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Palo Alto Historic Buildings Inventory

1531 College Avenue

Earlier:  1408 and 1115 Palo Alto Avenue, Mayfield

1531 inventory photo 1535
Photo of 1531 taken September 12, 2014. Photo of 1531 taken in 1978. Photo of 1535 taken September 12, 2014.

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

Physical appearance:   This small house is made visually outstanding by generous use of machined ornaments. Although the general image and most of the ornamentation derives from Queen Anne styling, there are some Stick Style elements, as well. The house retains its rails and newel posts as well as its water tower [1979]. The pump was originally run by means of a very noisy one–cylinder gasoline engine.

NOTE: The house has been expanded dramatically since the inventory was made as is shown in the recent photo. The home at 1535 is sited on the lot identified as 1531 on the Inventory, but certainly takes its style from that of the original 1531 and infact might be the original 1531.

Significance:  This is a superb, elaborately–decorated Queen Anne cottage. Among builders of the time and locale who might have put it up for Alexander Gordon, developer of College Terrace, were William Peacock (builder of the similarly–elaborate, but larger, Decker house at 510 Waverley Street in 1904); P. P. Quinn and E. A. Hettinger, who built in Mayfield as well as Palo Alto in the 1890s, and L. S. Bean, who built a nearby house in 1904.

Like the houses at 1487 and 1528 College Avenue, it was meant to be a model or "come–on" house, according to Birge Clark, who grew up nearby in the 1890s. By 1894 its occupants were the O. C. (Carter) Coffin family, whose daughter Bessie and son James began their undergraduate studies at Stanford in German (Bessie, A..B. 1898 and Latin (James, A.B. 1900, M.A. 1902). The three or four family cows supplied milk to the neighbors.

The Coffins apparently were renters, for it was Alexander Gordon who sold the house in 1905 to Ann Eliza Reed and her sister, Clara Hackley, of Syracuse, New York. Mrs. Hackley's son Robert attended Stanford and became a well–established civil engineer on the Peninsula (see 353 Melville Avenue). Her brother, Albert L. Trowbridge, and his wife Alma, also lived in the house. Trowbridge became an assistant controller and engineer in charge of operations and maintenance at Stanford. Mrs. Trowbridge was an accomplished musician who taught school before her marriage in 1928, and was a vocal soloist at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Palo Alto.

The Reed–Hackley–Trowbridge tenure ended with the sale of the property to a neighbor, Ernest L. Walker, and re–sale to W. J. and Mary F. Flood in 1919. Flood was an Army captain who supervised the R.O.T.C. at Mission High School in San Francisco, 1919–1928. The Floods kept the house until 1934.

From 1940–1946, Mrs. Lily L. Ball occupied the house, followed by short–term tenants until 1961. It has been occupied since then by Jewell C. Hines.

2014 photo palm tree
new double chimneys

May 13, 2015 photo

This location map adds to the confusion about the identity of 1531 as the house now at 1531 is on the corner lot, but the current house at this location clearly matches the house described above.

The following is from the Centennial Buildings Tour, prepared by The City of Palo Alto Historic Resources Board for the Centennial Building Celebration, April 16, 1994. The houses included on the tour were all identified as at least 100 years old:

Yet another "Come On" house, this is a superb example of Queen Anne cottage style. Its gable and bay details are executed with great delicacy using machined ornamentation and fish tail patterned shingles which recall the earlier Stick style. Built in the early 1890's, it is a Category 1 (Exceptional Building) on the Inventory.

This house was built in the 1890s and is a Category 1 on the Historic Buildings Inventory. The architect and builder are unknown. The property measures 50 by 115 feet.

Sources: Palo Alto City Directories; Palo Alto Times 9/14/04. 10/27/48. 11/15/69; Stanford Universtiy Alumni Directory (1957); AAUW, . . . Gone Tomorrow?, p. 60; Book 293 (Deeds), p. 193, 6/13/05; Book 319 (Deeds, p. 36, 3/1/07; Book 486 (Deeds), p. 63, 3/20/19 (Santa Clara Co. Recorder); interview 1985 Mary Lou (Hackley) Vivanco; 1986, Birge Clark,; U.S. Census 1900, Santa Clara County Roll 110, E.D. 53, p.6


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