Hawthorns, a 78-acre historic estate named for a hedge once lining its boundary, is one of the last remaining islands of open space in residential Portola Valley. The property was generously gifted to Midpen in 2012 and is now part of Windy Hill Open Space Preserve. For information about public access in this area visit the Hawthorns Public Access page.

Location and Background

family in front of a house in 1893The Hawthorns Historic Complex (historically referred to as “The Hawthorns”) is situated on the southeastern portion of the 79-acre Hawthorn property, which is located between Alpine and Los Trancos Roads in the Town of Portola Valley. The property became a part of Windy Hill Open Space Preserve in 2011, when Midpen acquired the property from the estate of Frederick N. Woods, III. The hilly terrain includes a roughly north-to-south ridgeline that bisects the property through the center. The land to the east side of this ridgeline contains the historic residential and agricultural complex associated with the late 19th and early 20th century development of the site by the Allen and Woods families. Generally, other than a later residence (added in 1952) and an overgrown olive grove, the north and west portions of the property are undeveloped.

Current Progress

In 2014 the District completed a Request for Letters of Interest process to identify potential partners to develop and maintain the Hawthorns Historic Complex.  One potential partner has been identified for the Historic Complex; another potential partner has been identified for consideration when the District completes the Site Specific Planning for future public access to the site. Currently the potential partner for the Historic Complex is working to establish a non-profit to facilitate fundraising to rehabilitate the site.  

Proposed Partnership for the Rehabilitation, Reuse, and Maintenance of the Hawthorn Historic Complex at Windy Hill Open Space Preserve

Parties interested in re-use and development of the site and structures should join the Hawthorns Historic Complex email list to ensure they are notified of updates.

Hawthorns House

two story houseThe most notable structure, the Hawthorns House, which forms part of the Historic Complex, is an approximately 9,000 square foot, wood-framed, shingle-style, two-story residence constructed in 1887.  Overall, the structure is in fair condition, despite years of abandonment, and holds promise for potential reuse. The Historic Complex represents the social, agricultural and architectural history of an era when many wealthy and prominent San Francisco families owned estate property on the Peninsula both for use as a year round family house and as a summer retreat. For more information regarding the historic qualities of the site and structures, refer to the Historic Resource Study.

Other Primary Historic Structures

In addition to the Hawthorns House, the Historic Complex has three other major structures: the Garage, the Cottage and the Lower Barn. Secondary structures include the Coachman’s Quarters, the Upper Barn, and the Pump House.  Of the primary structures, the Hawthorn House and the Garage appear to be the best candidates for re-use.

Project History

Since Midpen's ownership of the property in 2011, the District has focused on implementing site stabilization measures to temporarily halt the deterioration of the historic structures until surveys and reports could be completed to inform the future reuse of the site.  These measures have included: sealing window and door openings to prevent trespassing, rodent control, extensive bee hive removal, debris removal, tree trimming, and shrink wrapping the roof to prevent moisture intrusion. These stabilization measures are not intended to be long-term solutions. 


For questions or comments regarding the Hawthorns Historic Complex, please contact Meredith Manning, at 650-691-1200.

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