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Palo Alto Historic Buildings Inventory

420 Florence Avenue

inventory photo recent photo
Inventory photo Photo taken March 2, 2015


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

Physical appearance:   

A prominent Queen Anne style building, with conical corner tower, partly cantilevered, and other "Victorian" detailing retained in spirit, if not in original form in every respect, when it was fully reconstructed and considerably enlarged in 1983.


This was one of the first buildings in Palo Alto intended to combine commercial and residential rental use. It was built for Major H. F. Perry (see 737 Bryant Street) as an investment. These purposes it served, housing not only roomers, but the early tailor shop of N. Aihara, and the notions and dry goods shop of Mrs. Gertrude Burns. For a brief period (ca. 1916), Alfred Werry rented space for his electrical shop.

In 1921, it was moved from its original location at the corner of University Avenue and Bryant Street to its present address. Replacing it was the new Follmer–Rhodes building in which was placed the popular Russell (later Sunset) Cafeteria. (Russell Wilson bought the restaurant business of Mrs. Addie Hurd on Ramona Street; he sold Russell Cafeteria in 1929 to Sunset. Sunset's manager, Fred A. Pfaff, purchased the cafeteria in 1941 but was forced to close soon afterward in 1942). At 420 Florence Street, the building mainly was used for rental flats until its present (1983) reconstruction for office uses. The owner and one of the occupants from the mid–forties to the late sixties was A. Grady Fritz, a Palo Alto policeman.


2015 photo HRB photo
Location 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:

This early example of a combined commercial/residential rental property was built by W. Matlock Campbell for Major H. F. Perry at the corner of University and Bryant and was moved here in 1921. Besides roomers, it housed at various times a tailor shop, notions and dry goods store, and electrical shop. Later it was mainly rental flats until it was reconstructed and converted to offices in 1983.

This house was built in 1893 and is a Category 3 on the Historic Buildings Inventory. The builder was W. Matlock Campbell. The property measures 50 by 112.5 feet.

Sources: Palo Alto City Directories; Palo Alto Times 1/5/94, 3/13/18, 2/9/22, 5/27/22, 6/2/22, 121/30/22, 1/31/27, 6/2/42, 2/11/56; Palo Alto Live Oak 4/3/99, photograph 1/1/1900; Palo Alto Weekly, 9/19/83 (illustrations and remodeling description); interview Al Werry, 1985


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