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Editorial: Solution in sight for Jackling house

Original post made by Poster, Menlo Park: other, on Jul 13, 2009

So far, preservationists have not indicated how they feel about a proposal that appears to rescue certain parts of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs' crumbling historic house in Woodside, but the deal might be the best they can get in the eight-year tug-of-war to save from demolition the mansion known as the Jackling house.

The savior in this saga could be Palo Alto venture capitalist Gordon Smythe, who told the Woodside Town Council on June 23 that he wants to save some features of the home. Although Mr. Smythe has not said what items he would save, a Woodside staff report list includes roof tiles, an organ, a copper mailbox, a flagpole and decorative tile and woodwork. In prior discussions, Mr. Smythe has said he would like to retain some sections of the house.

Mr. Smythe told the Woodside council that he is looking to spend between $4 million and $6 million to build a new home that would incorporate the material saved. No site has been identified, but Mr. Smythe said he would consider locations outside the Bay Area. He added that Mr. Jobs would contribute just over $600,000 to the demolition effort, which was authorized to proceed by the Woodside council on a 5-2 vote, provided the two men sign an agreement.

If they sign, and if there is no lawsuit from Uphold Our Heritage, the preservation group that successfully challenged the original demolition permit, there is much work to be done, including the ticklish job of carefully taking apart the nearly 100-year-old home in a way that would be acceptable to the Uphold group. Uphold is expected to send a representative to a meeting July 10 where Mr. Jobs' attorney, Howard Ellman, hopes to forge an agreement acceptable to all parties.

In the past, the preservation group has not supported partial or piecemeal restoration. In commenting on Mr. Smythe's proposal, the group's attorney told The Almanac their response would depend on the details, such as whether "it would involve reconstructing the house as opposed to simply saving parts of it. Obviously, Uphold Our Heritage wants to see the architectural heritage preserved."

The Jackling house case illustrates how difficult it can be to preserve a historic structure without strong support from the owner and local government. Someone like Mr. Jobs, who was willing and able to fund a long-running legal battle, is a formidable opponent for a preservation group made up of volunteers who often do not have the resources to keep fighting.

The location of the house, hidden away where no one can see it, didn't help matters. And suppose it were a local showplace for the work of architect George Washington Smith. In that case, it would not be an unoccupied monument, but a family home periodically invaded by tourists.

At this stage, it is time for all parties in the Jackling house dispute to finally come to an agreement. That is what the Town Council hopes, as well as Mr. Jobs and Mr. Smythe. The key will be Uphold Our Heritage, which will have to decide if its cause will be advanced by attempting to save a rapidly deteriorating historic asset.

Comments (3)

Posted by Doug
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Jul 13, 2009 at 12:46 pm

I can't believe they are still spending time, money, and resources on this. Sad when you can't tear down some old house that you own on your own property.

Posted by 'Bout Time
a resident of another community
on Jul 14, 2009 at 10:22 am

On reading about this debacle on the "preservationist's" web site months ago, I thought that perhaps the $500,000, yes, half a million dollars, they claim they have spend on legal fees could have been better spent on moving the house.

Instead, they carped, whined and accused while the house deteriorated further. I have architectural training and experience, and as a designer, IMO, that house is nothing special save for some nice interior features. The fact that one of the most vocal opponent's of Mr. Jobs' plans lived in the house "during the early years of his marriage" is not lost on me.

For God's sake people, just let go, face the facts and find a lot for that old relic to live out it's old age! And yes, dig into your deep pockets and contribute to the relocation effort. It's actually a productive gesture.

Posted by R.GORDON
a resident of another community
on Jul 15, 2009 at 7:29 pm

It would be interesting to see Mr. Smythe's credentials, which must have some credulity being that, as a "venture capitalist" he certainly could equate his defense of this really crappy piece of work in comparison to architect George Washington Smith's other homes to be found in Montecito/Sta.Barbara which are formidable by comparison. This so so "mansion" was built in 1925; historically speaking making it almost as NEW as the wealth of the noveaux money and people who live here whose genealogy does not even put them in any book with "bleu" tones. To be explicit, noveau money always has had bad taste, and this is no exception.It just happens to have been made quickly in terms of arduous work and the "old" money is all but gone from the area.Today, I am sure even the attractive and talented Hollywood gentry in the forms of Mr.and Mrs.David Kelley, are far more impressive for their brains and beauty and wealth and they would look down their noses at the types who are making this such a really tacky issue. I am far more of a fan of real talent such as theirs, and Mr.Jobs' dignity while very ill, than the people who still think it an honor to sit next to some third rate royalty attending their daughters' coming out at the still standing Fairmont.

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