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Palo Alto Historic Buildings Inventory

228 Byron Street

(originally 526 Ramona Street)

inventory photo 2011 photo
Inventory photo Photo taken April 2011

The following is from the Historic Buildings Inventory as revised in 1985:

Physical appearance:   A slanted bay and the entry porch are features of this one–story Queen Anne–styled cottage. A bay window is at the front. Above it the gable is covered with round shell shingles and supported by carved and spindled brackets. A stained–glass window is centered in the gable. The paneling of the bay and its decorative swags in relief are fine touches. Surface materials include ship-lap, shingle, and decorative wood paneling. An advertising photograph of 1905 Indicates that there was originally a basement, with a window below the front bay, a finial or cupola at the roof peak, and turned spindles for the porch and step railings. In rehabilitating it in 1985–1986 the present owner removed a false chimney at the center of the building and placed a new chimney on the right side. A false stained-glass pane In the bay window was replaced by clear glass.

Significance:  A finely detailed Queen Anne styled cottage built early in the city's history in what is now part of the Ramona Street Historic District and moved in 1923 to its present location. It originally was built for William Fischer, a butcher, but within two years it was occupied by the H.S, Ritchie family, proprietors of the nearby Ramona Hotel.

In 1904, Dr. H.G. Wycoff used it for his office, and in the period 1905–1909 it was occupied by Mr, and Mrs, M. J. Fairfield, who owned the Stanford Laundry.

Daniel W. Hickey and his family then owned and occupied the house from 1910 to 1920. Hickey came to California from New York in 1883 and settled in Palo Alto in 1896. He was an express man and (horse–drawn) bus driver, the town's second policeman, and from 1918 onward to retirement, constable (see also 667 Lytton Avenue.)

About 1920 the house was purchased by Mrs. Georgina Ostrander. She was a native of Ontario and, when she came to Palo Alto in 1893, the widow of Frank Ostrander, Merced County District Attorney. She opened a popular candy store (1893–1905) and dry goods store (1905), and quickly earned a reputation as a shrewd and lively business woman. With her son, Frank, she also owned a music store (1915–1921) and was very active In real estate. (Her son, like his father, also later served as D.A. in Merced County). In 1923 Mrs. Ostrander announced that she was moving the house to make room for new shops—a well–timed plan soon leading to profitable sale of the property to the investors who, with Pedro deLemos, were ready to develop the block (now Ramona Street Historical District). By May, 1923, the house had been settled on its new site at 228 Byron Street (without a basement, it was placed lower on the ground and several steps were eliminated; evidently the porch was somewhat damaged by the move and the spindles of its railings were replaced). Mrs. Ostrander occupied the house until the mid–forties.

After her came James and Isabelle Clarke Swezy (1944–1951). Mrs. Swezy had been the home economics editor for the Seattle Post-Intelligence before coming to Palo Alto. She was, as well, a nationally known graphologist.

A number of short term tenants subsequently occupied the house, and in 1985, owner William Kaul began its rehabilitation and interior remodeling.

See also 271 University Avenue.

door 228
front map
Location map

This house was built in 1896 and is a Category 2 on the Historic Buildings Inventory. The builder was George W. Mosher. The property measures 50 by 112.57 feet.

Sources: Palo Alto City Directories; Palo Alto Times 12/30/96, 2/1/05, 3/19/23, 5/1/23, 4/22/35, 9/2/41, 9/26/45, 7/30/52, 10/28/57; Book 183 Official Records, p. 296 (9/18/25), Book 7 Official records, p. 326-330 (1/16/24, 3/6/24) Santa Clara Co. recorder; Sandborn Co, Fire Insurance Maps of Palo Alto, 1908, 1924.

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