

Mr. Pivnicka is no stranger to the demands of reviving former show places that have fallen on hard times. He and his wife Barbara, the honorary consul general of Slovakia, were behind the restoration of the Hopkins family mansion in Atherton. The 1904 mansion was recently on display as the decorator's show house for the Coyote Point Museum Auxiliary.

"We've seen the (Jobs') property with the appropriate consultants, and we conclude that it's quite an undertaking," said Mr. Pivnicka. "The house has great bones and it has potential, with a great deal of money and a great deal of effort."

Mr. Pivnicka said he believes his team of experts is probably the most qualified to take on the difficult task of restoring the Jackling house, as they have restored several other historic houses and understand the difficulties involved.

The Pivnickas' Stockbridge Avenue house, the residence of former Stanford University President Wallace Sterling, was a historic tear-down that they chose to restore, Mr. Pivnicka said. Although none of their historic restoration projects have involved moving a house, their structural engineer has done such a project before, he said.

The Hopkins mansion, built for Mark Hopkins' great-niece, was designed by the prominent architectural firm Bliss & Favrille, whose landmark buildings include the St. Francis Hotel, the Flood Mansion and the Masonic Temple in San Francisco.

The restoration work on the Hopkins mansion was recently given an award of merit by the California Heritage Council, said President Gary Widman. The council, a statewide nonprofit preservation advocacy group based in San Francisco, gives out between five and eight awards each year to property owners whose exemplary work deserves more attention, Mr. Widman said.

"We felt the Mark Hopkins house which the Pivnickas did was a really exceptional piece of work," he said. "It respected the historic structure and made it useful and appealing to present day buyers."

Mr. Pivnicka said he would like to keep the Jackling house in Woodside, and once the move and restoration work were completed, he would sell the house "to a nice family that's qualified to buy it."

Because of the expense involved, taking on the project may depend on the level of Mr. Jobs' financial contributions to the effort, Mr. Pivnicka said.

Mr. Jobs has said publicly that he will contribute some funds toward the moving expenses. The request for proposals issued by his attorney says the amount will be based on the final terms of the proposal that is accepted.

The deadline for proposals to move the house was June 3, but has been extended, said Woodside Planning Director Hope Sullivan. There is a short list of candidates, but a new player with a really good proposal will not be turned away, she said.

Restoring historic houses is a lot like skydiving, Mr. Pivnicka said. "You don't know what you're in for until you're in the fall."

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