Hakone Estate and Gardens: A Colorful History and Continuing Enchantment
Hakone is the oldest Japanese and Asian estate gardens in the Western Hemisphere, established in 1915. It was designed and built by San Francisco cultural leaders Isabel and Oliver Stine.
Inspired by the displays at the 1915 Pan-Pacific Exhibition, Mrs. Stine traveled to Japan where she was enchanted by the Fuji-Hakone National Park and wanted to have her own Hakone Gardens in the hillsides of Saratoga, California. In 1917 she retained architect Tsunematsu Shintani to design the Upper “Moon Viewing” house and landscape gardener Naoharu Aihara to designed the gardens. See the story in photos here.
In 1932 East Bay financier Major C.I. Tilden purchased the estate and gardens.. He hired Japanese landscape gardener James Sasaki to make improvements to the gardens and added the Moon Gate at the entrance. After Tilden died, Hakone was passed on to his sister, Mrs. Walter Gregory. Upon her death in 1959, the gardens felt into disrepair, and her son Michael Gregory put the property up for sale.
Hakone was rescued in 1961 by a partnership of Saratoga residents Joseph and Clara Gresham, their son Eldon and wife Deon and four Chinese - American couples: John and Helen Kan, Dan and June Lee, George and Marie Hall, and John and Mary Young. They restored Hakone to its original beauty, keeping its traditional Japanese authenticity while using it as a private retreat. In 1966 the partners offered a beautifully maintained Hakone for sale to the city of Saratoga. See the story in photos - click here.
In 1984 a group of Saratoga citizens, in cooperation with the City, organized to create a foundation for Hakone. In 2000 the official Hakone Foundation was formed and maintains the gardens to this day. Today Hakone is owned by the City of Saratoga and administered by the Hakone Foundation.