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Steve Jobs to give away historic mansion

post #1 of 56
Thread Starter 
To the liking of historians, a moldering manse owned by Steve Jobs is now officially up for grabs.

According to a column in the October 2004 issue of This Old House magazine, Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, intends to give away a 17,000 square-foot Spanish Colonial mansion to anyone who will move it.

The house in Woodside, CA, which is not far from Stanford University and Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, was once occupied by Jobs and also played host to former president Bill Clinton when daughter Chelsea attended Stanford. Jobs, however, can't stand the place. He recently sought local authority to demolish the mansion, which he described as "one of the biggest abominations of a house I've ever seen."

The 1926 Daniel C. Jackling estate was designed by George Washington Smith, the architect who created the look of Montecito and Santa Barbara in the 1920's. Built for Mr. Jackling, a copper magnate who died in 1956, the house sits on six wooded acres that Jobs purchased in 1983 at the age of 29.

Preservationists have deemed the house historic, and have pronounced its importance as an example of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture. In March, the house was the center of a public debate, as several people--including former owners and a relative of Mr. Jackling-- spoke about the house's significance and the importance of historic preservation.

It appears that Jobs will now offer the house to anyone who is willing to handle its relocation and restoration.
post #2 of 56
Anyone got a pickup truck and a free weekend?

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post #3 of 56
Typical eBay scam. "Free house!" But where they always get you is the shipping.
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post #4 of 56
Good--there's no going back once history is destroyed.

Personally, I'd move MYSELF to another piece of land instead of moving the HOUSE away. But that's just me.

(PS... say "moldering manse" three times fast.)
post #5 of 56
Quote:
Originally posted by m01ety
Typical eBay scam. "Free house!" But where they always get you is the shipping.

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post #6 of 56
this story just makes me laugh...theres plenty of jokes in here but I'm too exhausted and its too late in the day to find them.
post #7 of 56
Jeez, we have no sense of history in this country because we destroy everything old to build new crap in its place. I would like to see what this "abomination" of a house looks like. If we are to believe Steve Jobs the mere sight of it causes children to cry.
post #8 of 56
Wow...

I think it was Buffy who taught me that nothing over 75 years old existed in the US (except maybe people or other animals). 78 Years must make the age of this mansion a record!
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post #9 of 56
If this house is "one of the biggest abominations" Jobs has ever seen then why the hell did he buy it in the first place? And why has he kept it for 21 years?

Must be one fantastic piece of land to go through this much trouble.
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post #10 of 56
It would be ironic if the heritage restrictions on rewiring this house led to AirPort.
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post #11 of 56
This is actually old news - there was an article in the NYT back in July:

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/15/ga...JOBS.html?8dpc

Unfortunately I don't have the full text. Synopsis (from memory): Steve bought it for the land, intending to build a much smaller house. Various owners have made all kinds of architecturally questionable modifications, major and minor. It was in bad shape when he bought it and hasn't done much to it. Been trying to get permits for a long time. Preservationists want the public to enjoy it, though it is inaccessible to the public (private land) and hidden from view. Steve has always said he'd be happy to give the house to someone who wants it.
post #12 of 56
If the "preservationsists" want to save the house, then let them buy the darned thing and move it. I really can't see why people think they have a right to tell the rightful property owner what he/she can do with their property. We are not talking about Independance Hall here.

I realize I might be the last remaining devotee to the 5th amendment, but I just do not understand the sense of entitlement. If you want to look at the pretty house, then buy the right to do so.

By the way, I've seen the house (from the outside at least) and I just don't see what the big deal is all about.
post #13 of 56
Hysterical Preservationist

"Spanish Colonial Revival architecture"

Why don't we just preserve the "Spanish Colonial" architecture and not the revival of it?
post #14 of 56
Quote:
Originally posted by Scott
Hysterical Preservationist

"Spanish Colonial Revival architecture"

Why don't we just preserve the "Spanish Colonial" architecture and not the revival of it?

