Some of the Peninsula’s oldest homes are open to visitors. Here are seven you shouldn’t miss.

By February 3, 2022February 4th, 2022In The News

By Sophia Markoulakis /

Visit these landmark estates and see what it was like a century ago (or more).

Wealth and the San Francisco Peninsula (Silicon Valley) have been entwined long before the likes of Apple and Oracle. More than 100 years ago, the Peninsula had the largest collection of country estates west of the Mississippi. And, though most of the area’s large estates like Mills (Millbrae), Gables (Woodside), and La Dolphine (Hillsborough) have either been demolished, sold or parceled off, or remain in the hands of private citizens, there are several that are run and supported by nonprofits or cities, welcoming and educating visitors on the area’s history.

These estates wouldn’t have been built without massive land acquisitions, many initiated by the California Land Act in 1851. The wealthy converged on this pristine land, bought up acres and built their summer homes, traveling via the newly built railroad. Their actions amplified a divide that would only grow, mostly through generational wealth. Silver baron James C. Flood – of Flood Mansion fame – built a country estate named Linden Towers, with remnants of the estate still evident throughout the Lindenwood neighborhood of Atherton, including the brick wall along Middlefield Road. William Ralston had his country home in the Belmont canyon area, Cipriani House, enlarged to 100 rooms and hosted lavish parties. And of course there’s Leland and Jane Stanford.

Some of that wealth (and property) were squandered, but some owners and heirs reinvested in their communities. Visit these gems and learn how they came to be and how their place in local history impacts life here today. All of these historic homes are free to visit unless otherwise noted, but donations keep them up and running…cont.