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Palo Alto Historic Buildings Inventory

1855 Cowper Street
Originally 501 Seale Avenue

inventory photo 1855 Cowper Nicole Dymmel photo
Photo taken in 1978. Photo taken April 28, 2014 by Miriam Palm Photo taken April 16, 2023 byNicole Dymmel

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

Physical appearance:   This Craftsman house has unusual details: gable–form windows, a truss–trellis which appears to derive from English Ecclesiastical motifs, and lytchgate. The clapboard surfacing, instead of shingles, is uncommon in this style. The T–shape of mullions and cross–pieces in the many windows produces a particularly delicate effect. The extended informal side garden at the northeast has been cut off recently [1985] and another house is occupying the space which originally added to the rustic atmosphere.

Significance:  This is an inventive and idiosyncratic interpretation of the Craftsman image. It was built for Reverend Hiram W. and Anna Harbaugh (see also 500 Melville), a Presbyterian minister for a number of Peninsula churches. They occupied it until 1940.

The next year it became the home of Charles Arnaud and Caroline La Peire. Mrs. La Peire kept the house until her death in 1981. Mr. La Peire came to California from Connecticut in 1853, working as a wheelwright, blacksmith, and wagon maker before settling in Mayfield. He moved to Palo Alto and operated a grocery store at 521 Ramona Street (razed in 1947). His son, Edwin A. La Peire, was born in Mayfield, entered his father's business, and served on the City Council between 1909 and 1915. C. Arnaud La Peire was the purchasing agent on the West Coast for Fox Theaters.

Dennis Levett acquired the property in 1985.


This house was built in 1922 and is a Category 4 on the Historic Buildings Inventory. The builder is unknown. The property measures 50 by 200 feet.

Sources: Palo Alto City Directories; Palo Alto Times 2/1/22, 3/1/22, 4/3/24, 9/9/37, 4/20/40, 11/12/66 (illustrated), 5/14/81; interviews Barbara La Peire Zinsmaster, Lisa Stelick (1985); Book 558 (Deeds), p. 577, September 1, 1922 (Santa Clara Co. Recorder)


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