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2002 Holiday House Tour: The Ashby Addition and a Bit of Early California

The 2002 Holiday House Tour focused on the Ashby Addition of the 1000 and 11000 blocks of Forest Avenue, with a short detour to 1310 University Avenue for variety. The drawings of the featured homes were made by Richard Elmore, a local designer and artist.

 

In this portion of the map View of Palo Alto, drawn by W.H. Bull in 1905, the Ashby Addition is at the lower right. The houses showing are 1001 Forest, its water tower (now 1009 Forest Court), 1023, 1055 and 1145 Forest. The Fife home, the large building facing Boyce, burned down about 1910 and only the cement retaining wall remains behind 1056 and a portion of 1078 Forest. Since this map was drawn, Katherine Street was renamed Lincoln Avenue.

        Ashby Addition

 

The Ashby Addition

Samuel Boyce deeded this land to Ella Boyce Ashby and her husband Delmar Ashby (listed in city directories as agriculturist, orchardist or rancher) who built their home in 1889. The Addition is bounded by current day Lincoln, Hamilton, Hale, Boyce, and Fife streets. The 1000—1100 block of Forest, on a small rise between the creek and developed Palo Alto, provided extensive views in all directions. In 1894, Ashby advertised 15 lots for sale along Hamilton Avenue between Lincoln and Hale and four “villa” lots on what was then named Forest Court. Ashby’s vision was for Forest Court to be an exclusive neighborhood. Three of the tour homes are on parts of two villa lots and refreshments will be served in the garden of another. In 1901, the Ashbys deeded 3/4 of the block bounded by Forest, Boyce, Fife, and Lincoln to Ellen and George Fife.

On February 28, 1906 an agreement to create a park was entered into by the Forest Court owners saying “hereinafter described land shall forever be used, by the parties hereto, solely and exclusively as a private court or park...” It was further agreed to construct in said park a cement sidewalk four feet in width and a macadamized roadway twenty feet in width, the cost to be shared proportionately according to frontage on the park. And, “no public entrance to said park or court, other than the entrance by what is now known as Forest Court shall ever be made.” The Ashby home and tank house were located on portions of this park site. By 1919 when the Ashby Addition was annexed to Palo Alto, the Ashbys were the only signators to the park agrement still living on Forest Court. Their home was moved to its current location across from the island. Forest Court was renamed Forest Avenue and extended to Lincoln Avenue.

Old rendering of Ashby Addition

An early rendering of the Ashby Addition

 


 

1001 Forest Avenue — 1895

1001 Forest drawing

1001 Forest

       

As the Historic Resources Inventory states, this home “is a case history of changing tastes in architectural styles—because of extensive changes to the exterior, it bears little resemblance to the original mansion.” The home was built in 1895 as a Victorian in a “playfully-turreted” Queen Anne style for the whopping price of $7000. After being damaged in the 1906 earthquake, the home was extensively remodeled into a “more modern” Greek Revival style.

The house is historically intact to the Greek Revival iteration with beautiful hardware, marble fireplace surrounds, and Greek columns inside and out. The more restrained lines of the classic Revival style were achieved by the now low pitched roof and the classic columns supporting the front and side porch. This home’s inhabitants left their mark on Palo Alto. The first owner’s son, E. Royal Flint, studied music at Stanford and Leipzig, and eventually wrote the University’s song, “Stanford Forever.” From 1922 to 1965 it was the Fred H. Smith family home. The mechanically minded Mr. Smith, who owned the first gas automobile in Palo Alto, opened a bicycle shop in the old Stanford Encina Gymnasium in 1898 and then moved it to the commercial circle strip at the top of University Avenue in 1906 where it was the landmark “Smith’s on the Circle” for many years.

The home still has Smith family mementos. There is a built-in gun rack for Smith who, the Palo Alto Times said, had a “ ‘modest’ gun collection of some proportion.” There is even an intercom system in several rooms that still has Smith family names on it.

Be sure to check out the “turret” room, which is a work in progress. Watch for the unusual original fireplace, wonderful original glass door hardware (used throughout house) and upstairs “sleeping porch”.

See also the listing on the Inventory of Historic Buildings.

 

 


1009 Forest Court, originally the carriage house for 1001 Forest Avenue

1009 Forest Court: original carriage house

1009 Forest Court
           

Even with all the changes made to 1001 Forest, its Victorian carriage house/water tower remains as a private residence. The carriage house was basically abandoned from 1913 until 1970 when R.C. Beverstock began to convert it into a home. In 1971, Mr. Beverstock, quoted by a local paper, called the house’s builder a “genius” for its triple purpose design of housing horses, carriages and a huge water tank on the roof. With such a combination of functions the building could have “looked like heck but the architect came up with a very beautiful design,” said Beverstock.

The current owners purchased the home in 1972 and completed its conversion. The owner was walking in the neighborhood when she met Mr. Beverstock who took her on a tour of the home and mentioned he was going to sell it. The owners decided to buy it before it went on the market. They raised five children here and did much of the renovation themselves.

