Nov 15, 2020

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Welcome back to my series of Favorite Northern California Wedding Venues. Today I will be spotlighting Villa Montalvo, a gorgeous venue rich in history. Often when couple’s I work with are searcing for a wedding venue, they are not just considering a space they love but also a space that will photograph beautifully. Villa Montalvo is such a dreamy historically rich place to get married, but also there are so many gorgeous spaces tucked away to photograph in. Below is a description of the gorgeous space.

Montalvo Arts Center


DESCRIPTION: Montalvo is a wedding photographer’s dream with it’s tree lined ceremony site, to the cascading lawns leading up to a gorgeous mansion nestled on the top of the hill. The courtyard futures a beautiful double stairway leading to the upper room and there’s plenty of wedding portraits to be had throughout the entire property. Being a history nerd myself, I especially love that getting married at a location with such a rich history is a romantic bonus. If the weather calls for it, the reception dinner is held under the open sky looking over the vast grounds. It truly is such a beautiful place!

LOCATION: Montalvo Arts Center is located in Silicon Valley’s Saratoga Hills and the grounds include a 1912 Mediterranean-style Villa, formal gardens, the historic Claire Loftus Carriage House Theatre and the Lilian Fountaine Garden Theatre.

HISTORY: Villa Montalvo is a national historic landmark built by James Duval Phelan. Phelan, who was a three-term mayor of San Francisco, went on to become California’s first popularly-elected U.S. Senator. The estate was his beloved country home until his death in 1930.

The name “Villa Montalvo” is a reference to popular 16th-century Spanish writer Garci Ordóñez de Montalvo, who first coined the name “California.” In one of his fables, he described an island rich with gold and jewels, peopled by Amazons whose queen was named Califia. On the mythical island of California, Montalvo’s Amazons rode griffins, the winged guardians of precious treasure. Griffin statues can still be found throughout the Montalvo grounds, standing guard over one of California’s true precious treasures.

In the Senator’s time, Villa Montalvo was a center of artistic, political, and social life in Northern California. Phelan invited writers and artists to Villa Montalvo to work on individual artistic projects—Jack London, Ethel Barrymore, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and Edwin Markham were among Phelan’s many guests.

In 1930, the San Francisco Art Association assumed trusteeship of Villa Montalvo and within a year announced the intention to launch an artist residency program, the third program of its kind in the United States. In 1939, the Villa reopened to the public as an arts center with artists-in-residence and a small gallery in the Villa. At the official opening, Dr. Stephen Pepper, head of the art department at the University of California, stated, “Through the cooperation of artists and the community, Montalvo ­in its silence and beauty—will become one of the creative forces of the world.”


Elizabeth Nwansi Photography specializes in Fine Art wedding and engagement photography in the Bay Area, including Napa, Saratoga, Walnut Creek, San Francisco, Healdsburg, Brentwood, San Jose, Los Altos and more.

Thank you so much for visiting and I would love to tell you more about our Wedding Photography Experience. We are unique in that every wedding and engagement session gets its own custom Design Session. I encourage every client to walk away with something tangible from their day, and I help you design the heirlooms for your home.  If you are interested in learning more please click here.

Our clients invest $4800+ on their wedding photography.

If you would like to schedule a complimentary consultation, recieve more information or reserve your date please click here to contact us or email me directly at

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