CA, SF South Bay: Filoli Gardens Accessibility

Thirty minutes from San Francisco in the South Bay in Woodside, CA is a historical piece of land known as Filoli. Construction of the 654 acres was originally developed for a gold mining billionaire, William Bowers Bourn, and his family in 1915 however both Mr. and Mrs. Bourn died in 1936. The following year the property was bought by  Mr. and Mrs. William P. Roth, who owned the Matson Navigation Company. Mrs. Roth made Filoli her home for 75 years and when she passed donated it National Trust for Historic Preservation for future generations to enjoy.

The 36,000 square foot Georgian Estate is one of the finest remaining examples of early 20th century country estate architecture. Touring inside the estate is accessible for someone using a manual or electric wheelchair. There are two ramps to get inside but are no located near the main entrance. The first one is on the left side adjacent to the gift shop and the other is on the backside where the gardens are. While the property remains open, the doors remain unlocked. The rooms available for viewing are on the ground floor and tours are available but not required. Each room is magnificent and one can picture the aristocrat Roth family living in luxury and throwing extravagant parties as they loved to do. One of the most impressive rooms in the house is the ballroom, in which a live piano player on stage sets the mood and helps one to visualize its grandness. This room is the largest in the house with a ceiling height of approximately 26’6″. Surrounding this room are large paintings of Muckross, a country that the original owner Mr. Roth wanted to travel to but never got to due to paralysis from a stroke in 1921. Other rooms to see at the estate include a dining room, two kitchens, library and the “Drawing Room” which was used as the room the ladies would retire while the men could smoked cigars and drink Brandy at the dinner table. Each room has its own unique character with exquisite craftsmanship and decor from the beams to the rugs, many materials imported from all over the world.

16 acres of formal gardens surround the estate of Fioli. It is no wonder why Mrs. Roth loved the gardens and would spend a lot of her time here. With so many different gardens and pathways it is easy to feel like you are wondering through heaven. There are water features all over the gardens to add to the renaissance ambiance. There is also a pool and green room. Not all 16 acres are accessible but a lot of it is. Some areas have even been converted to have ramps (below left photo). There is map available highlighting the wheelchair accessible path to explore the garden; otherwise, you could end up at a staircase or some other difficult obstacle. The pathways are made up of different materials: brick, stone, dirt, and gravel rocks. When it has been raining the gravel rocks and dirt blow mix together a bit and can be difficult to maneuver a manual wheelchair through.

In addition to the estate museum and gardens there is a cafe with a visitors center as well as a gift shop with unique items. The visitor center also holds a gallery of local artists that changes every couple of months and a small movie theater where you can watch a video on the history of Filoli. Fioli is open Tuesday – Saturday, 10:00 am – 3:30 pm and Sunday 11:00 am – 3:30 pm. The cost to visit and preserve Filoli is $5 for kids 5-17, $12 for seniors, and $15 for adults.

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