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2004 Holiday House Tour:
Early Residences on Stanford University’s San Juan Hill


The view from San Juan Hill.


Houses on tour:

        Pepper tree

Stanford's San Juan Hill

From the earliest days of Stanford University, its founders and trustees envisioned faculty residences on campus. Though much of the housing in early plans had to be postponed in order to build essential academic buildings, Mrs. Stanford struggled to keep the vision alive after Senator Stanford died in 1893. In 1897, she addressed the Board of Trustees, "It is desirable, so far as may be, that Faculty and students should reside in the University grounds…" and suggested that lots continue to be leased in the earliest housing development on Alvarado, Salvatierra and Lasuen. At the same time, she required that houses built on campus have a base price of $3,000, and that "the houses so erected shall be attractive in exterior." In 1899, she raised the base price to $4,000, which was prohibitive for most of the founding faculty, with salaries averaging $2,000 a year. As a result many of the early faculty sought housing in rooming houses and in Palo Alto.

After Mrs. Stanford's death in 1905, President David Starr Jordan and the Board of Trustees expressed concern that too many faculty members were building homes off–campus. To stem the tide of faculty building off campus, the Board of Trustees explored opening a new tract around the Knoll, near Lake Lagunita. However, faculty objected that this area was not suitable because a single fraternity, Zeta Psi, already had a lease in the area. Many faculty members had rented in the lower Row, close to other fraternities and sororities, and those seeking leases preferred to build a little further from student life. George Cooksey, a friend of Mrs. Stanford, had built a large house on San Juan Hill in 1900 for his family (now Synergy House on San Juan Street), and so opened the way for the Trustees to lease the first two lots on San Juan Hill to senior faculty members, Harris Ryan, chairman of Electrical Engineering (at 607 Cabrillo) and William Durand, chair of Mechanical Engineering in 1905 (at 623 Cabrillo). They completed houses on the hill that year. From these first two faculty houses, more houses rose up San Juan Hill, winding around the reservoir that still exists at the top of the hill: 739 Santa Ynez in 1908, 747 Santa Ynez in 1909, 755 Santa Ynez in 1915, 618 Mirada in 1909 and 773 Dolores in 1917.

Clearing a building site on San Juan Hill, 1912

        Clearing a site

A house under construction on Santa Ynez with 618 Mirada in background, 1912.



773 Dolores — 1917

This house was designed by Henry Gutterson and built in 1917 for Frederick Erskine Olmsted, a nephew of Frederick Law Olmsted. Gutterson was a preeminent early San Francisco architect, who along with Bernard Maybeck and John Galen Howard practiced in the distinctive Bay Area style, which emanated from the Arts and Crafts movement around 1890.

The house exhibits many of the characteristics of the shingle style. Its shape is a traditional Cape Cod rectangle, with a typical roof pitch and shingled siding. However, rather than the evenly spaced, symmetrically placed windows of a Cape Cod, the house's windows are irregularly shaped and located to reflect the space within, for instance the stepped windows at the stair. The trim has been applied in a geometrical, graphic fashion, characteristic of the Arts and Crafts movement. The brick chimney mass is penetrated by two windows, a play on heavy and light elements, a sort of architectural pun in the manner of the British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens.

The first floor plan reflects planning traditions contemporary to the house. From the entry, one moves straight ahead to the entertaining spaces, which open to the back garden with a series of French doors, more Californian than Cape Cod. The house is sited at an angle to the street, again to break with tradition but also to parallel the slight bluff. There have been few alterations to the house, save for the conversion of a maid's room and the addition of a family room near the kitchen. The current owners have added a separate garage/guest unit in keeping with the house's vocabulary.

        Taken at the tour



618 Mirada — 1909

Arthur Bridgeman (A.B.) Clark designed and built this stucco and shingle, Craftsman style house in 1909 when he was chairman of Stanford’s art department. Though Clark hired a contractor, he and his son, Birge, completed a great deal of the work themselves. Areas of the house have been renovated and modernized over the years, but it retains much of its original identity and as well as a fine view of the Stanford hills.

The house is a wood framed structure of 2 1/2 stories—three on one side, two on the other—with gabled roof. It is a Craftsman version of a classical revival house, with its Doric columns on a temple–fronted entrance façade, but transformed by asymmetrical windows. The footprint of the house is a simple rectangle, though the southwest corner is cut away to provide a pleasant porch on the main floor. Upstairs, two of the original sleeping porches remain and are now glassed in, the third having been incorporated into the master bedroom. The lower level has a large living area/game room/guest room/storage space. The interior of the house features many Craftsman details, such as tall beadboard wainscoting, and carved balusters screening the stair from the entry hall.

