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Palo Alto Historic Buildings Inventory

500 Melville Avenue

Doll's House / Stark Residence

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Inventory photo Photo taken January 25, 2004


The following is from the Historic Buildings Inventory as revised in 1984:

Physical appearance:   This handsome patio-oriented building is low and rustic in appearance, displaying qualities of Craftsman design philosophy. It was originally L-shaped. the long leg of the L extended beside the patio and was eventually connected to the carriage house. an early postcard of German manufacture features the house as a "typical Palo Alto bungalow", and the Palo Alto Times called it "El Patio"—"one of the most attractive cottages in Palo Alto" furnished with "unique old mahogany furniture and curios from many lands" (11/23/1906).

Many alterations and additions have been made, but all contribute to the charm of this home.

Significance:  A good example of the style and an especially fine plan. Reverend Hiram W. Harbaugh, a Presbyterian pastor at a number of mid-Peninsula churches, and his wife occupied it from 1904 to 1919. Then, until the mid-70s, it was the home of her daughter, Vaal. Vaal Stark (Stanford, 1917), was notable for her wide social and humanitarian interests, focused for 38 years in her services for the Girl Scouts as director of the Big Tree Region (Far Western states). Her Melville Avenue window was lined with dolls which fascinated the neighborhood's children and gave her bungalow its popular name.

Owner/residents in the late 70s were Richard and Randi Wilson.


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robert Brandeis photo map
Robert Brandeis photo Location map

This house was built in 1904 and is a Category 3 on the Historic Buildings Inventory. The architect and builder are unknown. The property measures 125 by 100 feet.

Sources: Palo Alto City Directories; Palo Alto Times 12/30/04, 11/23/06, 3/6/24, 9/22/75; Book 349 (Deeds), p. 33, 1/30/09 (Santa Clara County Recorder); Sandborn Co. Fire Insurance Map of Palo Alto, May 1908. with 1915 and 1919 corrections


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