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Historic Villa Practiced in Keeping Secrets

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Location: Portola Valley, Calif.
Price: $20,000,000
The Skinny: Borne out of the same sort of personal obsession that created the Hearst Castle at San Simeon, this imposing limestone villa was commissioned by San Francisco businessman Herbert Edward Law in 1922. When finally completed four years later, it stood as a temple to both craftsmanship—Italian stonemasons were recruited for the project—and excess—there were 100 of them. The project required so much stone, in fact, that a narrow-gauge railway was built between the quarry and Law's property for the sole purpose of transporting raw material to the site. Where many would head to a catalog or the local home goods purveyor to select baubles like doorknobs and lamps, Law stripped the marble flooring and wood paneling from another mansion in the Bay Area. Fountains, furnishings, and decorative artifacts were shipped from as far away as England, France, and Italy—no small feat at the time.

For all his devotion and expense, Law spent just 11 years here before selling the Villa Lauriston, as the property was known, to William Randolph Hearst's lawyer, John Francis Neylan. Rumors have it that Neylan burned Hearst's personal papers here following the media baron's death. Today, the estate miraculously retains its private setting, courtesy of 28 private acres, 1,000 acres of surrounding conservation land, and a 2.5 mile driveway. Perfect for the next generation of trusted confidants.
· Magnificent Villa Lauriston [Sotheby's]
· Villa Lauriston [Property Website]