The Jackling House Showdown


By Jonathan H

Daniel Jackling House, Woodside Mansion
The Jackling House in Woodside, owned by Steve Jobs. The historic Spanish-Colonial home’s fate, designed by George Washington Smith, is in limbo and is the centerpiece of a heated debate in the State Supreme Court over historic preservation and public vs. private rights.

In 1926, George Washington Smith designed a grand 14-bedroom, 17,000 square foot chateau known as the Jackling House. The home was built for copper baron Daniel C. Jackling, who revolutionized the refinement of copper and founded the Utah Copper Company. According to the University of Utah, the mid-20th century was a time when more than 60% of the world’s copper production was a direct result of Jackling’s revolutionary innovations in low-grade copper ore processing.
Daniel Cowan Jackling
Daniel Jackling, who revolutionized the copper refining process, commissioned George Washington Smith to build the abandoned house owned by Steve Jobs (courtesy University of Utah).

With the outbreak of World War I, Jackling’s stake in copper was very advantageous. Many of us are well aware of copper’s importance in the war efforts. Even during World War II copper pennies were replaced with steel pennies as a result of the high demand for the medal. President Woodrow Wilson awarded Jackling the Distinguished Service Medal for his efforts as director of the government’s explosives plants.

Jackling was a household name in the early 20th century. He was related by marriage to the illustrious Spreckels family (of sugar fame) and hobnobbed with the likes of J.P. Morgan. His life, though, began as a tragedy. Orphaned at the age of two when a household accidental fire killed both of his parents, he was raised in Missouri by relatives.

The came time when Daniel Jackling passed away in his mansion in Woodside in 1956. The Jackling House then changed hands, and its subsequent patrons were no less auspicious. Claire Giannini Hoffman, famed daughter of Bank of America’s A.P. Giannini purchased the stables (known as the Champagne Paddocks). Shirley Temple came by once, as did Pat and Richard Nixon. President Bill Clinton and Sen. Hillary Clinton stayed in an adjoining house during the 90s, while secret service agents hung out in the mansion’s many bedrooms nearby.

The Grand Staircase

Today, the Jackling House is owned by Steve Jobs — the billionaire who founded NeXt Computers and Apple, who is now famous for his pitches for Ipods and Iphones and all things “I” in an almost-ode to P.T. Barnum.The Jackling house sits on its original plot of land (Jobs is trying to get a buyer who can pay to move it for him; he wants a smaller home his own iHome, one might say). Rain drips through the roofs on to the Aeolian Pipe organ. A classic pool table sits in a room with the pool balls still in the racks. The faint scent of skunk permeates the interior. And the place is eerily silent. In the middle of an upper-class neighborhood, it seems, all noises seem far off. You can only hear the distant engine of a car driving down Woodside’s main street.

Inside of the Abandoned Woodside Mansion

The grounds are immaculately landscaped. The house itself, is not maintained so well. Jobs has been fighting for its demolishment but has run into opposition by a group known as “Uphold our Heritage.” As a home designed by famed architect George Washington Smith, the Jackling House has merit for National Register nomination. Though legally, Jobs can demolish the building, the Environmental Impact Report process stipulates that all options for mitigation should be looked into. The Friends of the Jackling House have been battling in court, saying that Jobs has not sufficiently looked into mitigation efforts. The showdown itself has made its way to the State Supreme Court, and could potentially have far-reaching effects for historic preservation and procedure well into the future

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32 comments on “The Jackling House Showdown

  1. WorkerBee on said:

    Steve wants it to go….because it wasn’t *his* idea. The guy’s a visionary….but a little self absorbed. The metal walls are just incredible. If there’s no security on the property, scrap thieves may grant Steve his wish….

  2. i’m a huge fan of apple and steve, so i’m not against him. but he’s a *billionaire*. according to all reports, preservationists would be happy to have the home moved elsewhere. so, why doesn’t steve just buy a lot, somewhere, have the house moved there, then build what he wants on the current lot? even if that were to cost $20 million, what’s that to someone who’s worth in excess of $5 billion? (remember, a billion is a THOUSAND million. i know for a fact that people forget that.)

    in other words, he’s a millionaire 5 *thousand* times over! why not spend $20 million to move the house to another beautiful setting? then he could (a) put it on the market until a buyer comes along, and still (b) build his dream house on the current lot. this seems so ridiculously simple, especially for someone as ultra-wealthy as he is. so, what’s the big deal?

  3. Sorry, but it looks to be in a hideous condition. Upon reading the detailed reports of its condition, it appears to be beyond restoration, and in need of a rebuild. If it were to be rebuilt to current seismic and safety standards, it would not be the same house; merely a reproduction.

    Even if I had the financial reserves of Steve Jobs, I would not want to spend millions on building an unsaleable facsimile of what was once a beautiful house. Given the circumstances, even the Uphold Our Heritage folks would have to admit that a well-designed and built modern house which, given time, would become a part of the local heritage, would be a far better proposition.

    Jobs should be allowed to replace the house, but not with a smaller one. He should be compelled to have a house of similar size, and of fine quality and character, built on the site.

  4. Joeldm on said:

    The Jackling House is one of those properties that, if it was on public land and there were millionaires willing to foot the bill I’d say, sure, go ahead, but don’t use public funds. Also, if it was within view of my house I’d be opposed. Sometimes I think people are fighting this fight not because the house has merit, which it now no longer really has except as an idea of a style, but in order to stop Jobs from getting his way.

    If Jobs were not involved I have to wonder if there would be as much angst over this process.

    As RWB points out, even if Jobs decided to restore it, in it current state it would be only a copy of the original and not the actual original and that is not worth the effort that is being expended here.

