Bay Area fans of the PBS Masterpiece Classic breakout hit “Downton Abbey” may be surprised to discover they don’t have to cross the Atlantic to find a mansion that takes them back in time. They can tour an early 20th century estate reminiscent of Downton right in their backyard.
The South Bay’s Filoli, an historic mansion located just south of the Crystal Springs Reservoir in Woodside, Calif., has the largest volunteer corps of all the historic sites of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The more than 1,200 volunteers support all aspects of Filoli’s operations, ensuring that the world-famous gardens, the elegant architecture, the extensive antique collections, and miles of nature trails are preserved and shared with the public.
Volunteers participate in extensive training programs before taking on regular volunteer shifts, often committing their weekends for two or three months in order to learn the history of the estate, develop skills such as floral arranging and gardening, or learn to help in or teach the many educational programs and classes offered at Filoli. For most volunteers, the opportunity to call Filoli their “home away from home” and enjoy the serenity of such beautiful surroundings motivates their ongoing commitment to one of the Peninsulas’ most unique landmarks.
Filoli mansion was built in 1917, and the formal gardens were completed in 1929. Its name is derived from the personal credo of its original owner, William Bowers Bourn: “Fight for a just cause; Love your fellow man; Live a good life.” The house’s second owners, the Roth family, gave it to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1976. Visitors to Filoli can tour the gardens and home, participate in the many educational programs including gardening and art classes, or enjoy hiking through over 650 acres of wildlife preserves.