Recently, Steve Jobs reached an agreement with the town of Woodside supposedly to preserve the California historic landmark Jackling House. Prior to this, the historic preservation group, Uphold Our Heritage, had battled with Jobs over his plan to demolish the home and replace it with a new home. The group had prevailed in Superior Court in its attempt to force Jobs to preserve the home under requirements of California law.
There’s only one problem with media reports about the deal: they’re wrong. Yes, there was a deal–but only between two of the three parties involved. Uphold Our Heritage was not party to the deal and in fact filed papers with the Court to oppose it last week. The proposed deal does not guarantee the preservation of Jackling House. It merely requires that Gordon Smythe, the prospective new owner, dismantle the House, put it in storage and seek an alternate location for it. If he does not find one within five years the House becomes the property of the Town. Smythe does not yet have a suitable location for the House nor does he have financing to buy such property. It’s basically a sweetheart deal that allows Jobs to pay a paltry $600,000 for taking the House down. Then it’s entirely off his hands and he gets to build the latest Apple McMansion in its stead.
A Court hearing is scheduled for September at which the judge who ruled in favor of preservation the first time will hear UOH’s arguments against the deal. If she decides not to accept the deal Jobs negotiated, then Jobs will continue his fight to get the California Court of Appeals review the lower court ruling. This could take years. In fact, Jobs may be retired or even dead before the case is resolved. But one thing is for sure, Steve Jobs, one of the most stubborn, obtuse and monomaniacal figures in modern American corporate life, will never back down or compromise in any meaningful way. This House will be preserved in its current location over his dead body.
I note that a flagship Apple store being built in Melboure, Australia will force the demolition of that city’s finest art deco landmark, Lonsdale House:
One of Melbourne’s finest examples of art deco architecture from the 1930s looks set to be knocked down to make way for an iconic new Apple Store. Lonsdale House, on Lonsdale Street near Caledonian Lane, will be bulldozed…
Robin Grow, president of the Art Deco & Modernism Society, vehemently opposes the development…[and] said Lonsdale House needed to be saved to preserve Melbourne’s cultural heritage.Grow, and other supporters of the “Save Lonsdale House” campaign, said the only reason Lonsdale House was being knocked down as part of the Myer redevelopment was to make the lane wider for trucks.
The entire debacle is eerily similar to another Apple-related heritage battle that has been waging for eight years over company founder Steve Jobs’s plans to knock down a historic 14-bedroom Californian mansion.
Steve Jobs may be a marketing/technology genius. But like many of the robber barons of old he is a cultural barbarian.