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Palo Alto Historic Buildings Inventory

706 Cowper Street
Downing House

inventory 706 Cowper
Photo taken in 1978. Photo taken in 2015.

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

Physical appearance:   This is a flamboyant copybook example of the Queen Anne with the spindle work decoration relief panels, elaborate turned columns and witch's hat tower so important to the popular image of the mode.

Significance:   T. B. Downing (1864–1916) and his wife Margaret (Sanford) built one of the most ornate and largest houses in early Palo Alto. They came to California in 1879 and to Palo Alto in 1894. He was a large investor in Palo Alto property, a member of the early school board and of the first City Council. Just before his death, he and his son developed the Downing Block on Hamilton Avenue.

The house merits long observation. Most outstanding is the round corner tower with its finial, brackets, dentil and window molding, as well as the different types of shingles. From the front, there is a repetition of gables; one over the porch, the largest one at the second floor roof line, and the third on the attic dormer. The rich motifs are repeated on the bargeboards and peaks. The porch abounds with gingerbread:  columns, balustrade and spindles at the eaves. There is a stanted bay framing a round window on the side of the house under still another gable. The bracket and pendant decoration, which ws popular at the time, softens the cut–off corners.

This house is one of the finest examples of Queen Anne in Palo Alto.

round window detail
tower map

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:

The Downing House, built by W. Matlock Campbell for T. B. and Margaret Downing, is probably the most flamboyant Queen Anne still in Palo Alto. Rescue 1894 and restored as offices in the 1970's, it is on The National Register of Historic Places and abounds with gingerbread, decorative shingles, gables, and a "witch's hat" tower. A member of the original City Council, Downing erected the Downing Block at Hamilton and Emerson.

historic photo

This house was built in 1894 and is a Category 1 on the Historic Buildings Inventory. The builder was W. Matlock Campbell. The property measures 75 by 134 feet.


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