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Palo Alto Historic Buildings Inventory

1990 Cowper Street
Lucie Stern Residence

inventory 1990 Cowper
Photo taken in 1978. Photo taken in 2012.

The following is from the Historic Buildings Inventory as revised in 1985 with corrections by Ralph M. Slocum in 2015 indicated in black:

Physical appearance:   Shares with the adjacent houses the California Colonial Revival imagery and all together create an impressive ensemble.

Significance:  This is a superb example of the style of a major local architect and, with 1928 and 1950 Cowper, establishes the neighborhood character. Mrs. Lucie Stern, for whom all three houses were designed, was born in France, but grew up in San Francisco. In 1899, she married Louis Stern, a nephew of Levi Strauss. Moving to Palo Alto after his death, she became the city's principal benefactor during the Depression Era. Her gifts funded the Community Center Theatre and associated facilities, a Sea Scout Base, Boy Scout Center, Hospital nurses' cottage, bird sanctuary, and Stern Hall residence at Stanford.

From 1965 to January 1973, the house was occupied by Austin M. Clark, a leading Palo Alto Medical Clinic physician, followed by Richard and Jean Slocum (February, 1973–July, 1982). Jonathan B. and Betsy Gifford became the next owners. Jon Gifford was an architect in Birge Clark's firm.

1990 entry
window map

Ralph Slocum added the following information:

Austin M. Clark did not actually own the three Lucie Stern properties [1928, 1950, and 1990], but rather was allowed to live there for a number of years, as a condition of the trust and/or estate following Lucie's death. He believes that Austin Clark was Stern's doctor and confidant and was allowed to live on the property for about 25 years, though it remained owned by the trust. Dr. Clark was also trustee of Lucie Stern's estate.

All three houses were sold at secret auction by the Stern estate/trust at the same time in late 1972. Richard and Jean Slocum bought the 1990 Cowper property from the Stern estate, not from Clark himself, at secret auction and out–bid (by a small margin) Arriaga, who bid on both 1990 and 1950 but only was able to secure purchase of 1950 Cowper. When the Slocum family moved in, there were still items formerly owned by the Stern estate in the house as part of the transaction. Arriaga wanted both 1990 and 1950, but since he only was able to buy 1950, he immediately built a large cinder block wall to separate the properties.

1990 was a great house and Ralph has many fond memories.

This house was built in 1932 and is a Category 1 on the Historic Buildings Inventory. The architect was Birge Clark. The builder was Wells P. Goodenough. Landscaping by Leslie Kiler. The property measures 147 by 247 feet.

Sources: Palo Alto City Directories; Birge Clark Residential List; Clark, "An Architect Grows Up in Palo Alto", 1984 p. 51–56, 65; Palo Alto Times 7/13/32, 1/18/46, 2/21/72

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