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Palo Alto Historic Buildings Inventory

180 University Avenue / 510 Emerson Street
Fraser Building / Montgomery Ward / Facebook / West Elm

inventory photo 180
Inventory photo Photo taken May 2, 2015


The following is from the Historic Buildings Inventory 1978 and 1985:

Physical appearance:   As was common in Classical Revival commercial buildings, this structure, when it was remodeled in 1936, was provided with its decor through use of variously hued and patterned brickwork.

Significance:  A substantial and typical building which has always, in its several modified forms, been a prominent feature of the city's "Main Street". Soon after its construction and use for small shops, it became the location of James Fraser's mercantile enterprises (at first, in partnership with Alexander Ferguson, but independently, in a short while).

for thirty years, Fraser was one of the leading merchants of Palo Alto, as the periodic remodeling and expansion of his building suggests. A reticent person without direct descendants, his estate could be settled in 1937 only after prolonged search for and negotiation with numerous distant cousins and nephews in Ireland and England. After his death in 1934, the old building was virtually rebuilt from the ground up and was occupied (1937-62) by Montgomery Ward. When Montgomery Ward closed its retail store, Lytton Savings and Loan Association moved in (across the street is Lytton Plaza, the firm's gift to the city). It became the Cornish and Carey building in 1973.

Note:  In 2008, Facebook was located in the building, at the 500 Emerson address. By 2017, 510 Emerson was the location of West Elm.


detail 2015 photo
Emeson view map
HRB photo ca. 1986: Lytton Plaza in foreground Location map

This building was built in 1899 and is a Category 3 on the Historic Buildings Inventory. The property measures 50 by 175 feet.

Sources: Palo Alto City Directories; Palo Alto Times 12/29/1899. 7/31/1903, 1/2/1914, 5/29/1914, 7/24/1914, 10/24/1914, 9/10/1934, 5/18/1936, 5/23/1936, 11/28/1936; Palo Alto Live Oak: 10/28/1898, 12/6/1898, 1/1/1900 (early photo)


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