What if we changed the name of "Spanish Colonial Revival" to "Post Modern Spanish Colonial" and consider it just as important as "Spanish Colonial"?
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post #15 of 56
Or... one could RESEARCH the history and THEN pass judgement

Or maybe money buys anything, even the right to destroy history. Maybe wealth is the most important American value. Maybe what remains of our past isn't worth preserving. Maybe... Never mind--some reality TV just came on, I'm outta here!
post #16 of 56
Preservationists are such a touchy lot. Sometimes they want to preserve a house as is. Sometimes they want to rip apart a house and 'restore' it back to its initial 'look'. "You see this whole back section, well, some Civil War general named Lee added that to this house in 1861. So we're going to get rid of it, because we want the house to be like it was when Fred Johnson built it in 1821. Oh, and get rid of that bathroom! There was no indoor plumbing then! Same with the electricity!"

And if you look at most of the architecture in the US, most is just knock-offs of architecture from other parts of the globe (its spanish out west, Mediteranean in Florida, etc, etc, etc).
post #17 of 56
Why Steve supports dems, I do not know. I understand the whole social freedom part of it, but Steve is through and through a Libertarian. He owns the propery, and should be able to demolish the damn thing.

He should just demolish it anyway, and see what happens. I bet beauracracy won't sort things out until after he dies anyway.
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post #18 of 56
Quote:
Originally posted by nagromme
Or... one could RESEARCH the history and THEN pass judgement

Or maybe money buys anything, even the right to destroy history. Maybe wealth is the most important American value. Maybe what remains of our past isn't worth preserving. Maybe... Never mind--some reality TV just came on, I'm outta here!


The point being, neither you nor I have any claim to have our judgment matter in this affair.

Even considering your vast "RESEARCH" into the history of the house, I doubt you can elevate the importance of the house above that of an architectural curiosity.
post #19 of 56
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post #20 of 56
Gee, gang, do you suppose uncle Steve would give it to us? It would make a cool AI clubhouse.
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post #21 of 56
That place has 14 bedrooms and 13.5 bathrooms? Yuck.

If you want to preserve heritage, I recommend that you stick to places or worship or monuments. If you have a private piece of land that was sold, I don't think you have any say in what is being done with it. Just because the building is 78 years old doesn't mean it is not a rickety old shack. Even the people who want to "move it" have come to the realization that the building has to be "de-constructed" and then "constructed" again because it is in a bad shape. Some think that if all the modifications to the building were removed, the looks would be better. That implies that the design of the original architect is already lost and it is an old building not worth the land it stands on.
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post #22 of 56
Quote:
Originally posted by Louzer
Preservationists are such a touchy lot. ...

My wife told me about some small housing development where the original intent of the architect was to build cheap housing that was not intended to last. Now that it's "hysterically preserved" the curator decided that repairing them would go against the architects intent. So, they are allowed to decay and fall apart. What are they going to do when the walls fall down?
post #23 of 56

Based on THAT picture, I think Steve is right.
post #24 of 56
Quote:
Originally posted by Scott
My wife told me about some small housing development where the original intent of the architect was to build cheap housing that was not intended to last. Now that it's "hysterically preserved" the curator decided that repairing them would go against the architects intent. So, they are allowed to decay and fall apart. What are they going to do when the walls fall down?

Incompetence on the part of some preservationists does not invalidate historical preservation generally. The historical society here does a great job with the ~150 years of history it has to work with. If people are willing to restore buildings so that they externally match the original spec, and so they're in good shape, they get money to do so.

There's a similar campaign to restore St. Louis that has been successful. The buildings look great, some of them have areas that can be toured publicly, and some family gets a really nice place to live and money to restore it in return for keeping it up to standard. If the basic structure is nice, and architecturally sound, why not keep it up?

As for the house under discussion, I think it's hideously ugly. It's faceless and there's no sense of composition holding its sprawling bulk together. Maybe it would actually look better with some of the additions knocked back off, but I don't see a lot of hope for it.
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post #25 of 56
Okay, we've got a classic case here of uninformed opinions.

