From Del Monte Corporation to Griffin House in Los Altos Hills

Part 2

V. Griffin House

A century ago, Frank Delos Wolfe (1863-1926) was the man to see in the South Bay if you wanted something special in a house. The founder of Del Monte Corporation got a shingled mansion in Los Altos Hills.

Griffin-House, c.1901

Wolfe alone or in partnership, designed as many as 400 buildings from the 1890-1926. Most were houses, and most of his work was in San Jose and nearby towns.

Wolfe's homes show an idiosyncratic mix of details from various styles, and a courageous occasionally foolhardy arrangement of windows, chimneys, rooflines and gables.
He loved deep porches with wide overhangs and projecting bay windows.

The "Book of Designs" published in 1907, listed also the interior of 1901 residence of Willard and Lucretia Griffin, at 12345 South El Monte Rd.

Interior Griffin-house, c. 1904

Willard Mugett Griffin was a president of Griffin & Skelley. For most of his adult life he lived in Alameda, or in a suite he kept at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. After marrying for the second time in 1901, he turned his eyes to the South Bay for a country estate where he and his wife could spend their retirement years.

They purchased "Lake Grove", a 97-acre estate in Los altos Hills, tore down its 30-years-old farmhouse and contracted with Mountain View builders Edwin Greenwood and George Culver to build this imposing shingle style structure. Construction was completed in the summer of 1903.

For the Griffins, Wolfe & McKenzie adapted the Henry & Mary Mille house design by enlarging it and turning the orientation so that the left side was now the front.

Henry-Mary-Miller-House, c. 1900

Back to Griffin image. This 5,000 square -foot design was one of the architect's finest moments. Wolfe and McKenzie honored the house by including both interior and exterior photos in the Book of Designs, the only project to receive that distinction.



1st floor plan









2nd floor plan

The Griffins returned from 1906 trip to Japan with a team of Japanese craftsmen who lived on the property and continued to develop the grounds with landscape elements including a teahouse and bridge.

Portions of the porch were enclosed in order to provide a breakfast room and alcove off the living room. Griffin renamed his estate "Homeland".

The house remained in the Griffin family for over 50 years. In 1959, it was sold to a newly formed school district, and Foothill College was built around it.

The award-winning campus architecture was based in part on the steep roof shingled example established by the Griffin house.

Campus Center, Foothill College, photo courtesy of Ralston Independent Works





Current views of the Griffin House.

Porch from the left, photo courtesy of Ralston Independent Works







Right side, photo courtesy of Ralston Independent Works







Chimney, photo courtesy of Ralston Independent Work







Porch, photo courtesy of Ralston Independent Works

Cusack family owned the land before Foothill district bought it.

The Old John Lohman house next door is the Faculty house. Betty Lohman and her husband, John Holt Lohman, lived on a Los Altos Hills ranch that would later be home to Foothill College.

John Lohman House, photo courtesy of Ralston Independent Works





One more building housed by faculty, photo courtesy of Ralston Independent Works




A Griffin-Cusack guest house is the athletic field house, photo courtesy of Ralston Independent Works





A barn is the Los Altos Fire Department's El Monte station.

In 1977, the Griffin house and carriage house were listed on the National Register of Historic Places,

photo courtesy of Ralston Independent Works


VI. A Teahouse

The Griffin family built the little gazebo and entertained guests there. The gazebo, unused for many years was ignored. The cement-lined pond, which once was the home for dozens of Japanese carp, is cracked and weeds grow in it.

The area is currently a picnic place
, 2009
photo courtesy of Ralston Independent Works







In 70's Town Historian Florence Fava has launched a campaign to save the historic Griffin Teahouse from being sold as junk by Foothill College. Calvin flint was a superintendent that time and Fava have succeeded in slowing the process. Students of the Foothill.

College joined forces to clean up the pagoda teahouse area, and beginning to put the teahouse back in shape.

Pagoda teahouse, Courtesy of LATC February 17, 1971




Back to Part 1 of the presentation.







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