A Look Back in History: Spring Valley Water Company Meter House Garden Treatment

“Millbrae is the site of the business offices of the Spring Valley Water Company for San Mateo County and there is located also at this point a large porcelain manufacturing concern. Mills Field, San Francisco’s municipal air field, is located just east of San Bruno and Lomita Park on the shore of the San Francisco Bay” — from “The Story of San Mateo County, California” by Roy W. Cloud, 1928.

Proposed Garden Treatment at the Meter House in Millbrae (not dated).
Willis Polk and Co. Architects – SF, CA
Artifact hand-drawn and in-color from the Historical Archive
Original Scanned to Digital Format in 2018

Willis Polk and Company designed and built many structures in San Francisco, including the old SFPUC headquarters, formerly Spring Valley Water Company (SVWC) headquarters. William Bowers Bourn II, who was so influential to SVWC, eventually became Chairman of the Board. He had become enamored of the Polk style and had a mansion built by Polk in Pacific Heights.

And later, in 1959, Bourns built Filoli, a modified Georgian English country house set on 650 acres with 16 acres of formal gardens down on the Peninsula in Woodside.

Another excerpt from Roy W. Cloud’s book: “The main distributing plant of the Spring Valley Water Company is located at Millbrae and is under the supervision of Mr. George J. Davis, who has charge of all of the peninsular activities of the big corporation which furnishes San Francisco with water. The lakes which belong to Spring Valley are west of Millbrae, Hillsborough, Burlingame and San Mateo, and are places of exceeding beauty.”

Apparently, Bourn took the Polk style yet one step further, having Polk and Company Architects design the above-noted garden treatment.

Note from Leslie Fisher, author of this story: It cannot be verified as to whether the treatment was executed or not. But it was a real consideration, and a testament to a long-past era, when even the meter house of a corporate water service deserved a veil of beauty.