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Palo Alto Historic Buildings Inventory

351 Homer Avenue

Williams House / Museum of American Heritage / MOAH

Inventory photo
Inventory photo Photo taken June 22, 2008


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

Physical appearance:   This restrained Tudor Revival house derives its visual interest from the straight-forward but sculptural qualities of its intersecting forms. The grounds are heavily landscaped. The building is one of two known surviving Palo Alto designs by a very important Bay Area architect. The wing across from the recessed loggia was designed to provide an office, reception room, laboratory, and surgery for the original owner, Dr. Thomas M. Williams.

The gabled roofed two-story structure is surfaced in stucco.

Significance:  A fine design fro the hand of a recognized master, illustrating Ernest Coxhead's elegant manipulations of standard stylistic themes. It has always been owned by the family of Dr. Thomas M. Williams, for whom it was built. Williams took his A. B. at Stanford in 1897, and the M. D. at Columbia; he played center on the Stanford football team in 1895–96 and his interest in athletics continued during his years of medical practice in Palo alto, beginning in 1904. For over a decade he chaired the University's Board of Athletic Control and was instrumental indecisions leading to construction of the Stadium. He served as city Health Officer 1908-1910, and was a member of the City Council 1923–26. Dr. Williams had two daughters, Rhona and Betty. Betty possessed the original Coxhead blueprints.

The structure is an important and relatively rare example of Coxhead's work, many presentatives of which have been demolished. Palo Alto is fortunate to possess two examples, this and 567 Melville Avenue. The structure stands toward the rear of the large lot with its once extensive garden [since restored]. The current planting is overgrown and obscures the building from street view. The house and lot are one of the few remaining residential properties in this gradually evolving commercial area. [1978]

Rhona Williams lived in the house until her death. She bequeathed her home to the City of Palo Alto and in 1997 the Museum of American Heritage found its permanent home here.


detail windows
garden front garden entry
front yard garden wall
Front yard arranged for PAST Plaque and Preservation Award presentation in 2007
garden 1907 photo

1907 photo
MOAH photo map
Photo from the Museum of American Heritage Location map

This house was built in 1906 and is a Category 2 on the Historic Buildings Inventory. The architect was Ernest Coxhead but the builder is unknown. The garden and Kathleen Craig, coordinator of volunteers, were honored with a PAST Preservation Landscape Award in 1998. The property measures 100 by 200 feet.

Sources: Palo Alto City Directories; Palo Alto Times 9/17/06, 12/17/48; Eugene T. Sawyer, History of Santa Clara County..., (Los Angeles, Historic Records Co., 1922), pp. 1474-1475; interview 1983, Rhona Williams; Guy C. Miller, Palo Alto Community Book, (Palo Alto, 1952), pp. 185-6; Dallas E. Wood, History of Palo Alto, Palo Alto, 1939), p. 195


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