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Palo Alto Historic Buildings Inventory

1300 Hamilton Avenue

Williams House

inventory photo 1300
Inventory photo Photo taken May 6, 2013


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

Physical appearance:   This handsome Colonial Revival house displays a Palladian window in the roof-line dormer, shallow ornamental balconies supported by shaped brackets under the second-floor windows, and, at ground level, a columned entry below a triangular pediment. with matching triple windows at each side of the entrance. Even the basement windows maintain the symmetry of the facade. The house was redecorated inside as a Designers' Showcase in 1985. The structure at the left front was added in 1935.

Significance:   One of the most effective Colonial Revival houses of the city's first decade. It was built for Charles H. Williams, a ship master who, before retirement, was employed by Alaskan packers. Williams bought the site—the 14.5 acres—from William and Jessie Pitman early in 1902 (and, as well, a Palo Alto lot on Waverley near Forest). It is presumed that the house was at least partially complete in 1903, since the Williams are reported to live in the Pitman tract in the city directory of January 1904, and since Williams was said to be training a trotting horse on his stock farm in July, 1903. (However, a house for Williams is reported in 1900, while his grandson recalls mention of using the tank house as a residence after the earthquake of 1906).

After World War I, Willliams formed a partnership with J. W. Freer. Their Laurel Dale Dairy, comprising 110 acres in the Hamilton Avenue–Newell Road area, was described by the Palo Alto Times (10/2/23) as

"a prosperous dairy, with broad fields of alfalfa, corn and hay, neat white buildings to shelter the stock, refrigeration and bottling plant, wide spreading trees and green lawns, and a large and pleasant dwelling, vine–covered and surrounded by flowers, for the proprietor to live in."

Willliams sold the house in 1935 to Edward and Anita Liston. Liston, a native of England, received medical training at St. Bartholomew's in London. En route home from his internship in Buenos Aires, he visited a brother in San Jose and decided to settle permanently on the Peninsula. After a short time in San Francisco, he opened his practice in the Medico-Dental Building in Palo Alto. When he completed military service in World War II, he joined the Palo Alto Medical Clinic, retiring in 1975. He died in 1986.

Mrs. Liston was active in the American Red Cross, and in medical auxiliary and philanthropic organizations.

Lorenzo and Charlotte Costello were the third owners of the house. He was an attorney with degrees from Stanford and the University of California. In Porterville, where he began his practice, he served City Treasurer and Police Judge. He came to Palo Alto in 1930, was elected Mayor 1938 – 1939, and retired in 1966.

Linda Sutherland acquired the property in 1975.

Additional information from the 1985 Decorator's Showcase booklet:  It has been thought that Williams, a Swedish immigrant, might have been captain of the Balclutha, now berthed in San Francisco. Also, according to his grandson, he was ship's captain in the Alaska Packard fleet and sailed north for six months each year to catch fish for a cannery in Alameda.

Originally, the house had four bedrooms and one bathroom, but in 1985 had eight bedrooms and six bathrooms. 


showcase photo floor plan
1300 map
Location map

This house was built in 1903 [1901?] and is a Category 4 on the Historic Buildings Inventory. The builder might have been James W. Wells. The 1935 structure was built by Aro and Okerman. The property measures 130 by 140 feet.

Sources: Palo Alto City Directories; Palo Alto Times 1/4/01, 6/20/02, 7/31/03, 11/2/22, 12/4/22, 10/2/23, 4/19/26, 11/5/28, 1/31/32, 11/6/43, 8/4/50, 8/12/67, 11/28, 77, 1/11/85, 3/1/85; San Francisco Chronicle, 3/6/28; San Jose Mercury News, 1/23/85; Dallas E. Wood, History of Palo Alto, p. 196; letter from Karl Kortum, National Maritime Museum, San Francisco, 9/5/84 (C.H. Williams not listed among masters of historic ship Balclutha); Country Almanac, 2/6/85 (interview with Collis Williams); Book 252 (Deeds), p. 182–3, 3/12/02; book 253 (Deeds), p. 198, 3/12/02; book 352 (Deeds), p. 182, 4/12/02; Book 319 (Deeds), p. 422, 3/29/07 (Santa Clara Co. Recorder); interviews, 1985, Linda Sutherland, Lawrence Liston


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