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PULLMAN Harriett

Female 1869 - 1956  (87 years)Deceased

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  • Name  PULLMAN Harriett 
    Born  17 Sep 1869 
    Gender  Female 
    Residence  Hillsborough, San Mateo, California, United States Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Carolands Chateau 
    • The home was built in 1914 and is 65,000 square feet.

      Harriet Pullman Carolan, born in 1869, was the daughter of George Pullman , the 19th century American industrialist, who became the wealthiest man in Chicago after creating the Pullman Palace railway car. Perhaps because her father was the very inventor of modern "luxury" or "first class" travel, Harriet Pullman came to expect perfection and beauty in her surroundings, and her particular tastes revolved around the French. The mansion originally occupied a 544 acre (2.2 km) plot of land, situated at the highest local geographical point in order to "look down on the Hearsts and surpass the Crockers."

      The Chateau exterior was inspired by the 17th century designs of Mansart . The project was executed by San Francisco architect Willis Polk , following plans commissioned by Mrs. Carolan from the Parisian architect Ernest Sanson , who was at the time one of the foremost designers of prestigious private homes in France and perhaps the world. Sanson, aged 76 and near the end of a long and distinguished career, never visited the California site. (Willis Polk, a distinguished American architect in his own right, was said to have chafed under the strict instruction of Mrs. Carolan to execute Sanson's French plans faithfully, despite the fact that they were intended for a different climate and notated in the metric system.) Only a portion of the magnificent landscape plans commissioned from leading French landscape architect Achille Duchãene were completed, probably due to cost.

      It is often claimed that the Chateau was modeled after the French chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte , although the resemblance is remote apart from the shared circular room featured in both buildings (one of which was purchased by Mrs. Carolan intact from a 1760 Bordeaux residence). More accurately, it can be said that both share an authentic Beaux-Arts tradition, inspired by the court architecture of Louis XIV . The gardens on the original Carolans property were patterned after those at Versailles and originally consisted of 32,000 trees and shrubs, with plans for fountains, statues, and roadways.

      The Chateau is occasionally called the "last of the great homes" in the U.S., a reference to a spree of mansion-building that began with the residence of W.K. Vanderbilt in 1881 and ended with Carolands, just after the national income tax was enacted in 1913. The Carolan marriage became embittered over quarrels concerning the building. In 1917, the Carolans separated and moved out of the Chateau; Harriet moved to the East Coast, Frank remained in California. After Frank's death in 1923, Harriet married Colonel Arthur Schermerhorn in 1925, and although the new couple briefly reinhabited the Chateau in the year 1927, it would remain essentially uninhabited for its first 29 years.

      In 1939, the U.S. Government evaluated the purchase of the Carolands Chateau to be used as a Western White House. It was considered again for this purpose during the Kennedy administration.

      Harriet sold the home and surrounding 550 acres (2.2 kmŲ2) in 1946 for development. Life Magazine covered a charity event held in the house in 1947, which marked the first opportunity many San Francisco-area residents had to see its interiors. In 1948 the Burlingame High School Senior class held its prom at the Chateau, bringing the home to life in a glittering candlelight setting.

      Countess Lillian Remillard Dandini, a San Francisco heiress (whose personal fortune derived from the re-building of San Francisco after the devastating 1906 earthquake with one of her companies, Remillard Brick, headquartered in what is now Larkspur, California), purchased Carolands Chateau in 1950, and in so doing, saved it from demolition by promoters more interested in developing the land than in its historic architecture and significance. The 23 years she lived in the chateau were a period of parties, of entertaining and holding charity benefits. Countess Lillian frequently invited the French Community to the Chateau and opened it annually to San Francisco bay area French students. The Countess's generosity in sharing the house resulted in her receiving a "Woman of the Year" award from the city of Burlingame. The city of Hillsborough, derived much of its property base from the former development of Chateau Carolands. Sadly, when the Countess died in 1973, the Chateau was in greater risk of demolition than ever before, owing to its enormous upkeep (heating alone averaged $12,000.00/month) The Countess left the Chateau and its remaining 5.83 acres (23,600 m2) to the town of Hillsborough to be used as a French and Italian musical, artistic and literary cultural center rather than pass it through the Remillard Family Trusts. The Countess did not, unfortunately, leave an endowment to run such an undertaking, hoping that her establishment of a gift of this historical importance would spur the City of Hillsborough. The city fathers ruled out any such use, saying they could not afford to pay the necessary maintenance expenses and sold the estate after it continued to be vandalized.

      Oil and real estate heiress Roz Franks bought the Chateau in 1976 for $313,000, but lost title three years later to land developer George Benny in a legal battle. Benny in turn lost the property when he was indicted on racketeering charges in 1982. Robert Clayton offered to spend $10,000,000 to remodel the Chateau and use it as a corporate think tank, but the Hillsborough city fathers turned down the proposal on zoning grounds. The city's founding charter mandates a community of single-family residences.

      During its years of abandonment in the 1970s and 1980s, the grounds and structure were visited by many local high school students who regarded it as "their" haunted house. On February 2, 1985, Laurie McKenna and Jeanine Grinsell, two students at a local high school, went to tour the vacant Chateau and were kidnapped, sexually assaulted, beaten, and tortured by David Raley, a security guard for the property. Raley bound both women and dumped their bodies in a ravine near his house. While Laurie McKenna survived the ordeal, Jeanine Grinsell later succumbed to her wounds in a nearby hospital. David Raley was sentenced to death in 1988 and is presently awaiting execution.

