Showpiece stable

Historic Folger Stable gets $3 million renovation

This story clarifies the chronology of the stable property and corrects an error contained in an earlier version and in print. The project was a $3 million renovation, not a $5 million restoration, says Susan Lang, co-chair of the Folger Stable Project.

Click on pictures to enlarge.

By Dave Boyce

Almanac Staff Writer

A large and elegant Woodside horse stable, built in 1905 and listed in the National Registry of Historic Places, has a new lease on life that could keep it in operation for another 105 years.

At a cost of about $3 million to renovate this stable and carriage room, Folger Stable at 4040 Woodside Road in Wunderlich Park is no longer a dusty, debilitated, termite-ridden echo of its former glamorous self, but a gleaming showpiece.

A three-hour open house for the public is set for the afternoon of Sunday, Sept. 19, said Susan Lang, co-chair with Jill Daly of the Folger Stable Project, which raised money to renovate the complex.

The 974-acre property was the former estate of coffee magnate James A. Folger II, who sold the property in 1956 to Martin Wunderlich. In 1974, Mr. Wunderlich donated the property to San Mateo County and it forms what is now Wunderlich Park.

The open house will include a blacksmith display, agricultural exhibits, a reproduction of the original enclosed hitching-rail area -- called a tie stall -- and a self-guided tour of still-standing stone walls built by Chinese laborers in the late 19th century.

The stable's architect was Arthur Brown Jr., who designed notable buildings all over the Bay Area, including the city hall and Coit Tower in San Francisco, and the Bancroft Library at the University of California.

Mr. Brown's design for the stable "draws upon seventeenth-century French Baroque, with Craftsman influences," said Nicole Ervin Barsetti of San Carlos-based Gonsalves & Stronck Construction Corp., which rehabilitated the building over 18 months.

The horses living in this Beaux Arts-influenced stable during its prime "led opulent lives," according to stable spokeswoman Nan Chapman. "Pink marble baseboards, century old bricks, cast iron fenders, and wrought iron window grates are evidence that no detail was spared."

The "ornate" carriage room is rare for a stable in the United States, Ms. Chapman added. The interior is graced by redwood columns, beveled crown moldings, double hung windows and skylights, she said.

During the renovation, workers discovered parts of an old railway under the foundation, Ms. Barsetti said. The theory is that in the late 19th century, carts full of home-grown grapes traveled this railway on their way to becoming raisins. A section of the railway is being preserved and will be on exhibit.

"There has been a phenomenal amount of support from community groups, especially equestrian organizations, families, as well as private and corporate foundations," Ms. Lang said, noting longtime major support from the late Bill Lane and his wife Jean of Portola Valley, and Woodside residents Sonja and Bill Davidow.

Go to or call 851-2660 for more information.

OPEN HOUSE: An open house for the public to tour the renovated Folger Stable is set to run from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 19, at the stable, 4040 Woodside Road in Wunderlich Park in Woodside. In addition to docent-guided tours, there will be pony rides, a petting zoo, leathercrafts, a blacksmith display, and light refreshments.

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Like this comment
Posted by AndySmith
a resident of another community
on Sep 17, 2010 at 1:16 pm

I grew up with the Folger family who would be glad to see the stables and land brought back to the way it was during a period when life and style were elegant and standards way above what life is like today.
No one can bring back that past when the giants of industry with thoroughbred blue book blood inhabited this area.
Abigail, who was murdered, would not have returned to live in this area, nor would her brother. It is not the same.

Like this comment
Posted by just me
a resident of Woodside: other
on Sep 17, 2010 at 7:01 pm

That's a fascinating comment about Abigail Folger. I didn't until now realize that she was one Charles Manson's victims.

Her wikipedia entry makes her sound like somebody who was fairly well grounded, having committed a goodly part of her young life to very hands on social work.

Where would she have lived, if not in the area, I wonder. Did she grow up on the Woodside estate, or was that more of a vacation residence? Did she attend Woodside Elementary, or rather some private school (likely in SF?).

Anyway, it's a sad story, and it also makes me wonder if the decision to sell to Martin Wunderlich was partially the result of Abigail's death....

Fwiw, I live on property directly adjacent to the Folger estate between Wunderlich park and the county water shed, so it makes the history somehow seem a bit more real.

Like this comment
Posted by Moi
a resident of another community
on Sep 18, 2010 at 8:38 am

Wunderlich was sold by Peter Folger Sr, in the 50's, but he still owned the massive Folger mansion on the grounds. A three storey sprawling estate. He and his first wife, Ines Folger, divorced in 1952 afer 20 years together and two children (Abigail and Peter Jr)
Mr. Folger Sr married his second wife in 1960 and they had a child in '61 (Elizabeth)

Peter Folger Sr, devastated by the death of his eldest child, stopped living in the mansion in 1974 and he and his family moved to Roberta Drive until his death in 1980. His widow remained there until the nineties. She has since passed.

Abigail was schooled at Santa Catalina from the age of 6/7, and then she went to Radcliffe College before going to university in Boston. She and her brother lived primarily with their mother in San Francisco. They stopped living in Woodside full time to live with her in the city in 1952.

Peter Folger Sr had three very lovely and grounded offspring (Abigail, Peter and Elizabeth) who have all contributed to good causes, probably due to encouragement from their parents. Sadly Abigail was cut down way before her time but her brother and sister have been behind the restoration effort 100% as their names come up as honorary board members. I strongly believe Abigail, or Gibby, as they called her, would have much such a difference to this world had she have lived.

RIP Abigail Folger. You were too good for this world, angel.

Like this comment
Posted by Him
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Sep 18, 2010 at 8:44 am

All the Folger kids moved away from Woodside eventually. Gibby moved to New York and then L.A (where she died) and Peter Jr lives in Inner Richmond and was follow by their kid sister.

But I guess the family needed fresh starts etc.

Like this comment
Posted by lol
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Hills
on Sep 18, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Andy, why no mention of the other family members. My guess is that you didn't know the Folgers at all.

Like this comment
Posted by AndySmith
a resident of another community
on Sep 19, 2010 at 8:19 am

I went to school back East with Peter and Abigail, Gibby, were my closest friends.
I used to visit Pui for years and she was truly their mother.
You are tasteless to accuse me of lying.

Like this comment
Posted by lol
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Heights
on Sep 19, 2010 at 1:37 pm

Peter and Abigail never went to the same school and Abigail went to an all girls school.... 'Andy'. And who, in SF, didn't know who Pui Folger was. One of the larger than life characters to grace society.

[Portion removed; see terms of use]

Like this comment
Posted by Nancy
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Heights
on Sep 20, 2010 at 4:51 pm

A light went out over San Francisco when Abigail Folger was murdered. Her contribution to worthy causes will never be forgotten and nor should she.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda

on Sep 25, 2017 at 10:37 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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