S E C T I O N
Community S TO R I E S A B O U T P E O P L E A N D E V E N T S I N T H E C O M M U N I T Y
N OV E M B E R 7 , 2 0 1 2
Have estate, need plan By Dave Boyce
Clockwise from top, the main house dates from the 1880s and underwent extensive modification, including enclosing sleeping porches above the first-floor porch. Encroaching trees, time and weather exact their toll on a wooden shed. Above the woods at The Hawthorns lies open space and panoramic views. A bathtub shows the effects of years in the out-of-doors.
Photos by Michelle Le
here are bats in the basement of The Hawthorns mansion in Portola Valley, it is said. There were bees in the house, 10 hives of them, but they’ve been repatriated, it is said. But it’s a big old house. Maybe the people doing the repatriating didn’t get them all! Maybe the ones they left have become easily annoyed! And has anyone given a thought to ghosts? The house is very big and very old and covered in very gray shingles, the kind you see on haunted houses everywhere. For decades, no one has lived there. The windows are boarded up. A fence topped by barbed wire surrounds it there in the woods, woods that are uninhabited — except for the coyotes and bobcats, except for the mountain lions and the rattlesnakes, and their prey. And the house does have company. Scattered among the trees are the dark collapsing remains of wooden sheds. Bathtubs rust in the open air. What was once a boat is now a shapeless moldering pile. A mobile home, its best days long gone, slumps forlornly, melting slowly into the ground. What might one encounter Midpeninsula on a nocturnal visit? Fortunately — or not — The Hawthorns isn’t open at night. district considers Nor is it open during the day. This 79-acre triangular expanse of light a future for woodlands and open grassy ridges with panoramic views and many native species belongs to the MidThe Hawthorns peninsula Regional Open Space District, a public agency, and it isn’t in Portola Valley yet ready for public access. Rangers from the district and from the private Woodside Patrol keep an eye on the place. The patrols and the fence became necessary, said district Project Manager Regina Coony, with the vandalism that began within weeks of the property’s coming into the possession of the Midpeninsula district in November 2011. The original owners, James and Ida Allen, lived in San Francisco and used the property as a summer escape. They planted hawthorns along Alpine Road, since uprooted, and “several hundred olive trees, seven acres of vineyards, ten acres of apples and eight of prune trees,” and raised thoroughbred horses and Poland China hogs, according to the 2003 book “Life on the San Andreas Fault: A History of Portola Valley,” by Nancy Lund and Pamela Gullard. The Woods family bought it in 1916. Over time, they added a garage and corrals and enclosed the house’s sleeping porches. “They did such a good job of it that you don’t see it at first blush,” Ms. Coony said. Ms. Woods took in donkeys retired from the San Francisco Zoo Continued on next page
November 7, 2012 N TheAlmanacOnline.com N The Almanac N 17
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