      In 1986 an Environmental Impact Report was conducted for a proposal to further subdivide the parcel and build additional homes thereon. The building suffered extensive (but mostly superficial) damage in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and demolition was again quietly considered. A 1991 Hillsborough Designer Showhouse revived local interest in the house, as well as a new debate on whether the home could be zoned to use as a multi-family residence or converted to alternate use. (The issue remains unresolved.)

      in 1998, after many years of abandonment and neglect, the Chateau and its remaining land were purchased by Charles Bartlett Johnson and (Dr.) Ann Johnson, of the Franklin Templeton fortune, for a purchase price just under $6 million. Dr. Johnson undertook an estimated $30 million or more worth of renovations to the mechanical systems, including asbestos removal, roof replacement, and extensive and scrupulous restoration of interiors and exteriors, which in large measure restored the building to the state originally intended by its architects.

      The home appears in a documentary titled "Three Women and a Chateau" produced by Luna Productions (
    Carolands Estate in Hillsborough, CA
    Carolands Estate in Hillsborough, CA
    Three Women and a Chateau
    Three Women and a Chateau
    This is a preview of a full-length movie available from Luna Productions. More details of this film are available on their website at The film can also be purchased directly from them.
    Died  20 Oct 1956 
    Age  87 years 
    Person ID  I1632  One Big Family Tree
    Last Modified  13 Sep 2014 

    Father  PULLMAN George Mortimer,   b. 3 Mar 1831, Brocton, Chautauqua, New York, United States Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 19 Oct 1897  Age: 66 years 
    Mother  SANGER Harriet,   d. Yes, date unknown 
    Married  13 Jun 1867 
    Family ID  F594  Group Sheet

    Family 1  CAROLAN Francis J.,   b. Abt 1861,   d. Abt 1923  Age: ~ 62 years 
    Last Modified  3 Jul 2011 
    Family ID  F593  Group Sheet

    Family 2  SCHERMERHORN Col. Arthur Frederick,   b. 1 Apr 1860, , , New York, United States Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 3 Sep 1933, New York, New York, New York, United States Find all individuals with events at this location  Age: 73 years 
    Married  Apr 1925  New York, New York, New York, United States Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Last Modified  3 Jul 2011 
    Family ID  F592  Group Sheet

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsResidence - Carolands Chateau - - Hillsborough, San Mateo, California, United States Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMarried - Apr 1925 - New York, New York, New York, United States Link to Google Earth
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     = Link to Google Earth 
    Pin Legend  : Address       : Location       : City/Town       : County/Shire       : State/Province       : Country       : Not Set

  • Notes 
    • From 740 Park: The Story of the World's Richest Apartment Building by Michael Gross, pages 206-208:

      Harriet Pullman Schermerhorn, who rented Bertram Borden's apartment in 1935 and stayed in it twenty-two years, wasn't burdened with children, adoptive or otherwise. But she did carry the weight of two extraordinary American family names. The Schermerhorns were very old; the Pullmans were very rich.

      George Pullman, the inventor of the Pullman railroad car, was one of the richest men in Chicago. He'd fought and beaten Seward Webb in the battle of private railcars, eventually taking over the Vanderbilts' company. He even had a town, Pullman, Illinois, named after him. When she was twenty-one in 1892, Harriet, his prettiest daughter, married a San Francisco society man whose occupation was given as going to clubs and playing polo. Harriet already had a fortune of $500,000, thanks in part to her father's habit of paying her $100 each time she named one of his railcars. Then the Pullman name lost some of its luster when workers living in its company town struck and rioted. Half the U.S. Army was called in to stop a natioal railroad workers' boycott.

      George Pullman never recovered, and three years later he died, leaving a $7.5 million estate. Harriet and her sister each got $1 million outright; the rest was left in trust. Their two brothers were disinherited for bad judgement and irresponsiblity. In 1912, Harriet hired a French architect to build the finest home in California on one thousand acres she owned just south of San Francisco. Six years later, she was the victim of a $30,000 jewel theft while at the St. Regis in New York - and ended up suing the hotel. By 1919, she was living in New York alone. The childless couple had separated by the time Harriet's mother died and she inherited a couple million more; her mother having given the bulk of her fortune, about $12 million, to charity.

      Her husband died and within two years Harriet was engaged to Colonel Arthur Frederic Schermerhorn, a widower, the ninth in line in a family of Dutch tradesmen who'd risen into the landowning upper class by the early nineteenth century. Loyalists to the Crown, they'd left the country during the Revolution but returned in time to give Caroline Schermerhorn in marriage to William Astor. The Astor fortune had gone to his older brother; William's consolation prize was Caroline, who became known as "The" Mrs. Astor, the one with the ballroom that could only hold the Four Hundred families she deemed acceptable in 1880s society. Arthur Schermerhorn's genealogical credits also included a Revolutionary general, whom he emulated; he'd seen action in the Spanish-American War and in World War I.

      Shortly after her second marriage, Harriet sued the estate of her late husband, claiming all his assets - about $1.3 million - were actually hers, and won a share of them. Then, in 1933, Colonel Schermerhorn died of a stroke and left her everything - the papers said it was another million or so. But in 1934, it emerged that Schermerhorn had died flat broke, owing his wife $106,445. The following year she moved into 740 and, other than real estate transactions, selling and donating buildings to charity, never got her name in the newspaper again until she died in 1956. The sole professional activity mentioned in her obituary was her service as honorary president of something called the Outdoor Cleanliness Association, where she presided over an annual flower show and won praise and prizes for her floral arrangements. Her French furniture and collections of Americana and first editions were auctioned off in 1957 for more than $300,000.

  • Sources 
    1. [S63] 740 Park: The Story of the World's Richest Apartment Building, Michael Gross, (New York, NY: Broadway Books, 2005.), p. 706-708. (Reliability: 3), 1 Jan 2011.