The detached garage, with its wood shingles shaped to resemble thatch, may give a clue as to the original roofing on the house, or perhaps it was a later structure on which the Clarks experimented with forms for their subsequent houses: the roof matches A.B. Clark’s later structure next door at 775 Santa Ynez. Other A.B. Clark houses on San Juan Hill include: 607 Cabrillo, 623 Cabrillo, 661 Cabrillo, and 669 Mirada. There are over 35 houses credited to Birge Clark on campus.    

Taken at the tour

618 Miranda


739 Santa Ynez — 1908

A.W. Smith, an Oakland–based architect and contractor designed the house at 739 Santa Ynez. It is one of two remaining Smith houses on campus, the other being across the street at 740 Santa Ynez. Smith (1860–1933) designed hundreds of residential and commercial buildings in Northern California. Working in many styles, he is best known for his Craftsman and shingle houses, as well as for solid construction. This house typifies all three.

This house was built in 1908 for John Ezra McDowell and his wife Alice. Mr. McDowell was a Stanford alumnus and worked at the University for 37 years as assistant registrar, dean of men, academic secretary, and executive secretary of the Stanford Alumni Association. In 1919, the McDowells sold the house to Lou Henry Hoover, who made many plans for the house with her newly–minted architect, the 26 year–old Birge Clark, but except for repairs these plans did not materialize. She rented the house to tenants for over twenty years.

Notable Bay Area features of the house include leaded-glass windows, heavy outriggers extending from the eaves, and battered, shingled supports at the entry pergola. The first floor living room fireplace and redwood cabinetry are original to the house. The present owners have furnished the public rooms gracefully with furniture of Craftsman design. Original light fixtures have been retained throughout much of the house. Typical of Smith houses, the extensive use of overscaled redwood elements is a particularly interesting feature; the massive newel posts at the stair are spectacular. The house has a view of the surrounding campus and shares the broad sweeping lawn of Hoover House, the home of Stanford's president.

        739 Santa Ynez

739 Santa Ynez


747 Santa Ynez — 1909

This house was designed by John Bakewell, Jr, of Bakewell and Brown, San Francisco based architects who built many fine buildings on campus, including Branner Hall and the recently demolished Encina Gym. It was built in 1909 by MacMackin Construction for George Hempl, a professor of German. The wood-framed house with gabled roof resembles a Tudor half–timber structure, with stucco over fir framing. The façade is framed by two imposing cypress trees, and features a mix of large six–over–one double hung windows and casements that ensure a sunny interior and allow sweeping views of the hills. Despite several owners and an interlude of occupation by the Navy during WWII, the house is in very good shape.

The interior layout of the house is essentially symmetrical around a great hall and staircase. Many original interior details of the house remain. The dining room is embellished with board–and–batten wainscoting with a plate rail, as well as a recessed panel kitchen service door with its original leaded glass. The staircase features a wonderfully exaggerated barley twist newel post. The kitchen retains its pie–cooling closet, and the back porch its milk cupboard for milk deliveries. The second floor has four bedrooms along with three now–enclosed sleeping porches. Two of the bedrooms have oak floors that have never been refinished and offer good examples of hand-planed wood. Note the 30's bathroom remodel with its fashionable green and purple tiling.

Wood paneling had been added by former occupants as a remedy for cracked plaster; the present owners transformed a formerly dark interior with substantial painting. Walls were painted cream and trimmed in white, which reveals handsome detailing in the decorative and supporting beams. With its wide, spacious halls and rooms, the house seems to have built for entertaining.

        747 Santa Ynez

front view


755 Santa Ynez — 1915

Still imposing on the ascent of San Juan Hill, this house was monarch of all it surveyed in 1915 when it was built for Henry Rushton Fairclough, professor of Latin, and his family. The architect was John K. Branner, son of John Casper Branner, second president of Stanford. He utilized features of the Tudor and Craftman styles, combining half–timber and stucco walls with wide eaves, exposed rafters, and a gently sloped roof. The half–timbers run only vertically and horizontally, a variation on true Tudor with its exposed diagonal braces. Note also the carved brackets on the cantilevered Bay window, a play on the traditional Tudor "Oriel" window.

Wood paneling, fluted columns, wainscoting, and beamed ceilings of old–growth redwood dominate the interior. The 8–foot tall front door has multipaned windows on either side and opens to a 12 by 12 foot entry hall, still lit by two original copper chandeliers. An 18th century grandfather clock emphasizes the predominantly English feel of the house.

In the living room an immense fireplace made of massive blocks of sandstone (possibly taken from Stanford's store of 1906 earthquake rubble) is the focal point of the room, which originally included built–in bookcases and a seat in the bay window. Notable features, including original light fixtures, remain throughout. Across the hall, the dining room has a built–in sideboard and original light fixtures. The present owners have been steadfast in their refusal to paint the paneling, but have lightened it where possible.

        755 Santa Ynez

Side view


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