A design/build team led by San Carlos-based Gonsalves & Stronck Construction recently completed a historical rehabilitation to one of Woodside’s oldest and most significant equestrian properties.
The Folger Estate Stable, together with the other buildings that formed the grand country estate of the coffee magnate James A. Folger II, was designed in 1905 by Arthur Brown Jr., famous for later work including San Francisco City Hall, Coit Tower, and other California landmarks.
Even in this youthful work, Brown’s Beaux-Arts training and personal genius is clearly evident in a design that draws upon 17th-century French Baroque, with Craftsman influences.
Additional design consultants on the project included Adolph S. Rosekrans Architects, Camissa & Wipf, McCracken & Woodman, E.G. Hirsch & Associates and MacLeod & Associates.
The timber stable – which originally comprised horse stalls, a tack room, a carriage room, hay loft, living quarters, and offices – is distinguished by its thoughtful plan, complex massing and elegant ornamentation.
While still impressive and lovely, the stable prior to restoration had fallen into sad disrepair, the construction firm says. Severe dry rot and termite damage, loss of historic materials and features and, of immediate concern, the massive steeply pitched hipped roof dominating the structure, was at the verge of collapse.
Since 1974 the stable along with 974 acres of the Folger Estate were donated to San Mateo County and incorporated into the Wunderlich Park System. But because county funds for preservation were not available, a local group of citizens, The Friends of Huddart & Wunderlich Parks, formed a committee in 2002 to raise private funds for the building’s restoration.
“The committee worked tirelessly to promote awareness and rally the community to save this amazing building,” says William Stronck, Gonsalves & Stronck’s president. “We were equally committed to assuring the raised funds would go the furthest they could. Despite the tight budget, a very high level of pride and craftsmanship is evident in the results.”
According to Scott Pinson, project manager for Gonsalves & Stronck, a major part of the restoration was structural. “Heavy timber trusses supporting the roof and second story hay loft had sagged and crushed existing support columns with deflections upwards of 10 inches caused by termite damage, water infiltration, neglect, and old age,” Pinson says.
Major structural repairs included stone foundation work, replacement columns, truss tension rods, dormer supports and roof rafter replacement. Wherever possible, construction methods and framing matched that of the original building utilizing salvaged wood and materials.
New door and window openings were rebuilt with carefully matched redwood reproductions. New wrought-iron window grilles, based on the sole surviving example, were fabricated and installed. And custom-milled redwood siding and paneling were introduced where the old façade had deteriorated beyond salvaging. All of the original architectural details were carefully inventoried, and if full restoration was not possible, exact replicas were created.
“In the main hall, large sections of original marble base were missing, but after extensive research, we actually located the exact quarry in Tennessee where the marble was sourced over 100 years ago,” says Pinson. “We had pieces cut from the same stone for a near-perfect match.”
While under construction, the crews discovered old, steel track rails beneath the existing foundation. Although not completely known, it appears these rails were part of an old cart system used for transporting grapes around the estate property – a raisin enterprise dating back to the late 1800s. A section of this rail, as well as other interesting features unique to the property have been preserved and incorporated into the educational exhibits now on display.
In order for continued use as a working horse stable, the stable’s design carefully mixes old elements with newer features that vastly improve functionality, while retaining its historical character. Some new features include installation of modern horse stalls, radiant heat flooring (replacing an abandoned coal-burning boiler), fire protection, security, an ADA restroom, and exterior pervious stone pavers. The original passive ventilation system – consisting of four shafts ascending through the hay loft and piercing the roof – was restored, allowing, for the first time in years, light and air to pour into the stable.
The Folger Estate Stable will be open to the public in September.