This home, with its sloping water tower walls, original wood rafters and cross-braces, is a wonderful example of adaptive re-use. The owners encountered interesting problems retrofitting this house since the walls slope inwards for strength to support the long gone water tank. Nothing in the house is standard due to the slanting walls.

The building’s historical flavor is retained. A chimney was built around an historic window. The second floor barn hay hook arm and the dining room wallmarks that show the location of the original watering trough remain. The moon window in the dining room was originally in the master house, but had been removed during its Greek revival renovation and probably stored in the carriage house. The kitchen was originally two horse stalls. All the home’s wood is the original fir from the carriage house as are the boxed beams. The plugged hole on the ceiling above the kitchen/dining area was for transporting water from a well directly beneath it and for the mechanics of the windmill which was on top of the water tower.

See also the listing on the Inventory of Historic Buildings.

 


1023 Forest Avenue — 1896

1023 Forest Avenue sketch

1023 Forest
           

The historic inventory describes this home as a “Queen Anne extravaganza (with) turrets, towers, turned woodwork, decorative carving and extensive grounds.” Local history book Gone Tomorrow? says:

The bottle-shaped columns with Corinthian-like capitals support a gable filled with embossed plaster. The house boasts three balconies. The smallest is recessed and topped with a helmet roof, which complements the larger helmet on the Queen Anne tower on the left...[with its] mushroom-shaped finial. Beneath the roof a frieze of carved scallops embraces the circumference of the house.

This Victorian fantasy was built in 1896 by Mrs. Agnes Herzinger for $6500. She moved here so her daughters could go to Stanford. A local newspaper crowed “one of the finest grainers in San Jose has begun work in the Herzinger residence which will be finished in oak and maple throughout.” The home was one of the first in Palo Alto constructed with ducts for central heating and an oil-fired furnace.

The copper helmet for the east tower, damaged in the 1906 earthquake and stored in the basement, was donated for scrap metal during World War I. In 1929, the home was a residence for Menlo College. After it stood vacant for a few years, Clifton and Gladys Woodhams lived in it from 1948—1955 during which time he helped establish the municipal band and Peninsula Symphony.

The current owner and her late husband purchased this home in 1965 and raised seven children here. She says her favorite feature about the house is probably the original leaded glass dining room window which is an oval set into a square with opaque glass around the edges.

See also the listing on the Inventory of Historic Buildings.

 


1145 Forest Avenue:   The Ashby House — 1889

1145 Forest Avenue

1145 Forest
           

The Ashby House, built in 1889 and predating the City of Palo Alto, is one of its earliest homes. This simple Victorian cottage with fine details was the home of Delmar and Ella Boyce Ashby and the heart and soul of one of Palo Alto's oldest and most beautiful neighborhoods.

The Ashby home originally was located on what is now the “side” of today's Forest Avenue island. At the former location, there was a well with a tank house where the residents of "Ashby's Addition," as the tract was called, obtained their water. It is amazing to learn that an ad in the Palo Alto Times of June 8, 1894 stated that the best lots in this choice part of town went for what was then the top-dollar price of $450—with artesian water and orchards included.

An example of the home's fine detailing is evident in its front Eastlake window facings. These are tall, narrow windows topped with jagged millwork which is framed with entablature supported by brackets. This complex detail is unusual for a simple farm house like the Ashby’s. Be sure to notice the original woodwork, window transoms and the antique doors and door hardware.

Parts of the home and its outlying structures were renovated and expanded with an eye to preserving it while maintaining the basic historic character. An old barn that had once served as a blacksmith's shop was updated and made into an entertainment center and dance studio. That is where the owners found the claw foot tub that is now in the master bath.

Delmar and Ella Boyce Ashby's land was annexed to Palo Alto in 1919 as the Ashby Addition. Ashby served as colonel on the staff of Governor Stoneman. Other owners/occupants include James Cooley, a sea captain who had the blacksmith shop; W.L. Cooley, a master mariner; and Mildred and Daniel Mendelowitz, the famed artist and Stanford professor.

See also the listing on the Inventory of Historic Buildings.


1310 University Avenue — 1931

1310 University



roof tile detail
           

The land where this house sits, just a few blocks away from its tour counterparts, was part of the Timothy Hopkins Tract. An undated Palo Alto Weekly article on Crescent Park Neighborhood says, “Builders filled the (Timothy Hopkins Tract) wasteland with houses in the popular Spanish Mission style. Tiled roofs and cloisters by such prominent California architects as Birge Clark, George Washington Smith, and Gardiner Dailey joined Hamilton Avenue Victorians and the cool, classical mansions on University Avenue until the Depression slowed construction.

This 1931 Spanish Colonial style home is similar in style to that of a Birge Clark. It is a large home and lot, with a servant’s staircase and a comfortably and beautifully appointed first floor. The owners have made good use of the home’s space and spacious backyard by hosting many benefits over the years. The stone wall on the west side of the home was supposedly built with sandstone from 1906 earthquake damage at Stanford.

This home has mahogany woodwork throughout. The living room fireplace surround is beautiful Batchelder tile, from the well known Pasadena, California tile maker. All the wrought iron light fixtures are original, including the mica fixture in the TV room.

 

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