Apple CEO Steve Jobs firm focus on the future has placed him in the line of fire of those who respect the past. He wants to knock down an historic building.
Jobs – who remains one of America's most popular CEOs – has a house conversion project in mind; a project which local history buffs reject because it would tear a slice from the scant cultural history of the United States.
The mercurial CEO has owned a $3.5 million mansion (460 Mountain Home Road) in Woodside for twenty years. Jobs once lived there with his sister, before moving along to Palo Alto (five minutes drive away). Times change, and Jobs now calls the place "a dump", and wants to tear it down.
The 17,250-square foot house was built in the 1920s by Utah copper magnate Daniel Jackling (illustrated). Jackling lived in his authentic Mission Revival style home until he died in 1956. And while the house may be dated by modern standards, local historians and planning officials believe its an essential part of local – and US – cultural heritage.
The house is "designed to resemble a medieval Spanish village, with interior and exterior stucco walls built 14-inches apart to give the appearance of thick adobe or stone walls while at the same time providing insulation", according to The Almanac. It includes 14 bedrooms and 13 bathrooms.
Jobs 'going underground'
The house was also the forum for a doom-laden meeting of Apple staff on June 2 1985, two days after then Apple CEO John Sculley ousted Jobs as Apple executive vice president and general manager of the Macintosh division, leaving him with just the titular chairmanship of the company. Jobs, Bill Atkinson, Bud Tribble, Steve Capps and Andy Hertzfeld all met for a gourmet vegetarian Sunday dinner there to consider the implications of Sculley's corporate move.
Hertzfeld told Folklore.org: "We knocked on the door and waited a few minutes before Steve appeared and led us inside. The massive house was almost completely unfurnished, and our footsteps echoed eerily as he led us to a large room near the kitchen, with a long table, one of the few rooms that had any furniture."
Jobs was more depressed at this meeting than anyone had ever seen him, complaining that his new role as chairman at Apple was "ceremonial". The team discussed old times over their meal, after which, "we retired to another room that had an expensive stereo system and an elaborate model of the mostly underground house that Steve planned to build to replace the one we were standing in," Hertzfeld revealed.
Of interest is the fact that Jobs' close friend Oracle CEO and founder Larry Ellison also has 'a place' in Woodside, a $100 million estate styled like a medieval Japanese village. This is where Ellison married romance novelist Melanie Craft on December 18 last year. Jobs took the wedding photos.
Woodside (population 5,352) is one of the "wealthiest small US towns", according to www.fact-index.com. It is also the town Dynasty was filmed in. Other famous Woodside residents include Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, rock singer Neil Young, and Jobs' former girlfriend Joan Baez.
Historian urges 'don't trash the past'
The Palo Alto Daily News spoke with local history expert William Webster, who said: "It's very important that this is a Mission Revival house. It's a cherished part of Californian heritage."
Critical of a forward-looking culture placing little value in its past, he added: "But if you're part of the go-go culture, you're only interested in the day after tomorrow, not yesterday. And Mr. Jobs is certainly a part of that. I've got an iMac myself. But it represents a one-sided appreciation of the future and damn the past."
Apple employee number '0' Steve Jobs may insist his house is a dump that needs knocking down, but local historians insist it wasn't when he bought the place.
Jobs has lent his house out. Former US president Bill Clinton sometimes stayed in the house while his daughter went to a local University.
Jobs has offered to provide photographic documentation of the home and to salvage various architectural features, such as tiles, light fixtures and the copper mailbox embossed with the name Jackling, but these are considered insufficient, according to a local environmental impact report.
City planners will vote on the issue June 16 "in a public meeting at Independence Hall, 2,955 Woodside Road beginning at 7.30pm".
Jobs may be able to implore an act of God to resolve his conflict with local planners – the San Andreas Fault runs straight through the town.