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2003 Holiday House Tour: Balancing the Past with Today for the Future

The owners of all five historic homes on the tour have successfully met the challenge of renovating for today’s needs while preserving their homes’ original character and historic integrity. All these homes provide excellent models of how to achieve the balance between livability for today and preservation of the past for the future.

944 Bryant Street

944 Bryant entry

           

This vernacular, utilitarian structure was built as a photographic studio for Alice Kelly, who lived with her mother, Mrs. J.W. Kelly, at 940 Bryant, which the family owned until 1961. The Kellys came to Palo Alto in the 1890's. Alice was appointed deputy postmaster in Palo Alto, and she distributed mail from the first post office, which was located in a boxcar. About 1904–05 the mother and daughter built the photographic studio at 944 Bryant adjacent to their home. In 1906 Alice relinquished her postal career and began a new career in photography. She opened her studio with a Miss Wilson and advertised their specialty as children's pictures, home portraiture, and student work.

The current owners spent a full year researching the Craftsman style before beginning their meticulous renovation, which preserved the historic exterior while greatly enhancing the beauty and usefulness of the interior spaces. The home seems larger than its 1,100 square feet because the owners opened up the original rooms of the studio. The three homes adjoining the central garden were purchased by three families in the late 1970's with the concept of creating a common area. The agreement is informal and the result charming.

951 Bryant Street — 1899

951 Bryant Street

           

This Shingle–style home, built in 1899, was designed by Professor A.B. Clark, the father of Birge Clark, for Professor Guido Marx. Marx built this house as a rental, possibly hoping to attract some of his colleagues from back East to Stanford. A Palladian window enhances the front gable.

The house boasts two important families as renters and one especially notable owner. The first renters were Mrs. Lydia Mitchell and her son J. Pearce Mitchell. Lydia Mitchell was the first director of the Palo Alto Chapter of the American Red Cross and remained for 40 years. Mitchell Lane was named for her. Her son earned three degrees from Stanford and became a full professor, pioneering in air and water pollution control. He was registrar for Stanford for 20 years and served on the Palo Alto Council 31 years, twice as mayor. Mitchell Park was named for him. Another prominent occupant was Dr. Thomas Williams, who moved his family and his medical practice into this home in 1904. In 1929 he sold his office and equipment to several doctors who subsequently founded the Palo Alto Medical Clinic.

334 Kingsley Avenue 1903

334 Kingsley            

This . . .  home was built in 1903 by George Mosher for physiology Professor James Rollin Slonaker. This structure is a fine example of the highly symmetrical Colonial Revival design. It has pilasters at its corners and on each side of the entry porch. Matching balustrades atop the entry porch and the pair of slanted bay windows reinforce the characteristic symmetry. The center dormer is balanced with additional dormers on either side.

Professor Slonaker was known for his research on high-protein diets. His son Cliff started a printing business in the attic of this house in 1916 while still in high school. The printing business, known as Slonaker’s, moved to Emerson Street at the end of World War II. The interior of this stately home was extensively remodeled from 1998 to 2001. The first floor hardwood floors, the interior woodwork, and doors are original as well as the staircases, exterior windows, leaded glass, and the living room fireplace featuring Batchelder tiles.

1048 Ramona Street 1904

1048 Ramona
           

This vernacular Colonial Revival home was built in 1904 by F.S. Gifford. The home has some classical elements—doric columns and eave returns. The current owners have made major interior changes to create a workable and delightful living space for their family while preserving the historic exterior.

A number of families occupied the home over the years, with the Howell Lownsberry family living there the longest—from 1915 to 1930. Mr. Lownsberry worked for the Alpine Wood Company. One professor, Percy Martin, occupied the home for a year.

1147 Ramona Street 1906

1147 Ramona Street            

This Shingle–style home was built in 1906 for $3,200. The home has its original redwood paneling, fir floors, pocket doors, fireplace, bathtub, and most hardware. The owner says she feels like she lives in her own Bed and Breakfast.

The first owner was Harold Heath, a zoologist who came to Stanford in 1898. He specialized in marine invertebrate and participated in expeditions worldwide. He taught and did research at Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station. Another prominent owner was Stanley Blois, who owned the Cardinal French Laundry with his brother, J. Byron Blois, who was a city councilman and mayor.

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