Arbor Villa (1882-1931) was the name of the large estate owned by F. M. "Borax" Smith, in Oakland, California.
The house itself was called Oak Hall, and was extravagant. Its 3 stories held at least 42 rooms, including 15 bedrooms; a ballroom; a bowling alley including a ball return; an organ with 18 or more ceiling-height pipes; an attached conservatory; and even a miniature grotto.
Oak Hall was built between 1893–1895 for $275,000 (roughly $7M in 2011 dollars), and was designed by architect Walter J. Mathews,
With so much emphasis on the house, were the grounds an afterthought? Hardly. Squadrons of full-time gardeners had already extensively groomed the 35-acre estate for over a decade before the house was even built. Not for nothing was it called Arbor Villa: there were grape and rose arbors; groves of birch and pine; a large lily pond, a cactus garden … exotic trees and flowers at every turn. The grounds also featured tennis and croquet courts; a paddock with deer and rabbits; a fountain; an archery range; stables; several greenhouses; a 5-story watertower with observation deck, and a variety of guest houses and other structures.
Part of Oakland Life
From 1895 until the 1920s the Smiths opened Arbor Villa to the public fairly regularly, holding numerous fundraising events and society balls, which generated vast sums for charitable causes (like Oakland Free Kindergarten, or Fabiola Hospital). These events, especially in the early years, were the place to be. A San Francisco Call article (Vol. 105, #153, 2 May 1909) describing one such May Day fundraiser, mentions familiar names from Oakland history: de Fremery, Remillard, Chabot, Capwell, Schilling.
A society column in the San Francisco Call (Vol. 85, #144, 23 April 1899) reads:
The most brilliant affair of the week of course was the reception which Mr. and Mrs. F. M. Smith gave on Wednesday evening at their charming home, Arbor Villa, in East Oakland, to which over 1300 guests from both sides of the bay were bidden.
A Tribune article from the same year was titled "society queens rule at Smith grand ball."
The villa is gone but you might want to check out those palm trees....