The iconic Adobe Creek Lodge in Los Altos Hills has a colorful past and is looking toward the future.
In the span of 84 years, it has come full circle from a luxurious private retreat to a luxurious private home. In between, it has been a swim club, a supper club, a day resort and a popular venue. At its height in 1970, the lodge hosted 8,000 guests per weekend.
The current owners also have hosted countless guests, albeit at charity and community events, since purchasing the property in 1994. But they’re ending their tenure with the hope that someone will appreciate the lodge and the land as much as they did.
Decades of development
The lodge was built in 1934 by Consolidated Chemicals Vice President Milton Haas on 35 acres of land just off Moody Road. He hired famed San Francisco architects Albert Farr and J. Francis Ward to design a 17-room Tudor-style manor house and had the grounds landscaped with Norwegian blue spruce, Italian cypress, magnolias and a variety of rare plants and flowers. The Japanese garden and original stone benches remain today.
In addition, Haas built outbuildings and housing for servants – 27 of them – and for maintenance and gardening personnel.
Ten years later, he sold the estate to Henry Waxman, who owned bakeries in San Francisco. A savvy businessman, Waxman scooped up 28 surrounding acres and opened a swim club. Its popularity led to a second swimming pool and a supper club.
By the time Waxman sold it in 1955, Adobe Creek Lodge had grown to 100 acres with parking for 2,000 cars, barbecue facilities, an 80-foot bar and two outdoor dance pavilions. Bandleaders Harry James and Jimmy Dorsey played there under the stars.
Next up was another San Franciscan, Italian restaurateur Frank Martinelli Sr., who continued to use it as a club. He and son Frank Jr. expanded the operation to include five swimming pools, hiking trails, horseshoe pits, basketball courts and baseball diamonds.
However, despite its success, the lodge’s days were numbered because of zoning restrictions resulting from the incorporation of Los Altos Hills. The property was given a 20-year conditional-use permit to operate as a day resort.
The use permit was public knowledge when, in 1961, David Bellucci and his brother Alfred, hoteliers in Marin County, paid $1 million for the property. Little is known about Alfred’s role, but David was very much in the forefront through three decades.
Adobe Creek Lodge became Adobe Creek Lodge and Country Club, with 250 family memberships. It featured the Tally Ho restaurant, livery stables, carnival equipment, tennis courts and a shooting range.
Unfazed by the 1976 permit expiration, David Bellucci seemed to want to operate the lodge indefinitely, according to local historian John Ralston.
“He even expanded the operation and was not above playing hardball with the town of Los Altos Hills to get his way,” Ralston said.
Bellucci filed suit in Santa Clara County Superior Court challenging the town’s right to end his business. After losing, he appealed to the California State Supreme Court, which declined to hear his case. He even ran for city council in 1973 with the slogan “Do It with Dave.”
Adobe Creek Lodge closed in January 1979.
Bellucci’s myriad proposals to reopen failed, including one in 1987 for a senior citizens facility. He began to subdivide his land into 11 lots in 1988. Sometime during this process he moved to Santa Cruz, and in 1992 opened a card room there called Bellucci’s House of Poker.
June 11, 1993, Bellucci was found beaten and barely alive in his home. He later died of his injuries.
Robert Wayman, former CFO and executive vice president of Hewlett-Packard Co., and his wife, Susan, purchased the derelict lodge property and six surrounding acres from Resolution Trust Co.
Wayman hired Moyer Associates Architects, RJ Dailey Construction and Thomas Klope Associates landscape architects to restore, renovate and expand the home, while preserving or reproducing original details.
A gated circular motor court, centered by nine old-growth redwoods, affords the first glimpse of the sprawling 48-acre property, which offers more than 11,000 square feet of living space.
Second stories were added to both the main residence (now 8,500 square feet) and the Tally Ho restaurant (now a 3,000-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bathroom guest house with kitchen and laundry).
A grand entry salon paneled in mahogany features a two-story ceiling, limestone floors and a staircase with geometric inlaid marble risers. Arched entrances lead to the dining and reception rooms.
The formal dining room has a plaster-relief detailed ceiling, paneled wainscot and a gilt candlelight chandelier. Adjacent is a butler’s pantry and walk-in pantry.
The pièce de résistance in the chef’s kitchen is the enormous copper hood over the large island.
In addition, there are three bedrooms, three full baths, two half-baths, a family room, a home theater, a fitness room and a study.
Nothing can compare to the natural beauty of the grounds. There are open meadows, wooded hillsides, front and rear patios, a barbecue kitchen, a pool, a spa and a tennis court.
And then there’s the “wedding tree,” a huge blue spruce beneath which countless couples were married in the day.
A man-on-the-street interview with longtime area residents would probably reveal that the majority have had some association with Adobe Creek Lodge – from the Chico’s shopper who went to Girl Scout camp there to the PT Works physical therapist whose daughter’s Los Altos High School classmates spent the night in the guest house.
John Ralston of Ralston Independent Works provided some information for this article. For more information, visit ralstonworks.com.
For a virtual tour of the house and property, visit adobecreeklodge.com.