I don't plan on explaining all of historic preservation or California environmental law, but suffice to say, nobody can render a judgment about the significance of a property based on one photo. This is a task completed by a professional and based on detailed information and actual knowledge of the subject matter.

Also, for the record, George Washington Smith is one of California's finest and most important architects, and the demolition of one of his buildings is no trivial matter. It's not unlike someone wanting to tear down a Frank Lloyd Wright house just because they don't like it. As someone said above, if Steve didn't like the house, maybe he should have bought a different one.

I remember reading in a previous article a very disappointing quote from Uncle Steve saying that because he'd never heard of Smith, that he could not be important. I just hope he doesn't run Apple with that attitude.
post #26 of 56
Quote:
Originally posted by IJ Reilly
Okay, we've got a classic case here of uninformed opinions.

I don't plan on explaining all of historic preservation or California environmental law, but suffice to say, nobody can render a judgment about the significance of a property based on one photo. This is a task completed by a professional and based on detailed information and actual knowledge of the subject matter.

Also, for the record, George Washington Smith is one of California's finest and most important architects, and the demolition of one of his buildings is no trivial matter. It's not unlike someone wanting to tear down a Frank Lloyd Wright house just because they don't like it. As someone said above, if Steve didn't like the house, maybe he should have bought a different one.

I remember reading in a previous article a very disappointing quote from Uncle Steve saying that because he'd never heard of Smith, that he could not be important. I just hope he doesn't run Apple with that attitude.

All good points. But there is also the property owner's rights to consider here. It gets trickier then if the property owner doesn't care about the building (as in this case) and more so if the building was NOT declared a historical building before it was purchased (which is not clear from what I have read). The property owner has rights too. Steve bought it for the land/view. If it was not designated as a "historical" building before he bought it, it also seems wrong for some outside party to now dictate what can/cannot be done with the property without properly compensating the property owner.
post #27 of 56
Quote:
Originally posted by Chris Cuilla
All good points. But there is also the property owner's rights to consider here. It gets trickier then if the property owner doesn't care about the building (as in this case) and more so if the building was NOT declared a historical building before it was purchased (which is not clear from what I have read). The property owner has rights too. Steve bought it for the land/view. If it was not designated as a "historical" building before he bought it, it also seems wrong for some outside party to now dictate what can/cannot be done with the property without properly compensating the property owner.

Not so, and the "outside party" to whom you seem to be referring would be the city, which has every authority to order the preservation of the house, whether it was designated before Steve Jobs bought it or not. Again, I don't want to get into a big discussion about California environmental regulations or historic preservation (or land use regulations) unless somebody wants me to, but in fact "property rights" really isn't an issue here, at least not legally. A preservation order would not be considered a "taking." The Supreme Court decided this issue long ago, so it's not a subject up for debate.

To be honest, I'm pretty disappointed in Steve. He has enough dough to build whatever kind of house he wants just about wherever he wants, but he's got to tear down an architecturally significant building to do it. What he's doing is pretty boorish IMO.
post #28 of 56
And God knows the government never abuses the law.
post #29 of 56
Quote:
Originally posted by IJ Reilly
Not so, and the "outside party" to whom you seem to be referring would be the city, which has every authority to order the preservation of the house, whether it was designated before Steve Jobs bought it or not. Again, I don't want to get into a big discussion about California environmental regulations or historic preservation (or land use regulations) unless somebody wants me to, but in fact "property rights" really isn't an issue here, at least not legally. A preservation order would not be considered a "taking." The Supreme Court decided this issue long ago, so it's not a subject up for debate.

This is all well and fine...and assume that the "law" (and governing authority) is about what is right and wrong. Not always.

All I'm saying is that if someone has the authority to limit the value of a property by making such a declaration...they own the land owners something to compensate for the difference in what they might have sold it for otherwise.

Steve being boorish? Perhaps...but irrelevant.
post #30 of 56
Quote:
Originally posted by Chris Cuilla
This is all well and fine...and assume that the "law" (and governing authority) is about what is right and wrong. Not always.

