Inside Steve Jobs’ unearthly abandoned mansion he spent years trying to demolish
Steve Jobs spent over a decade trying to demolish his Woodside, California, mansion — which he would eventually succeed in doing in 2011 during the final year of his life.
But before the historic estate was destroyed, photographer Jonathan Haeber — who dedicates his free time to shooting abandoned homes — was able to cross the gates of the property and capture exclusive photos that would’ve otherwise never been seen by the world.
The result? Beautifully haunting photos that explore the legendary man who pioneered the revolutionary Apple brand.
Also known as the Jackling House, the mansion was first built in 1925 by renowned architect George Washington Smith — who was considered the foremost creator of the Spanish Colonial Revival architectural style that became popular in the United States and remains so today.
The home was designed for copper mining magnate Daniel Jackling and the estate represented his aesthetic values and wealth.
Spanning 17,250 square feet and made up of 30 rooms, it contained a built-in pipe organ that would become the main focal point of the home.
Smith integrated the residence, which sits on 6 acres, with landscaped gardens and a large traditional courtyard, including open-air balconies and many indoor-outdoor access connections.
Jobs understood the historical value of the estate, and would come to purchase the home in 1984 for $3.5 million, property records show. But as his mounting success continued, Jobs wanted to demolish what he saw as a complicated home, and build a smaller, minimal home.
Starting in 2000, Jobs stopped maintaining the home to force the city to demolish it. He spent a decade fighting local preservationists and the state Historical Resources Commission to tear down the structure.
Eventually, in May 2009, the Woodside Town Council granted the permit to demolish the home, with the condition that Jobs must allow the house to be disassembled and moved elsewhere. In February 2011, the home would be demolished.
Jobs lost his battle with pancreatic cancer eight months later, on Oct. 5, 2011.
An exhibit of the home, which includes furniture, maps and photographs, is housed at the Woodside Community Museum.
Haeber, 39, has explored between 15,000 to 20,000 abandoned sites — an interest stemmed from the age of 16, when he landed an internship dealing with abandoned mines in Oregon; but the Steve Jobs mansion remains one of his more vivid memories.
“I had a lot of great memories at that place,” Haeber told The Post, adding that it took him over six months to capture the home in its entirety.
“It’s the same feeling I have in any abandoned house I go to,” he said. “It’s a discovery of my own. I was the first unauthorized photographer there. The feeling changes completely when you acknowledge that.”
“It was about urgency and excitement: This is the last chance that I will have to capture something and no one else could do it,” he added.
Haeber revealed that many items of the home were seen being thrown away in the dumpster, and he felt compelled to capture them.
“It was an important historical record of Steve Jobs because there were personal items.”
Among those personal items, Haeber said, was an old will and testament that Jobs had first written that was placed on the kitchen counter. Haeber claimed to The Post that the will included a sole family member at the time, but he wouldn’t disclose the name.
Upon Jobs’ death, his widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, was left his fortune.
Haeber admitted that he struggled with releasing some of the photos to the public, noting he felt guilty that he was invading Jobs’ privacy. But in the end, he said, he came to realize that it was a part of history that needed to be recorded.
Haeber also believed that Jobs wanted outsiders to come through the home in an effort to speed up the approval process to demolish the property.
“I sort of discovered I could walk through the front door. It was eerie, almost like Steve Jobs was inciting people there,” he explained. “When they don’t have permission to demolish a house, then they want people trespassing because it would lead to vandalism.”
He recalled that “when you first walked into the house, the outside gate had a smiley face — a hand-drawn smiley face.”
While the rest of the house was mostly in decay or left to the elements surrounding it, the pool was well-maintained.
“I went out there one night and went for a swim in his pool,” Haeber said, letting out a slight chuckle. “Jobs had full intention of keeping the landscape and the land. His idea to demolish the home was so he could put in a smaller house, more to his liking. So it’s normal for abandoned homes to have someone maintain the pool.”
Haeber noted that he felt a connection to Jobs when he noticed a vintage 1970s camera situated against a wall in one of the main rooms of the mansion, which allowed him to understand why the cameras on iPhones were high quality.
“I started feeling sort of connected to him,” Haeber said. “Even though we had completely different lives, there was this artifact that reminded me of myself, and it kind of humanized him. He is just like the rest of us in many ways.”
“I look back at photographing that place very fondly.”