Ever wish walls could talk? Well, if the ones within this historic Woodside, Calif., property built in the early 1900s for prominent San Francisco businessman and philanthropist Mortimer Fleishhacker Sr. could speak, they most assuredly would have their share of fascinating tales to spin. Think stories of distinguished guests roaming the halls during the compound’s heyday as the site of the United Nations’ 20th anniversary commemoration gala in 1965, for instance.
Or maybe those walls could offer some keen insight into the secret lives of the countless dignitaries who have visited the storied estate at some point during the past 100 years — from U.S. politicians and world leaders, to the Crown Prince of Sweden, numerous ambassadors and more.
So, who exactly is the man behind what would one day become one of the most extravagant private compounds in all of Silicon Valley? Fleishhacker was the founder of the Anglo California Bank and Great Western Power Co., as well as the Community Chest (now known as United Way). He also served as a trustee of the University of California, and shortly before his death in 1953, he formed a foundation to fund performing and visual arts groups, and literacy programs for disadvantaged students.
As for how the compound came into existence, he was simply seeking an idyllic place to escape San Francisco’s dreary foggy summers. According to his great grandson, Italian marketing executive Marc Fleishhacker, he headed south of the city to find a plot of land for a future vacation retreat in 1907 and settled on the perfect spot just 30 miles away. Then he set about to amass nine contiguous parcels to create what today is known as Green Gables (named for the popular children’s book).