Almanac

News - February 23, 2011

Jackling house settles into dust and debris

by Dave Boyce

The wooden-framed Jackling house on Mountain Home Road in Woodside succumbed to the metal jaws of a demolition excavator on Monday, Feb. 14. By Wednesday, there was little left but a pile of splintered timbers.

With the demolition permit issued on Feb. 7, Apple Inc. chief executive Steve Jobs, who owns the house, had not been expected to wait much longer to start the destruction, Town Manager Susan George told The Almanac.

It has been a rather longish haul for Mr. Jobs, who bought the house in 1984 and has been trying since 2001 to tear it down and replace it with a modern home.

Copper baron Daniel Jackling built the rambling summer home in 1926 and over the years it had acquired many historic-preservation-minded friends who appealed to Mr. Jobs with one proposal after another to save the house as an important piece of Woodside history.

The preservation group Uphold Our Heritage, in a dogged search for a savior, proposed restoring the house, moving it, and moving significant parts of it. Through his attorney Howard Ellman, Mr. Jobs would respond with offers to cooperate but agreement remained elusive.

Uphold sued Mr. Jobs and in 2004 won a ruling preventing demolition. Mr. Jobs appealed and lost, but then modified his demolition plans to address the issues noted in the 2004 decision. In March 2010, he won a judgment that cleared the way for a demolition permit.

In the end, the town salvaged several of the mansion's historically significant elements, including a 50-foot flagpole, a copper mailbox, roof tiles, an organ, woodwork, fireplace mantles, light fixtures and moldings.

The town of Woodside has the right of first refusal of these artifacts, followed by the San Mateo County Historical Association and the George Washington Smith collection at the art museum of the University of California at Santa Barbara. Mr. Smith designed the house.

The town also has an extensive photographic record of the house, as required by the conditions of the demolition permit.

Moving the house

Woodside residents Jason and Magalli Yoho offered early in 2010 to dismantle the house and move it to 215 Lindenbrook Road, a journey of about two miles.

It was "a really great proposal" in which the Yohos would have paid "a very large part of the relocation and restoration costs," Uphold attorney Douglas Carstens told the Almanac at the time.

The Yohos would have lived in the house and opened it to the public once a year, Uphold spokeswoman Clotilde Luce said in an e-mail. "Naturally," she added, she expected Mr. Jobs to "put in something" to help finance the move, but that the Yohos "were going to cover almost everything."

Had Mr. Jobs agreed to it, she said, it would have solved land-clearing problems and would have prevented adding to area landfills.

The "agreement" between the Yohos and Uphold was never formally presented to the town, Town Manager George said at the time. The proposal's "many unilateral stipulations" included having the town take financial responsibility for relocating the house should the other parties not hold up their ends — a stipulation that likely would have doomed the proposal, Ms. George added.

Those stipulations were removed in a revised proposal, Mr. Carstens said.

"The town's involvement," Ms. George said when asked to comment, "was limited to attempting to process an application from the Yohos that would have allowed them to prepare their site for the Jackling house and (for) moving the house to the site. The application was never deemed complete and the Yohos dropped it after a point, so that was that."

The proposal might have advanced via an unsolicited offer of mediation by a program within the state appellate court in connection with Uphold's appeal of Judge Weiner's decision. The Yohos proposal could have been on the table, Mr. Carstens said. Uphold agreed to participate, he said. As for Mr. Jobs' response, his attorney Howard Ellman had no comment.

Moving parts of the house

Gordon Smythe, a Palo Alto venture capitalist and a fan of homes designed by George Washington Smith, offered in 2009 to salvage parts of the house and use them in a new house at an undetermined site in California. That three-way agreement included the town and was contingent upon Uphold ending litigation, which did not happen in time.

Uphold attorney Carstens noted that while it was true that Uphold did not drop its litigation, neither did Mr. Jobs sign the agreement.

Mr. Carstens wondered why Mr. Jobs did not offer to consider the Yohos' proposal in lieu of Mr. Smythe's.

Commenting on the Smythe proposal to re-use parts of the house, Uphold spokeswoman Luce said: "Smith was an artist, this is a work of very sophisticated architecture. If you smash a Faberge egg and pick up some pieces, what have you 'saved'?"

In a biography on the website architect.com, Mr. Smith is cited as "one of that rare breed of architects who was able to produce buildings that were both subservient to their environment and at the same time able to project strong, beautiful forms into the landscape."

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