Steve Jobs: Not A Preservationist

Note: This is part of a series in which I categorize a public figure as either a “Preservationist” or “Not a Preservationist.”

It was shortly after I bought my first iPhone (and subsequently fell in love with it) that I learned the very disturbing fact that Steve Jobs is not a preservationist. In 1984 he had bought a 1925 Spanish Colonial Revival mansion known as the Jackling House. He lived in it for a decade, then rented it out, then let it sit vacant after 2000. Architect George Washington Smith designed the 17,250 square foot house for copper magnate Daniel Jackling. You can view photos of the abandoned home here.

Fast forward to 2004–Jobs wished to tear down the home and build a smaller, single-family home on the site. He initially received approval from the town of Woodside, California but preservationists intervened, winning a lawsuit that delayed its demise. The court required Jobs to market the house in the hopes of finding an interested party to relocate the massive home. No parties came forward. Jobs was also accused of purposefully allowing the house to deteriorate. By 2009, he was again seeking approval for its demolition. He presented evidence that it would cost millions more to restore the home than to demolish and build new. In February 2011, the Jackling House met the wrecking ball.

The smaller home for which the Jackling estate was destroyed was never built. On October 5, 2011, Jobs passed away after a long battle with cancer.

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Update 10/2/2013: Ironically, there is an effort underway to preserve the 1952 ranch-style house in which Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak assembled their first computers.

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3 responses to “Steve Jobs: Not A Preservationist

  1. So, I’m going to play a bit of devil’s advocate here. In a case like this, where preservationists want to save a home but no one is willing to fork over the money to do it, I can see how it would be easy to take Jobs’ side. He owns the house, and if it’s not financially beneficial to renovate, I can understand that. It does bother me when people simply buy an old house with the intention to tear it down from the get go. But he didn’t do that. He lived in it and rented it over many years. It seems it was more a case that the house had served its purpose for him, and like many homeowners, he was looking for the best return on his investment. And obviously, the new house was likely never built due to his declining health.

    All in all, I’m diggin’ these posts!

    • Well, some of the articles I read about it claim that he hated the house from the beginning and his overall vision was always to tear it down. He was also accused of letting it deteriorate on purpose (e.g. leaving windows open and not repairing the roof allowing moisture damage), which could have contributed to the high costs of restoration. Had the home been properly maintained (and let’s face it, he could afford to maintain it), the need for “restoration” might not have existed.

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