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Palo Alto Historic Buildings Inventory

 382 - 386 - 396 University Avenue / 502 Waverley Street

Decker Oak Building

HRB photo 386
Inventory/HRB photo (from Waverley side) Photo taken May 2, 2015


The following is from the Historic Buildings Inventory as revised in 1979 / 1985:

Physical appearance:   This two-story Classical Revival brick building is decorated by garlanded spandrel panels and Greek Key cornice motifs made of terra cotta. In 1984 it was rebuilt to current earthquake-resistant standards. The ground floor entries and fenestration were greatly altered.

Significance:  This is an example of commercial Classicism, recently reconstructed to meet contemporary safety requirements and provided with "up-to-date" visual interest for the shop frontages. It's name recalls the family home of Charles W. Decker (see 510 Waverley) and the stately oak tree that occupied the site; the Decker house was moved and the oak cut down to make room for the new building.

Architect Birge Clark recalls that William Cranston and Morris Smith, the owners, gave the commission to Powers of San Francisco, an out-of-town firm with its own house architect. Per the original Inventory sheet for 502 Waverley Street, Cranston and Smith usually operated without architects.

Until recent years its second floor offices were occupied by some of the city's leading dentists—Carl H. Ellertson, E. L. Hoag; physicians H. L. Niebel; architect H. C. Collins, Charles K. Sumner; and contractor William F. Klay. Shops on the ground floor included pharmacies, groceries, tailors, beauty parlors, and clothing stores. A number of specialty shops presently occupy the ground-level space [1985].

Note: Cranston was the father of Senator Alan Cranston.

corner view detail
parade map
Note: The address 382 is used for a portion of the modern building next door at 380-382 University. Location map

This house was built in 1925 and is a Category 3 on the Historic Buildings Inventory. The architect was Powers of San Francisco and the builders were Cranston and Smith Realtors. The property measures 50 by 95 feet.

Sources: Palo Alto City Directories; Palo Alto Times 12/8/24, 1/1/25, 3/7/25; interview, Birge Clark, January 15, 1979; Clark, An Architect Grows Up in Palo Alto, 1984, p. 23.


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