    Atlanta, GA

  5. From my point of veiw, the property was purchased by Jobs. It is his to do with as he pleases. Even if he is a Billionaire, why should he have to pay to move something for a bunch of tree huggers that are worried about some crumbling old sign of extreme embellishment? before this, who had ever even heard about this Washington Smith guy? I haven’t, and from what I see in the photos (past and present) I am not impressed. Looks like just another shack on a hill. I for one am tired of hearing about a group of people putting thier noses into other peoples business. If this property was so important to them, why didn’t they buy it in 1984 when it was on the market? Probably because back then they were too busy with thier noses in someone elses business, wasting more time and money. Get over it. the place belongs in a history book on the back shelf of a library somewhere. Leave the “history” in the past and let everyone move on to the future.

  6. Jayeff on said:

    Although I’m a fan of historic houses, this one has had its time and is due for demise. If and when Jobs does build his own house on this site, in a a hundred years or so, it will be historic in it own right, as Steve is perhaps even more historically prominent than Mr. Jackling.

  7. Shane on said:

    From an ethical/artistic perspective, its not like Jobs is knocking down a Lloyd-Wright, van der Rohe or a Seidler, architects who defined modern housing; it is a Spanish-Colonial REVIVAL MESS, and looks (imho) rather unattractive, even if it were renovated. There are countless examples for this style of architecture throughout the USA, it has as much originality as Mock-Tudor and Cape-Code homes.

    Given that Jobs commissioned the starkly modern Apple flagship stores world over, which complement and contrast their surroundings, I have no doubt that his personal home would be an extension of this design ethic. I for one am very curious to see what he has planned for the site.

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  10. Thor on said:

    This is private property! If it is this important to the Uphold Our Heritage folks, then they should make an offer. We would then see just how much ‘the heritage’ is worth (and ‘NO’ tax money should be used to purchase the property). Where are these Uphold Our Heritage folks when other places that are historic pieces of this countries early years are destroyed.

  11. AHamm on said:

    I love architecture but we need to learn which buildings so save and which to let go. Jackling is not worth saving. Better to donate the organ and other items to be preserved in a museum (copper?). Perhaps build a small guest cottage on property retaining a few memories of the original home, such as tile for a guest bath, iron railing for a detail or an old restored lighting fixture. In this way, part is preserved for history and part can go elsewhere to be appreciated by everyone and not just private owners. Let Steve have his home and move on to saving the more important structures.

  12. Lynae on said:

    This whole thing is just such a tragedy, and very telling of Steve Jobs’ character. I’ve read a lot about this case, and from everything I can tell, this house was in very good condition when Jobs bought it. Save Our Heritage has (in my mind, successfully) argued the case that Jobs bought the house already wanting to tear it down so he could build something modern, but he knew people would argue that it was historical, and so he has deliberately let it deteriorate so that he could tear it down with the reasoning that it was too far gone to save.

    If this sounds farfetched, it shouldn’t. People seem to be doing it quite a lot lately. Recently, there was a historic cottage in the Russian Hill neighborhood of San Franciso where pretty much this exact thing happened. People bought it, deliberately let it fall apart, demolished it, and then built something bigger and modern in its place.

    I really do not understand some people’s loathing for old things. If these people who can afford to be picky really want a custom home, why don’t they buy something that’s only 20 years old and tear THAT down, instead of removing something that’s 80 or 100 years old? Why didn’t Steve Jobs just buy some OTHER property instead of this one, if he didn’t want the house anyway? I’m sure there was someone out there who did.

    As the other comments say, it is probably too late to save this one, but I personally honestly hope Job’ plans get held up a long time anyway. While people should be allowed to tear down homes they can’t save, aren’t there already laws on the books that require one to not let one’s house fall apart in the first place?

  13. Richard Silverstein on said:

    There is a tremendous amt of misinformation regarding this case. Actually, UOH has estimated it would cost Jobs only about $6 million to restore the house (not $20 million). It is an architectural gem designed by G.W. Smith, who created the Spanish Revival style featured in Santa Barbara among other places. He was an important architect, the style was architecturally significant & the house is an excellent example of its kind.

    The fact that Steve Jobs has let the house go to ruin should not be an argument for letting his tear it down. Wouldn’t that be rewarding him for destroying an architectural landmark?

    There are many people in this thread & who are opining on this issue who don’t know what they’re talking about. I find it astounding that someone who knows very little about architecture & looks at a few photos is willing to consign Jackling House to the dustbin. That’s what I call chutzpah!

  14. Remember the apple ad for 1984?
    Who’s who now?

  15. Anyway, if you dont like a house with such history, you should sell it to someone who does, not tear it down.

  16. I think it’s an ugly pig of a building and of no particular architectural merit. Good riddance.

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  19. Steve J. on said:

    THERE’S my copy of the Godfather, part 2. I’ve been looking everywhere for that…

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  26. The house is (was) an atrocity. Even in its heyday the home was grotesque. And that tacky pipe organ. I hope that inane pipe organ and all of its pipes were thrown in the junk pile. I’m sure Jobs’ new home will be vastly superior to the old one. It’ll be lightyears ahead in style, design, materials and efficiency compared to the old home. Kudos for Mr. Jobs for his lengthy pursuit in finally getting the Jackling home torn down.

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  30. Wyogal77 on said:

    People here advocating for the demolition of the Jackling House are a pack of morons. You are the idiots that have absolutely no respect for old houses and therefore have NO taste. Old houses/buildings have character, unlike the modern crap that is being slapped up at an ever-increasing rate. Not only is modern architecture (not all, but most) unattractive, it is not as well-built as it was in the past.

  31. Tear it down! Its nothing more than a rat infested dump…..

  32. What an ass. Tore down a historic place rather than renovate. Then dies of cancer ’cause he won’t try chemo, but laetrile and herbs. Well wifey Lauren made out well.

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