Historic estate and gardens where Biden meets Xi during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Woodside
Filoli’s sunken garden, shown here in a photo taken in January 2023, features a reflecting pool surrounded by low hedges and formal garden beds. (Karl Mundon/Bay Area News Group)
Filoli, the largest country estate in San Mateo County, is always a delight for visitors this holiday season.
This year, arrival starts early. On Wednesday, the historic Woodside Hotel will serve as the site of the historic meeting between President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, who are in San Francisco this week for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference.
Bonnie Glaser, executive director of the Indo-Pacific Program at the German Marshall Fund, told The Associated Press that the location would likely meet Xi’s expectations for a private meeting with Biden away from the main summit venue. “It appears to be a quiet, secluded property where Biden and Xi can have an intimate conversation in a comfortable environment,” she said.
Already secluded, Filoli has quiet spaces in spades.
Famed architect Willis Polk designed the circa 1917 Georgian mansion-style house for owners William and Agnes Bourne, who made their money mining gold. They intended it to be just a country retreat, but grandeur won out when the house rose from its foundations to include 56 rooms covering more than 54,000 square feet.
According to the estate, William Bourne created the name “Filoli” by combining the first letters of the first words in his personal creed: “Fight for a just cause // Love your fellow men // Live well.”
After the Burns family died, the 654-acre property was sold to William and Lurlene Roth, who continued to expand the gardens. The Roth family wanted the estate to be a place of horticultural interest, where people could visit and learn about the amazing aspects of nature. Before her death, Lurline — who was heiress to the Matson steamboat — ensured this would happen, refusing to sell the property and instead placing it in the hands of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Filoli has been open for public tours of both the house and gardens for nearly 50 years. The estate hosts 100,000 visitors a year, most of whom are garden enthusiasts, artists, music lovers, and architecture and history buffs. Most come to tour the stunning grounds, which include 16 acres of formal gardens, 250 fruit trees, a vegetable garden, and a daffodil meadow that blooms in spring with more than 75,000 flowers.
As Joan Morris, former gardens editor at Bay Area News Group, notes, at the heart of Filoli’s expansive garden is its caretakers’ drive to preserve historic plantings while keeping up with the times, including an emphasis on reducing water use. This led to some interesting landscaping decisions that include a formal English garden planted with Mediterranean plants and a traditional cottage garden filled with native California plants.
Filoli was closed to the public this week in preparation for Saturday’s opening of “Holidays at Filoli,” an annual event that invites visitors to stroll through the illuminated gardens, tour the ornate mansion, sip hot cider and mulled wine around fire pits and shop for the holiday. Gifts.