The Great White Fleet of sixteen new battleships and many auxiliary ships sent around the world by President Theodore Roosevelt arrived in San Francisco on May 6, 1908. According to Baby’s Record of Eduard Gibbons Meyer, the second important event in his life occurred when he observed the fleet’s arrival from Pacific Heights. “Baby saw it come in from the rear window of 2650 Green Street.” The first important event in his life had been the earthquake and fire in 1906 when he was only six weeks old.
Dorothy Rumbold Houston was born in Pacific Heights in 1913. Her father, Dr. Albert J. Houston, was head of the ear, nose and throat department at UCSF Hospital.
Dorothy Houston and E. Gibbons Meyer married. In 1947, they bought Three Groves, a three-acre estate in Homestead Valley. Walter, a German gardener, lived in the garage-apartment and maintained the gardens, orchards, trees, swimming pool and lake.
After Gibbons died, Dorothy married Dr. Charles Noble and moved to San Francisco. A developer expressed interest in buying Three Groves to construct eight homes there. Dorothy felt that Three Groves should be preserved. She rented the property while the Homestead Valley Community Association developed an acquisition plan.
In 1973, Homestead Valley residents passed a bond issue to purchase open space and park properties. The community certainly wanted the gardens, orchards and the redwood, buckeye and oak groves, but it had no need for the house nor the swimming pool.
In 1974, two-thirds of the land was split off and purchased from Dorothy Noble with bond issue funds. The house continued to be rented to the two sound engineers for Jefferson Starship and their wives.
In 1979, Dorothy Noble sold the house to Charles Noble’s nephew, Chris Nielsen, and his wife Sheila. Two thirds of Three Groves is public land, but one third is still in the family of Dorothy Houston Meyer Noble. Homestead has benefited greatly from Dorothy’s patience and generosity.
Until March 2001, James Burke frequently wrote a column in Scientific American called “Connections” which started out with one fact, connected it with another fact and then another, ad infinitum it seemed. This column mimics his style: from the Great White Fleet to Homestead Valley’s treasure, Three Groves.
If you have comments or questions about this article or other topics
pertaining to the history of Homestead Valley,
please feel free to e-mail Chuck Oldenburg.