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Before Frank and Josephine Duveneck purchased Hidden Villa in 1924, the land was valued for what its owners could extract from it. In the 1700s, missionaries planted vineyards and olive groves. In the 1800s, mill owners harvested fir trees for lumber, and entrepreneurs forged a road through the wilderness between Hidden Villa and Page Mill Road to hasten commerce.
The Duvenecks valued the land for itself. Instead of seeking to develop the land for commercial gain, Frank and Josephine decided to preserve the wilderness and manage the farm as a family ranch. Frank Duveneck was a civil engineer who understood the importance of owning land to protect a watershed. He purchased parcels of property over many years in order to piece together the entire watershed. Eventually, Hidden Villa encompassed 2500 acres, 900 of which were later donated to the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, leaving 1600 acres under a nonprofit trust.
Josephine Duveneck continually sought ways to use the land to advance social justice and promote environmental education. The Duveneck House became a center of social activism. The Duvenecks sheltered refugees fleeing from the Nazis, assisted Japanese-American families returning from internment camps, and hosted groups for social and educational reform.
Distressed by the internment of the Japanese-Americans, as well as by the Holocaust and the racism they encountered in their own community, the Duvenecks established the first residential, multicultural and racially integrated summer camps in the country. Also, pursuant to their vision of social justice, the Duvenecks opened their home to the United Farm Workers movement in the 1960s and provided a safe space for Cesar Chavez to organize California’s first farm workers strike.
Respect for others is tied to respect for the environment. Hidden Villa’s Environmental Education Program for schools arose naturally from the Duvenecks’ duty of land stewardship and their interest in child development. Established in 1970, the Hidden Villa Environmental Education Program (HVEEP) has been encouraging school children to embrace the beauty of the natural world through hikes in the wilderness and tours of the organic educational farm.
Frank and Josephine Duveneck instilled within their four children, Liz, Francis, Hope, and Barney, their remarkable compassion for people and respect for the environment. In an act of profound generosity, when Josephine and then Frank passed away, their children made a conscious decision to give up their considerable land inheritance and donate it to the nonprofit trust that their parents had established in 1960 to carry on Hidden Villa’s ambitious mission.