Last updated: January 26, 2018
- 14800 Montalvo Rd.
- OPEN TO PUBLIC:
- MANAGED BY:
In 1911, James Phelan purchased 160 acres in the Saratoga foothills and embarked upon his Villa Montalvo project. Construction began on the mansion in 1912, with William Curlett chosen as supervising architect. Upon Curlett's death, his son, Alex Curlett, and partner, Charles Gottschalk, took over the completion of the sandstone building. John McLaren, Golden Gate Park's landscape designer, laid out the grounds with hidden nooks and wisteria-covered pergolas. While in Europe promoting international participation in the 1915 World's Fair, Phelan purchased in Granada the splendid antique carved wooden doors that stand at the entry. During this time he arranged for a fine Italian craftsman to come to Montalvo to carve a variety of precious woods in the arched hallway and adjoining library walls.
Late in 1914 the doors to Villa Montalvo opened to its first distinguished guests. During that same year, James Phelan was elected United States Senator, where he served until 1921 when he, a Democrat, was defeated amid the Republican landslide that put Warren Harding in office. Upon his death in 1930 the former senator donated Villa Montalvo to the San Francisco Art Association, along with income to maintain the property as a public park. The buildings and grounds were to be used primarily for the development of art, literature, music, and architecture by promising students. After standing vacant for many years, Villa Montalvo today serves as a center for the arts under the sponsorship of the Montalvo Association. Today, resident artists live and work on the magnificent estate as envisioned years ago by the generous James Duval Phelan.