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Palo Alto Historic Buildings Inventory

1540 College Avenue

inventory photo 1540
Photo taken in 1978. Photo taken May 15, 2015

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

Physical appearance:   This building is an imaginative eclectic version of Spanish Colonial Revival and Pueblo Revival features, with rounded corners at the entrance, and rather unusual qualities of scale that create a stylishly indefinite but striking design.

Significance: A refreshing example of free–wheeling eclectic design reminiscent of Far West colonial prototypes. Walter L. Gerrard, a civil engineer, was the first owner (1928–1932). Several short–term occupants followed.

From 1940–1947 it was owned by George Hall, vice–president of Pioneer Supply Company.

Georgiana Phippen and her son, Frank, owned the house from 1953 to 1959. She was the widow of John Phippen who came to California in 1868 and in 1879 went to work for Leland Stanford at the Palo Alto Stock Farm. During the next twenty years he was the chief breeder and trainer for Stanford's trotting horses; he also served as Mayfield's Treasurer. Georgiana was the last survivor of the settlement at Searsville and at the time of her death in 1958 was probably the oldest resident of Mayfield.

The Phippens were followed by William and Ruth Chialastri. Chialastri was a long–time bartender in San Francisco who also operated the ABC Nursery School in Palo Alto from 1959 to 1970. The Chialastris were followed by Paul J. and Sharon Murphy.


This house was built in 1928 as confirmed by an inspector's tag found in the building, and is a Category 4 on the Historic Buildings Inventory. The builder was Phillip Darr for Frank S. Cogswell. The property measures 50 by 115 feet.

Sources: Palo Alto City Directories; Palo Alto Times 1/2/23, 11/3/28, 3/17/58, 6/13/74; interview 1985, Paul Murphy


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