Harriett Pullman Carolan Schermerhorn (1869-1956), heiress to her father George Pullman’s luxury railway car fortune was a woman of impeccable tastes and high standards that went beyond even her successful businessman father’s infamous exacting standards. She was a lover of Arts, Architecture, Gardening, Literature, Theater, Fashion and all things French.
After a lifetime of traveling and collecting the finest examples of these passions, she began the construction of her dream French Chateau here in San Francisco’s Bay Area. In 1914 she purchased 500 acres of land in the newly created exclusive town of Hillsborough, CA. She then commissioned the greatest Landscape Architect of her era, the Frenchmen Achilles Duchène to create an original french garden that would have rivaled those of European Royalty. Duchène selected the highest point in Hillsborough to place the chateau amidst his extensive parterred gardens which radiated from the chateau in three directions as far as the eyes could see.
Harriett then selected the great master Architect Ernest Sanson who also lived nearby her Paris mansion and whose acclaimed works she admired. Sanson’s only project here in the United States is considered to be amongst his greatest works. Like the Versailles Petit Trianon of Harriett’s adored heroine Marie-Antoinette, Sanson made a Chateau that had four uniquely remarkable façades. The 98 room mansion incorporated several exquisite period rooms Harriett bought in Paris along with newly carved boisserie created for the heiress. The construction of the Chateau was completed in two years thanks to the supervision of San Francisco Architect Willis Polk who acted as a project site manager/engineer.
The story of the heiress and her Chateau will be continued later on this blog or if you can’t wait, visit my work on the official website: CAROLANDS.ORG