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Palo Alto Historic Buildings Inventory

538 – 540 – 542 Ramona Street

Phelps-Terkel / Gallery House

Ramona Street Architectural District

538 538
538 Ramona HRB photo taken 1985 showing 540-542 on left


The following is from the National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form dated May 21, 1985 and the Historic Buildings Inventory as revised in 1981:

Physical appearance:   The structure is a one- and two-story, Spanish Colonial Revival galleried commercial/office building. The relationship between the shop fronts and sidewalks is particularly fine.

Significance:  A fine building performing an important urban design function, 538 was specially designed by Birge Clark for Phelps-Terkel, a quality men's store. The exterior organization was intended to have one structure appear as two, a scaled device typical of this district. the street level façade of the one-story section has a corbeled arch under which are two large tiled roof display cases which preceded the recessed showcase window and entrance.

The interior of the one-story section was designed for a specific tenant, a men's clothing store, Phelps-Terkel. the rough plaster walls are accented by a peaked beamed ceiling and numerous large wrought iron lighting fixtures

The rear half of the store is defined by a raised floor and arched entry with a brick and stucco fireplace as the focal point. This part of the store was the suit area, which the architect described as having a tweed country club atmosphere with lounge chairs, a bowl of tobacco, and relatively little visible merchandise.

The two-story section has two round arches on the street level façade and a recessed balcony trimmed with hand-adzed posts and beams at the second level.

The interiors and exteriors remain substantially as designed.

Other tenants have included the Christian Science Reading Room, Photographic Gallery, Gallery House and Coupa Cafe.

538 top of display window
  June 22, 2016 photo of 538 Ramona
display window door
540 detail 538 roof
Roof tiles of 238 Ramona between 540 on left and 536 on right
view from 533 detail
address map

This structure was built in 1927 and is a Category 2 on the Historic Buildings Inventory. The architect was Birge Clark and the builder was  Wells Goodenough. The property measures 46 by 100 feet.

Sources: Palo Alto Times 3/3/27; Birge Clark Commercial Inventory; National Register of Historic Places Nomination papers, 1985


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