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Roadside Attractions: The Hidden Grotto

08 Oct

If you’re a roadie living on the San Francisco Peninsula, I’m sure you’ve ridden over this little stone bridge and I bet never noticed anything odd about it. Like me, you were probably focused on the climb ahead, perhaps hitting the lap timer on your bike computer or heart rate monitor to record your time up the hill.

Last week, I gave the bridge an extra look and discovered that the stones were fake. Not fake like concrete-shaped-into-stone fake, which is pretty common in our landslide-prone hills, but fake as in thin-mortar-over-a-wire-mesh fake.

What’s more, under the bridge there is more fake rock, a grotto of sorts. A rider waiting for a friend encouraged us to go down and it check out. He said it was built as a movie set, but I don’t think he was right.

An Internet search led me to the story of the massive Schilling estate that included this bridge. August Schilling, best known for his spice and extract empire, was also a garden aficionado who reworked the redwood and oak forests on his estate to suit his sensibilities. That meant ponds, cascades, pergolas, manicured lawns, extensive flower gardens–and fake rocks built by master craftsmen.

Schilling employed up to 60 gardeners who made sure there wasn’t a leaf out of place on his 150 acre estate. But after Schilling died in 1934, the grand house fell into disrepair. It was torn down in 1952, but the rocks live on. And if you’re a Peninsula roadie, you’ve probably ridden through it all without realizing it.

For the locals: Have you guessed where this “stone” bridge is located? (see comments for the location)

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5 Comments

Posted by on October 8, 2011 in Backroads, Local History

 

5 responses to “Roadside Attractions: The Hidden Grotto

  1. ladyfleur

    October 8, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    It’s the bridge at the base of Old La Honda, close to Portola Road. The Schilling mansion was just to the southwest of the corner of OLH and Portola and continued uphill all the way to Highway 84 at Grandview Drive.

     
  2. NadiaMac

    October 9, 2011 at 8:59 am

    that was my guess! good spotting on the “stone” and the grotto is really amazing. I wonder what else is hidden in the hills of the former Schilling estate

     
  3. Deanna

    October 9, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    Cool little bit of history! Thanks!

     
  4. Michelle Perez

    October 10, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    I was guessing OLH. I’ll have to pay more attention next time.

     
    • ladyfleur

      October 11, 2011 at 10:52 am

      Michelle, we’ll have to walk down there next time. It’s worth the climb down, even in cycling shoes.

       

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