Berkeley Mills in the News
17th Annual Bungalow Heaven Home Tour

Green Gables - Greene & Greene's Fleishhacker Estate


Woodside, California - a posh hillside community above Redwood City and Palo Alto, not far south of San Francisco - is often thought to be one of the brothers' most impressive properties, although its design and building was overseen only by Charles Greene. Designed in 1911 as a vacation home for the prominent San Francisco Fleishhacker family, the house - known as Green Gables - was open for special events in the 1970s and 1980s, but is now used by the fourth generation of the Fleishhackers and is no longer accessible to the general public.

The Fleishhackers apparently believed the Greene's style to be "too Japanese" for their tastes, which ran toward a thatched-roof English country cottage, but Bruce Smith notes that after they were so charmed by him in several one-on-one meetings, they decided to work with Charles on his own.

The house itself is perhaps the most open and airiest Greene-designed property, with high plaster ceilings with coped corners, large windows and doors all around and many small details that will look familiar to anyone who knows the Greenes - bas-relief patterns on the ceilings and in woodwork, interesting custom-made tile throughout and joinery elevated to art. The house is centered on a 75-acre wooded parcel, and includes a 300-foot pool that ends in a series of arched columns resembling Roman ruins; this and other aspects of the water garden (which includes a 65-foot stone stairway) were implemented by Charles during his long-time association with the Fleishhackers. Given his many years of work on the gardens and various alterations to the house and outbuildings, I think it is fair to say that Green Gables was the single largest and most involved project either of the Greenes was ever involved with.

The enormous lot is now protected from subdivision by an easement, a 2004 gift from the Fleishhackers to the Garden Conservancy; much of it, as well as a good portion of the interior of the house, can be seen in the 1999 Robin Williams film Bicentennial Man.

Photographs of the building and the early gardens are available online from Columbia University's Avery Architectural Library; blueprints and other documents are up on the USC archive site.