All I'm saying is that if someone has the authority to limit the value of a property by making such a declaration...they own the land owners something to compensate for the difference in what they might have sold it for otherwise.

Steve being boorish? Perhaps...but irrelevant.

No, they don't owe them any compensation. This is just a fact, and it pertains to all land use regulations, not just this one. I'm sorry, but this just isn't a debatable issue. I am only reporting a fact, which you can choose to believe or not. It's only a matter of whether you prefer to be accurate or not.

Steve's boorishness matters to me. I was quite annoyed when he claimed that George Washington Smith couldn't possibly be an important architect because he'd never heard of him. This is quite simply ignorance mixed with arrogance, which plays little better than outright stupidity. Steve runs my favorite company. I admire him for a lot of things, so I certainly don't want to see him making remarks that make him look like a numskull. What this little episode may say about the way he runs Apple also concerns me.
post #31 of 56
Quote:
Originally posted by IJ Reilly
No, they don't owe them any compensation. This is just a fact, and it pertains to all land use regulations, not just this one. I'm sorry, but this just isn't a debatable issue. I am only reporting a fact, which you can choose to believe or not. It's only a matter of whether you prefer to be accurate or not.

I am not debating you on the law (if you read my post, you'd see that). I don't have any knowledge of California law...let alone on this subject. I am stating my OPINION about what the right thing to do is...and that law (assuming you are right about that) isn't always about what is RIGHT or WRONG.

Quote:
Steve's boorishness matters to me.

Fine...but not really relevant to the legal or moral or other issues related to what should/shouldn't/can/can't be done with the land/building.
post #32 of 56
I did read your post, and you said the regulators owed them compensation. I'm saying they don't, as a legal or a moral issue. Some people have pushed for a compensatory land use regulation system because they know it would effectively destroy all forms of government regulation of land uses, which is what they are after. Maybe you're of that mind; I don't know. If you're not, then I would ask you to examine this notion a bit more carefully before promoting it as the solution to any problem.

FWIW, the key cases are US Supreme Court.

The "Steve issue" is entangled. It seems to me that we would not be discussing historic preservation and land uses questions here if it were not. In addition, this story told me something quite unflattering about Steve that I would honestly preferred not to know.
post #33 of 56
Quote:
Originally posted by IJ Reilly
I did read your post, and you said the regulators owed them compensation.

Sorry, should have prefixed that with "it is my opinion that".

Quote:
I'm saying they don't, as a legal

This may be true.

Quote:
or a moral issue.

And this is your opinion.
post #34 of 56
Quote:
Originally posted by IJ Reilly
Okay, we've got a classic case here of uninformed opinions.

I don't plan on explaining all of historic preservation or California environmental law, but suffice to say, nobody can render a judgment about the significance of a property based on one photo. This is a task completed by a professional and based on detailed information and actual knowledge of the subject matter.

The significance of a building has nothing to do with its aesthetic value. There's a historic building smack downtown here that's just as ugly as sin, but nobody's about to tear it down. You can't conflate one judgment with the other.

Quote:
Also, for the record, George Washington Smith is one of California's finest and most important architects, and the demolition of one of his buildings is no trivial matter. It's not unlike someone wanting to tear down a Frank Lloyd Wright house just because they don't like it. As someone said above, if Steve didn't like the house, maybe he should have bought a different one.

He bought the property for the property, not for the house.

Quote:
I remember reading in a previous article a very disappointing quote from Uncle Steve saying that because he'd never heard of Smith, that he could not be important. I just hope he doesn't run Apple with that attitude.

That quote doesn't surprise me. Steve is famously indifferent to history, and famously bullheaded about his opinions. At any rate, this latest decision shows that he's perfectly willing to let someone else find some value in the house; he just wants it gone one way or another.

