In 1982, Frederick R. Weisman purchased the Los Angeles estate to serve as a showcase for his personal collection of 20th-century art. He and his wife Billie Milam Weisman, an art conservator and curator, worked together to create a unique environment located within the Mediterranean-style villa. The villa was designed by Gordon B. Kaufmann in the late 1920s.
The collection includes over 400 works by European Modernists including Cezanne, Picasso, and Kandinsky and Surrealist works by Ernst, Miro, and Magritte. The holdings in postwar art include works by Giacometti, Noguchi, Calder, Rauschenberg, and Johns; Abstract Expressionist paintings by de Kooning, Francis, Still, and Rothko; Color-Field paintings by Frankenthaler, Louis, and Noland; and Pop Art by Warhol, Lichtenstein, Oldenburg, and Rosenquist. Contemporary California works include those by Ruscha and Goode, and Super Realist sculptures by Hanson and de Andrea.
Filoli was built in 1915 for Mr. and Mrs. William Bowers Bourn, prominent San Franciscans whose chief source of wealth was the Empire Mine, a hard-rock gold mine in Grass Valley, California. Mr. Bourn was also owner and president of the Spring Valley Water Company whose property comprised Crystal Springs Lake and the surrounding lands, areas that are now part of the San Francisco Water Department. He selected the southern end of Crystal Springs Lake as the site for his estate. The estate is situated in a verdant valley. The gardens are as impressive as the house, strolling though them is a tranquil way to spend an afternoon.
The house has been featured in film and TV, including iconic fly-over shot at the beginning of Dallas. If you are lucky you will hear live piano music coming from the ballroom as you tour the house.
In the late 1880's Mrs. Winchester began to build the house that would consume her for the rest of her life. She hired carpenters to work in shifts around the clock. By the turn of the century the eight-room house had grown into a seven-story mansion. The estate eventually grew to 161 acres of farmland, which included orchards of apricots, plum, and walnut trees.
At the time of her death, the unrelenting construction had rambled over six acres. The Sprawling mansion contained 160 rooms, 2,000 doors, 10,000 windows, 47 stairways, 47 fireplaces, 13 bathrooms, and 6 kitchens.
No one knows why the house was built and re-built continuously for over 30 years, although theories persist. Sadly the house is presented in somewhat of a carnival atmosphere, although it is fascinating to see the result of one woman's singular obsession.