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1996 Holiday House Tour: Professorville

The following article, edited by Bjorn Sunde appeared in the Friday, November 29, 1996 Palo Alto Weekly. Photographs were added for this web page.

A Walk Through History

Have you ever stopped to admire one of those old, beautiful homes in Professorville and want nothing more than a quick look inside? If so, you'll get your chance next weekend when a local organization embarks on its annual tour of historic homes.

The Holiday House Tour, hosted by PAST (Palo Alto–Stanford Heritage) on Sunday, Dec. 8, will highlight five landmark Palo Alto houses and their places in the history of the city.

Each December for the past eight years, PAST has sponsored a tour of five homes to "give the community a chance to see inside historic Palo Alto homes," said tour organizer Sue Krumbein, a member of PAST for the last five years.

Each year different homes are selected for the tour, which usually takes place in and around the historic area of Professorville, Members of PAST submit the addresses of homes they believe would be appropriate for the tour, and the owners are approached to see if they would be willing to participate.

Some of the owners are already members of the group or friends of members, so recruitment in those cases is easy. More often, however, the owners must be approached cold and asked to participate. Not everyone who is approached agrees readily. As Krumbein said, "Not everyone is eager to have 200 strangers tramp through their living room on a Sunday afternoon." Those who do participate have a deep and abiding respect for the history that their homes possess and wish to share it with others who have a similar appreciation of architectural history. The houses that are chosen must possess not only a rich heritage but the integrity of the original design.


331 Lincoln Avenue

. . . 331 Lincoln Avenue was originally built in 1893 for the Thobum family at a cost of $2,300 by the contractors Sheldon and Mosher. The tank house that is now incorporated into the house next door was originally cooperatively owned by the Thoburns and three other families. This joint venture to share a large water tank is credited by some as being the start of civic utilities in Palo Alto.

The house itself is a simple Victorian in style, according to PAST's guide to the homes. It is two stories, with a basement and an attic. The current owners began a restoration project on the structure last March, after years of neglect by previous owners. The property also includes a cottage that was built for the owners in 1920.

          331 Lincoln

705 Cowper Street

. . . 705 Cowper Street was the center of a racial debate in the 1920s when a group of Palo Alto citizens petitioned the city to create "a segregated district for the Oriental and colored people of the city." Dr. Effie York owned 705 Cowper at the time, and used the house and her property next door at 711 Cowper as a club and residence for Filipino students at Stanford. Dr. York led the fight against the segregationists and convinced the Planning Commission to reject the petition.

The house itself remains similar to its original condition. The present owners bought it in 1986 and refurbished it as an inn. The only major structural change was the installation of a reception desk where a coat closet in the entrance hall once was.

          705 Cowper

   

1022 Waverley Street

The home at 1022 Waverley St. was built in 1902 by Gus Laumeister for Mrs. Emma Pleasants at a cost of $2,800. Laumeister was a major builder in Palo Alto around the turn of the century. He built many houses in the Professorville area. The present owners, Sallie and Michael Havern, bought the house last year. The Haverns have remodeled. The kitchen and dining room have been completely rebuilt, and the existing front porch was not a part of the original structure. The Haverns have done some renovation and restoration and plan to do more in the future.

          1022 Waverley

 

821 Waverley street

The home at 821 Waverley St. is an altered Queen Anne cottage that was originally built about 1899. The construction demonstrates the use of mill–work that was popular in this period, according to PAST. The first known resident was a Miss Bertha Slade. By the late 1960s, the house had begun to deteriorate, and the original garage was lost to fire. The house was bought by the Fitton family in 1978, and they began to restore it to its original shape.

 

505 Embarcadero Road

The home at 505 Embarcadero was built in 1907 for the Dibble family. The house cost about $3,000 to build. It is listed on the city's Historic Inventory sheet as a Colonial Revival in form. The house is shingled and has a large veranda with gabled dormers.

The house was apparently in good condition when the present owners bought it. A little touch–up work on the roof and sides was all it took to restore the house to excellent condition.

Next Sunday's tour includes information on the histories of the families that have lived in each of the houses since they were built, focusing on all of the original owners. The depth of the information is impressive, and it provides interesting background when viewing the houses.

PAST was founded . . . by local preservationists who had been involved in an architectural preservation workshop. The group established its house tours to give Palo Alto residents a sense of the history behind the city.

At the time of the group's founding, no Palo Alto organizations were working to preserve the houses from demolition. The Palo Alto Historical Association was preserving the city's housing records, but according to Krumbein, PAST's founding members believed that "it wasn't enough to simply have records of the houses; they had to make sure that the houses themselves remained."

Tickets for the house tour cost $20. Proceeds go toward historic preservation efforts in the city.

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