An article in a Silicon Valley newspaper misleadingly heralds an agreement between Steve Jobs and the town of Woodside that supposedly guarantees the preservation of Jackling House, a historic California home he owns in that town. It was originally built for copper baron Daniel Jackling, who, like Jobs, made a fortune in a new technology of his day, providing the copper for electric wiring. Jackling commissioned George Washington Smith, who later created the Spanish Revival look of Santa Barbara, to build his dream palace.
For several years, Gordon Smythe, a technology entrepreneur, has offered to preserve Jackling House and Jobs has refused because he preferred tearing it down in order to build Mr. Blandings dream house on the six acre property.
After a historic preservation group, Uphold Our Heritage, organized to block Jobs’ plans and won a victory in State Superior Court, Jobs attempted to appeal to the State Supreme Court. But he also allowed his lawyer to reopen talks with Smythe. It appears that they’ve come to an agreement and that was what the town council approved.
What does this agreement actually do? Does it preserve Jackling House? Not really. Uphold Our Heritage has engaged experts who’ve told them relocation of the House would cost approximately $4-million excluding the purchase of a new piece of property. Jobs has always refused to pony up this money. And in this agreement he offers $600,000 for Smythe to take it off his hands. The problem is that Smythe does not yet have a property to which to move the House, nor does he have the funds for the actual relocation.
In the interim, he plans to store the House in pieces. When and if he does restore it in a new location, he’s specified that he will only rebuild the original portion of the House built in 1925, but will not restore a 1931 addition.
So we really have a half-assed resolution of the issue. This is why Uphold Our Heritage will go before Judge Weiner in August to present its position on the agreement. The group hasn’t yet determined what that position will be, but if it does oppose the deal and the judge finds in UOH’s favor, then it’ll be back to the drawing board. And it will mean the continuation of Jobs’ painful neglect of the home which has turned it into a boarded-up relic.
Typically, Jobs’ attorney has placed blame on the preservation group if it derails any agreement with Smythe, claiming that it stands in the way of restoration of the House. When it comes to people like Steve Jobs, it’s always the other guy’s fault. Never his own. Given his billions, shelling out $4 million to save this House is a pittance. But he just won’t do it on principle.
Given Jobs’ history of high-handed, opaque behavior as a corporate CEO in which he attempted to conceal backdated stock options and refused to tell his shareholders that he’d undergone a liver transplant (until he had no choice), it’s not surprising that he’s willing to see a beautiful example of California historic architecture go to ruin in a fit of personal pique.
Was this Noah Cross’ house in the 1974 movie “Chinatown”?
FROM THE SCENE AT NOAH CROSS’ HOUSE IN “CHINATOWN”:
Jake Gittes: I just want to know what you’re worth. Over ten million?
Noah Cross: Oh my, yes.
Jake Gittes: Why are you doing it? How much better can you eat? What can you buy that you can’t already afford?
Noah Cross: The future, Mr. Gitts, the future.
[Lunch is served; it’s fish]
Noah Cross: I hope you don’t mind. I believe they should be served with the head.
Jake Gittes: Fine… long as you don’t serve the chicken that way.
RE: “Given Jobs’ history of high-handed, opaque behavior as a corporate CEO in which he attempted to conceal backdated stock options…”
MY COMMENT: In the early days, didn’t Jobs make and sell small electronic boxes that allowed the users to make long distance telephone calls without paying the AT&T long distance charge?
It’s depressing that our elites are so soulless and lowest-common-denominator in their thinking and aesthetics. It’s hard to imagine a person of equivalent elite status in a country like France, for instance, having such a cavalier disregard and indifference bordering on contempt toward their cultural heritage and history. This kind of thing doesn’t bode well for the cultural health of the republic, and it’s a depressing metaphor for our business & tech establishment’s contempt and lack of interest in history, and architecture. As horrible and evil as our old robber-barons were, at least they had some regard for aesthetics and culture that was mirrored in the society. The new robber-barons are just horrible.
What ever happened to style and artistry? The old Gilded Age had Fred & Ginger, Greta Garbo and a whole panoply of twinkling lights. Our new Gilded Age is stuck with Bruno, Hannah Montana, the Jonas Brothers, Adam Sandler and on through the pop culture wasteland… sheesh I’m getting nostalgic for an American epoch I didn’t even live in (I could forego the soup lines, though).
P.S.—while Jobs is at it, maybe he could raze the city of Santa Barbara (with Caterpillar bulldozers, of course) and put up a huge shopping mall, Mall of America 2, anyone?
Richard Silverstein says
Maybe he could turn Santa Barbara into one huge urban Apple store.
Lest you think Old Europe was a paradise of preservation of historic architecture, this also goes only so far. 1-2 decades ago the scrap iron prices went through the roof, with the consequence that dozens of historic industrial sites, previously abandoned for many years, suddenly became “worthy” of demolition. I’m not talking of backyard shacks, but things like high furnaces, collieries, mines, steel mills, which had shaped – created really – entire regions, both here in Germany and in Belgium and northern France and the UK.
Then there are/were a number of historic buildings of high architectonic and aesthetic value that were simply left to rot until they collapsed, like a very rare neoclassicistic mansion on the edge of my hometown, or several mansions/compounds I know in Belgium. The most splendid of all and my all-time favourite was this former hospital in Liege, built in the same era as the famous Mass. State Hospital in Danvers, and suffered the same shameful fate:
I agree with the reasoning here….. In the "Old World" they preserve. In the "New World" we destroy. It is a travesty of civil disobedience that such an ediface of historical significance is simply "choked to death" by the zeal and selfishness of the modern entrepreneur. In America, we must try and hold on to what we DO have…. and not be in such a rush to destroy it in the name of ourselves. If Steve Jobs was a real billionaire with any type of historical education or "class", he would save and restore this mansion on par with that of the "Filoli" mansion, also in Woodside. Indeed folks we have lost one here for American architectual history and it should be noted.
Right, a huge urban Apple store would be more a propos. Apple is a good product (I’m a PC guy—with my trusty old IBM Thinkpad—but I can respect the other side), yet don’t these computer people see beyond their noses and their screens (and the latest modern style)?
Maybe the 3-dimensional world of spatial relations and physical objects has become some kind of alien sphere to some of these guys. Nature and buildings, old things, what’s all that about? I suppose if we could live in our computer, a little blinking dot in a corner of the screen somewhere, old passe Spanish architecture might become a distant memory, a faded still on some internet movie download…
I imagine the beautiful city of Santa Barbara will survive the depredations of the philistines for quite a while still, you’ve got the city zoning code and that kind of thing. I just wish more people appreciated historic architecture.