Apple 2.0

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Town approves Steve Jobs' mansion tear-down plan

July 15, 2009: 2:57 PM ET
Jackling House. Photo by Jonathan Haeber

Photo © Scott Haefner

Steve Jobs' 25-year real estate nightmare is almost over.

On Tuesday night, the city council of Woodside, Calif., approved Jobs' plan to dismantle a 14-bedroom Spanish colonial mansion he bought in 1984 but never really liked. He's been trying since 2004 to raze the house and replace it with a smaller home more to his exacting taste.

The latest plan, which was approved in a 6-1 vote, is a three-way deal.  Jobs would spend $604,800 to deconstruct the house. A wealthy Silicon Valley investor -- Gordon Smythe, founder of Propel Partners -- would take possession of the pieces and have five years to find a suitable property on which to reconstruct them. The town of Woodside and the county museum would have first dibs on anything Smythe doesn't use.

Jobs bought the mansion known as the Jackling House the year the Mac came out and camped out in it for about 10 years before moving to Palo Alto. He found the sprawling hacienda a cold and dreary place to live. He has called it "one of the biggest abominations of a house I've ever seen."

His 2004 demolition permit was approved by the town council but blocked by an ad-hoc group called Uphold Our Heritage. They view the abandoned structure — built in 1925 by George Washington Smith in his Santa Barbara style for copper mining magnate Daniel C. Jackling — as a national treasure.

Smythe
Smythe

Smythe, a long-time admirer of Smith's architecture, has said he is assembling a team to carefully remove historically significant parts of the house for use in a new home.

After Tuesday's meeting he told reporters from the San Jose Mercury News that he will focus on preserving the original 10,000 square feet that were built by Smith in 1925.

A large addition, including the room that houses a much-photographed pipe organ, was built in 1931.

"If you look at that addition, it really changes the whole flow of the building," Smythe said.

pipe organ

Photo © Scott Haefner

The agreement focuses on preserving the exterior of the home. It asks that Smythe follow "to the extent practical the original plans of the House for exteriors, with modifications to the interiors to make it consistent with the requirements for a House of commensurate quality and location in contemporary terms."

Smythe started talking to Jobs' representatives nearly three years ago and spent much of 2007 looking for a suitable site for it. He will begin his search again once the deal is finalized.

A Superior Court judge has given Uphold our Heritage until Aug. 3 to explain why Mr. Jobs should not be allowed to proceed with the demolition. Jobs and the town of Woodside will have until Aug. 19 to respond to any objections they might have.

Uphold spokeswoman Clotilde Luce sent a local paper -- The Almanac -- a statement that said the Smythe proposal was chosen "because it asks nothing" of Jobs.

Jobs has not showed up for any of this year's town council meetings. In April his lawyer told the town that Jobs was "too weak" to attend. Jobs was on a medical leave from Apple (AAPL) at the time, recovering from surgery to replace his failing liver.

Mansion photos by Scott Haefer posted with permission. For more of his work, click here and here.

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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