Cipriani built the farmhouse shown on the left in 1852 in Italy (probably Corsica, his home), had it dismantled, packed in labeled wooden crates amounting to 150 tons, shipped to San Francisco and then hauled in wagons 22 miles south to Cañada del Diablo, now known as Belmont in central San Mateo County.
In the mid-1860s, Bank of California founder William Chapman Ralston sought a country place conducive to entertaining and purchased, “tore down, built up and embellished” Cipriani’s Belmont villa (Sacramento Daily Union 1888) to create “The White House of the West.”
Mrs. Anna Lake Townsend, a.k.a. Shirley, Philip, wrote this in her column “Freehand Notes” in the Sacramento Daily Union, July 14, 1883:
Although there is very little boasting among Californians about their sumptuous homes, and while they accept with remarkable humility the patronizing descriptions given by the Eastern traveler of places on the Hudson, Long Island and in the suburbs of Boston, to say nothing of the oppressive claims of country-seats in England, they have really every right in the world to tell a reasonable pride in their possessions. After all the State is only thirty years old, and the luxurious laying out of Monterey, the magnificence of Palo Alto, the San Mateo and Menlo Park residences, and the white glories of Belmont and its ivy-covered stone stable, make a wonderful showing of wealth and taste, and, at a certain season, of enlightened hospitality.
The most historical of all these residences, the richest is associations, the most widely known outside of California, is undoubtedly Belmont, now the property of Mr. Sharon, and formerly that of the brilliant, restless and ill-starred Ralston…. The nucleus, so to speak, of the house as it now is was built by General Cipriani, an Italian patriot who had fought with Garibaldi, and came to California somewhat richer in money than many patriots-Italian or other nationality-and built at Belmont.