AKA: Villa Rose, Hillsborough, CA; Blyth, Charles R., Hillsborough, CA

Structure Type: built works - dwellings - houses

Designers: Hobart, Lewis P., Architect (firm); Lewis Parsons Hobart (architect)

Dates: constructed 1912

2 stories

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2260 Redington Road
Hillsborough, CA 94010

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Building History

San Francisco architect Lewis P. Hobart (1873-1954) well-known for his residences--city and country--for the Bay Area's wealthy, designed this Renaissance Revival dwelling for the merchant Joseph Donohoe Grant (1858-1942). In 1886, Grant lived with his parents in a house at 1112 Bush Street in San Francisco, CA. He ran the Murphy-Grant and Company, founded by his father, Adam Grant (born c. 1826 in Scotland) c. 1850.

This was the second Grant House on the Hillsborough property, the first having burned. Porter Garnett, in his book Stately Homes of Calfiornia (1915), described what had been done with the first house site: "Shortly after passing the entrance gate, the road skirts the site of the old Grant residence, destroyed by fire some years ago. The foundation walls have been reconstructed, and the place converted into a large swimming pool, adjoining which the masonry of what was the first story of the house now supports a rustic pavilion overlooking the plunge. The old garden with its lawns and geometrical parterre may be seen here, but the artificial planting soon merges into the natural wildness through which one passes for about a half a mile to the site of the present dwelling." (See Porter Garnett, Stately Homes of California, [Boston, Little, Brown, and Company, 1915], p. 14.) The publisher, Little, Brown and Company, published Garnett's descriptive architectural survey to sell to tourists traveling to the Bay Area to attend the Panama Pacific International Exposition of that year.

In general, Garnett noted the decorative restraint with which Hobart approached the commission: ""Mr. Grant's house, which was designed by Mr. Lewis P. Hobart, is in its ground plan a simple rectangle. Its proportions, whether regarded in relation to the surroundings or not, are most agreeable. The only embellishments of the facades, if, indeed, they can be called such, are the rusticated quiones; a row of dentils (nicely proportioned as to size and shadow value) under an otherwise plain cornice and narrow eaves; discretely ornamental, wrought-iron balcony railings before the windows of the second story; keystone ornaments in the segmental crests of the latter and over the lunettes of the windows of the first story, with the simple wreath designs in relief. In this simplicy one may recognize an unusually pure rendering of Italian Renaissance architecture, more especially of the best Florentine tradition. Only on the garden front is this simplicity slightly relieved by a row of columns framing three doors with fanlights above and spandrels in molded relief. The balcony railing of the second story here runs the full width of the house." (See Porter Garnett, Stately Homes of California, [Boston, Little, Brown, and Company, 1915], p. 15.) California architects of the period, Garnett noted, tended to add a but more color to their compositions than their Eastern contemporaries. In this case, the sedate form of the Grant House was covered in a rose color, a hue appropriate to the state's strong Mediterranean light and natural appearance.

A later owner, Charles R. Blyth and his wife, also made reference to the house's pink color, calling it "Strawberry Hill." British politician Horace Walpole's (1717-1797) well-known, self-designed Gothic Revival mansion (1749-1776) in London was also named "Strawberry Hill."

Building Notes

As a country house occupying 40 acres, the decorative character of this Hillsborough residence was meant to be simpler than that of Grant's more formal San Francisco address. Garnett stated, "It must be remembered that "Villa Rose is the country residence of a gentleman whose principal dwelling is his town house. It has not, therefore, the air of an 'establishment,' but has the quality of comfort everywhere and everywhere a certain serenity." (See Porter Garnett, Stately Homes of California, [Boston, Little, Brown, and Company, 1915], p. 19.) Gardens close to the house had some formality to them, but the use of parterres and fountains was minimal compared to similarly scaled landscapes of contemporary Long Island estates. Hobart added an orangery to the Grant estate, a small building used to protect delicate citrus trees in European areas prone to winter frosts.

As in many descriptions of Bay Area architecture of the time, Garnett underscored how Hobart, following the manner of other local architects, made special efforts to retain many of the landscape's natural elements. "Appreciating its natural beauty, and mindful too of a peculiarly Californian character which distinguishes it as scenery from anything to be found in other parts of the world, Mr. Grant has, except for threading it with a well-made driveway, preserved the greater part of the cañon in its primitive wildness. From the dense bays and buckeyes, with here and there a russet madroña, and many live oaks, their great trunks covered with lichens and their branches draped with pendulous Spanish moss. Yet the growth is not so thick but the sunken watercourse which the driveway follows in all its windings may be seen." (See Porter Garnett, Stately Homes of California, [Boston, Little, Brown, and Company, 1915], p. 13-14.) While it does seem that some care was left to keep nature intact, the placement of a roadway in the path of an arroyo may have been questionable. In general, though, this estate followed the Bay Region's tendency to conserve its majestic and distinctive scenery.


New York antiquities dealer/interior designer Francis J. Lenygon (1877-1943) supervised the addition of a number of English architectural antiquities into the Blyth House. A room designed by English architect/mathematician Christopher Wren (1632-1723) was removed from Blith Hall in Yorkshire, UK, and re-installed here; Harlaxton Manor in Grantham, UK, yielded Chinoiserie wall paper for the drawing room and five large murals painted in 1746 by the Dutch painter Dirk Dalens III (1688-1753) were added to the dining room.

PCAD id: 17691