In the Bay Area, real estate agents define luxury homes as those valued above $3 million and ultra-luxury homes as those valued above $5 million. The Green Gables estate sits in its own stratosphere: It’s listed for $135 million.
That price point is unique even for Woodside. The largest property ever sold in the town was several years ago for $118 million.
With many companies — particularly in Silicon Valley — increasingly shifting to remote work indefinitely, the market for larger properties with land has heated up, realtors say. In the Bay Area, specifically, luxury homes have been a hotter commodity than ever during the pandemic, with sales jumping to historic highs in almost every part of the region, according to data from Compass Real Estate and the California Association of Realtors.
The trend underscores a widening equity gap in the Bay Area and beyond: The pandemic has inflicted job and wage losses on tens of millions of lower-income people, while the wealthiest Americans have experienced far less financial disruption.
“It’s almost like two parallel universes, two completely different realities depending on what class people are in,” Compass chief market analyst Patrick Carlisle told the Chronicle in December.
In Woodside, a number of high-end properties that were on the market for all of 2019 started selling shortly after the pandemic began, according to Compass realtor Brad Miller, who is co-listing the estate with his wife, Helen Miller, and Zackary Wright of Christie’s International Real Estate.
“We’re getting a lot of buyers exiting the urban settings and looking for places with space,” said Miller, who also lives in Woodside.
It takes more than two hours to walk around the estate’s large acreage, where deers and great blue herons roam around a variety of oak, maple, and elm trees. It is one of the last large parcels in Woodside, the Millers said.
The estate has been in the same family for five generations, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In the early part of the 20th century, Mortimer Fleishhacker — who founded the Anglo California Bank and the Great Western Power Company — was on a mission to find a compound for his soon-to-be large family when he bought nine parcels in Woodside, which then was a rural and unincorporated area not too far south from his home in San Francisco.
The compound’s centerpiece, a nine-bedroom, 9,200-square-foot Cotswold-style main home was built in 1911 by architects Charles Sumner Green and Henry Mather Greene, brothers famous for their Arts Crafts homes in the Bay Area. The estate was in part named after them, but also for the novel, “Anne of Green Gables,” which its verdance certainly evokes.
It was used primarily as a summer retreat for Fleishhacker, his wife, Bella, and their growing family. The estate’s other six homes — quasi-Sea Ranch-style homes, were built in the 1960s and 1970s for members of the Fleishhacker family. The second-largest house — a six-bedroom for Fleishhacker’s daughter— was designed by modernist maestro William Wurster, a Bay Area architect.
Over the years, it was also used as an event space. In 1965, the 20th anniversary of the United Nations was held on the grounds, and it has also been used for corporate retreats and weddings. As of recently, most of its six other houses are rented out, and the main house hasn’t been in as much use as it was in its early days.
That was part of the reason the family chose to sell, Miller said.
Many steps down from the main house is the crown jewel of the estate: a Roman-style reflective pool, with intricate curved stairways and stunning arches, surrounded by lush greenery and a lily pond. Another pool — one of the “first freeform” pools in the area with its pioneering design, is just steps away from the main house. Further along the property stands a stone structure called the “tea and dairy house,” which Fleishhacker built for Bella, who wanted a place to drink her afternoon tea. Later, it became a space for their dairy work, where maids made milk and cheese.
The main reason for the sky-high price point, the Millers say, is the abundance of land and views, not the main house, which is really more a vessel for the compound’s stunning Peninsula views. The estate’s land has been unused but could be cultivated creatively, made into a vineyard or equestrian operation, the Millers say.
Here are more views of the Green Gables grounds and inside its historic structures.