Almanac

News - October 12, 2011

Steve Jobs died too soon to fulfill his plans to return to Woodside

by Dave Boyce

"Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust," reads the Book of Common Prayer in reflecting on the end of a life.

And so it is for Steven P. Jobs, the visionary and longtime chief executive of Apple Computer who lived in Woodside in the 1980s and who died at the age of 56 on Oct. 5, 2011.

And so it was in February 2011 for his rambling mansion on Mountain Home Road. Mr. Jobs had plans to return with his family to his old Woodside address, but only after tearing down the Spanish Colonial-style house on the site and replacing it with a modern home.

A billionaire several times over in a town familiar with the ways of powerful people, it still took Mr. Jobs 10 years to complete that first step. He never got around to the second one.

Slowing him down were fans of the mansion's architect, George Washington Smith, and preservationists who blocked Mr. Jobs repeatedly in their efforts to keep hope alive and save the mansion, in Woodside or wherever, in whole or in part.

After the successive fizzling of proposals that would have moved the house or large pieces of it, Mr. Jobs won a judgment for a demolition permit in March 2010, but it would be another year before he could act on it. By the time he did, the town had salvaged certain meaningful elements of the house before it was reduced to splinters.

The town has not received any development plans since the house was demolished, Planning Director Jackie Young told the Almanac.

Among the mansion's historically significant parts, some of which are on display now in the Woodside Community Museum, are a living room chandelier, banisters from a set of stairs, wall tiles and a servant's call box.

The exhibit "Days of Grandeur: The Jacklings and their Woodside Estate," is open on Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. at the museum at 2961 Woodside Road.

The town's collection also includes a 50-foot flagpole, a copper mailbox, roof tiles, an organ, woodwork, fireplace mantles, many light fixtures and moldings.

A personal appearance

Mr. Jobs, who lived in Palo Alto during the deliberations and who usually communicated on the Jackling house through his attorneys, visited the Woodside Town Council in December 2004 and informed his opponents that he was prepared to be patient in carrying out his plans.

He said at the meeting that if he did not get the demolition permit at that time, he would simply wait and try again, which he did.

"Are you trying to wear us down?" Councilwoman Carroll Ann Hodges asked him at the time.

"I think the elements will wear the house down," Mr. Jobs replied.

The house, which had sunk into a decrepit state, was an "abomination," said Mr. Jobs, who went on to question the historical importance of both Mr. Jackling and the architect, Mr. Smith.

(In comments after Mr. Jobs' death, people who knew him say he had few compunctions about allowing objects or reputations whose moments had passed to fade away as part of the natural order of things.)

The town's History Committee in 2001 had reported finding doors wrenched off door frames, windows missing, and outside varieties of plants growing inside the house. At the time, Mr. Jobs said he did not know why the openings had not been boarded over.

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