If the City decides the mansion has to stay there and be restored, I'm sure he'll manage, since he only wanted to build a small house anyway. The mansion might even look better with the "improvements" removed and some TLC, who knows? But given that he'd watched the place moulder for years and years, and there's only been an uproar now, I think it was not an unfair guess on his part that nobody would care if the the thing came down. It's a fair bet that, had he said nothing, the house would have decayed to the point where it would have had to be demolished anyway.
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post #35 of 56
Funny thing is...the building is still on private property...so a) if Steve doesn't want to restore it, it won't be...and perhaps will simply fall down, and b) even if it is...it will be inaccessible to the general public. Oh well. Bunch of baloney me-thinks.
post #36 of 56
Quote:
Originally posted by Amorph
The significance of a building has nothing to do with its aesthetic value. There's a historic building smack downtown here that's just as ugly as sin, but nobody's about to tear it down. You can't conflate one judgment with the other.

Well I certainly don't have any problem sorting out the two issues, though keep in mind, the significance of his property is related to the architect. It could also be significant for its association with an historical event or individual, though I don't think this is the case here (at least from what I've read).

Quote:
He bought the property for the property, not for the house.

That was his mistake. In fact, if he doesn't appreciate the architecture, he'd be far better off selling the property to someone who does and buying a vacant parcel or a real tear-down. GW Smith's career was relatively brief so his houses are fairly scarce, especially in Northern California. People who understand such things would delighted to find one. I'm sure Steve would get a great price for the house, even though he's apparently let it run down.

Quote:
That quote doesn't surprise me. Steve is famously indifferent to history, and famously bullheaded about his opinions. At any rate, this latest decision shows that he's perfectly willing to let someone else find some value in the house; he just wants it gone one way or another.

If the City decides the mansion has to stay there and be restored, I'm sure he'll manage, since he only wanted to build a small house anyway. The mansion might even look better with the "improvements" removed and some TLC, who knows? But given that he'd watched the place moulder for years and years, and there's only been an uproar now, I think it was not an unfair guess on his part that nobody would care if the the thing came down. It's a fair bet that, had he said nothing, the house would have decayed to the point where it would have had to be demolished anyway.

Most cities would not stand idly by while a property owner allowed a house to deteriorate to that degree, not especially in Steve's tony neighborhood.
post #37 of 56
Quote:
Originally posted by Chris Cuilla
Funny thing is...the building is still on private property...so a) if Steve doesn't want to restore it, it won't be...and perhaps will simply fall down, and b) even if it is...it will be inaccessible to the general public. Oh well. Bunch of baloney me-thinks.

Accessibility is of no relevance. Nobody is asking him to put up velvet ropes and open a museum.
post #38 of 56
Quote:
Originally posted by IJ Reilly
Accessibility is of no relevance. Nobody is asking him to put up velvet ropes and open a museum.

No...but it might illuminate the pointlessness of the exercise in this case.

Secondly, regarding your previous post...I'm wondering if they city will force him to not let it run down. How will they do this exactly? If they do this for him...why not for the slums found in many cities? There is (and ought to be) a limit to government intervention into private property matters.

Finally, you should appreciate Steve's offer to give the house away. Now someone...a preservationist group can put their money where their mouth is and pay for it to be relocated and restored.
post #39 of 56
I think the city's only hope of enforcing anything is if a property owner needs a building permit. Can't fight city hall.
post #40 of 56
It only seems like a pointless exercise to people who don't care about things like cultural heritage. The viewpoint on this has changed a great deal over the last 25 years, but I realize better than most that some people still don't get it.

Yes indeed, code enforcement is uneven at best, but I think you'll find that enforcement is the most aggressive in the wealthiest neighborhoods -- because these are the people who tend to complain. Yes, and inner city areas that need it the most often get it the least. This is changing too though. It's finally dawning on cities that they can improving the livability of urban areas overall by paying attention to the small stuff, like weeds and broken windows. Another discussion for another time, perhaps.

Steve's offer isn't quite as generous as it might seem. A house of that size costs tens of thousands to demolish and cart off, so if he found a taker, he'd be money ahead. If the house does get moved, it probably won't be by a preservation organization. More likely an individual with a nearby property will take it, if anyone does. But moving houses, especially large ones, is a major, major effort. They rarely work out under time pressure, and Steve does not have a reputation for patience.
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