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Room to Grow
Anh-Minh Le | Photo: Ned Gault | November 22, 2016
At the historic and beloved Filoli estate, its new executive director embraces the future while treasuring the past.
Late summer brought a double dose of major changes for Kara Newport: In August, she relocated from Charlotte, N.C., to Burlingame; and in September, she was installed as the executive director of Filoli. The 654-acre Woodside property—which includes a 54,000-square-foot Georgian country house and 16-acre English Renaissance garden, and was gifted to the National Trust for Historic Preservation by Lurline Berenice Roth—is in the middle of a three-year centennial celebration (a nod to the fact that the construction of the house took three years). In 2015, the celebration focused on the land; this year has been about the house; and 2017 will be the year of the garden. “It’s great timing for me, since that’s my background,” enthuses Newport.
Newport studied botany at Miami University, Ohio, and earned a master’s in public horticulture administration from the University of Delaware. Most recently, she served as the executive director of Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Charlotte. In her short time on the job at Filoli, she has already identified at least one significant goal: “Getting more people here, and more people from a different perspective,” she says. “Really, diversification. And I mean that in the broadest sense of the word.”
In addition to increasing awareness of the estate—attracting those beyond the immediate vicinity—Newport would like to expand its opening hours and special events. Filoli draws 130,000 visitors annually but is closed from roughly November through January. Every November, the furnishings on the first floor of the mansion are cleared out to make room for Holiday Traditions, its popular holiday boutique. According to Newport, 10,000 shoppers come through the house, which features different themes across a dozen or so spaces. (is year, Holiday Traditions will be held Nov. 25 to Dec. 3.) And she believes that there are opportunities for more grand affairs at Filoli. Next August, for example, an inaugural gala celebration will take place—the culmination of the centennial festivities.
As Filoli turns 100, Newport is also looking at ways that it can adapt to modern times. “It’s not easy to water flowers in a drought,” she elaborates. “You have to think about flower selection, grass selection. … Now we’re doing a turf renovation and using a drought-tolerant, hearty turf so that we keep the landscape intent—the beautiful views, the vistas and all that—in a more environmentally minded way.” And which part of the grounds is her favorite? “The Sunken Garden,” she says of the spot that’s a short walk from her new office. “The colors, the backdrop of the clock. You have the formal hedge around it, and they change the beds out in the center. It’s just classic Filoli.” 86 Cañada Road, Woodside, 650.364.8300
Originally published in the November issue of Silicon Valley