Publication Date: Friday, Feb. 11, 2000
Romance at the Rengstorff House
Restored Victorian provides magical setting for perfect
By Cindy Arora
The spirit of the Victorian era, with its paeans to romance and fidelity,
surrounded Leslie Frankum on her wedding day. She and her husband-to-be
Joey Bryan fell in love with the idea of bringing a sense of history and
tradition to their June, 1998 wedding ceremony. For them Rengstorff House
proved to be the perfect place to celebrate their commitment.
Rengstorff House, which dates to
about 1864, is located in Shoreline Park. Designed in an Italianate Victorian
style, the house was transferred to the park from the Rengstorff family's
estate in 1980. The staff and grounds keepers who care for the house tend
to its gardens, furnishings, and upkeep, to create a place where weddings
will have a magical feeling.
Although the weddings there vary
in theme, (couples can pick from: modern, religious, traditional and non-traditional
ceremonies) the Rengstorff House specialty is "Victorian weddings with
a touch of the tradition."
"The house is so old-fashioned that
I picked a dress to match the house," Frankum said. "I tried on 50 dresses
before finding the perfect one."
Leslie's storybook wedding
began with a fairy tale proposal, her mother Jan Frankum recalled.
rode their bikes all the way up Rigley Mountain on Catalina Island, and
once at the top Joey thought a picture of the couple would be perfect.
"He asked a women who was walking by to take a picture of them," Jan said.
"Then, he took the wedding ring out of his pocket and showed
it to her and whispered, 'Will you take a picture -- I'm going to propose
to my girlfriend.'"
Bending on one knee Joey fumbled with the
ring while Leslie asked him, 'What are you doing?', laughed Jan, recalling
the story. "He's a really a romantic guy."
Even though they
had dated for five years, Leslie said she felt like a she was fulfilling
her girlhood fantasy, to play Cinderella in a storybook wedding of her
own. On June 20, 1998, Leslie arrived early with her girlfriends. They
gathered in the upstairs rooms to get dressed before the ceremony. Her
mother and the photographer slipped in for last minute hugs and pictures
before the wedding. She obligingly stood before the second story window,
and sat in an upholstered chair for her bridal portraits.
homage to turn of the century fashions, Leslie wore a dress of white and
rum pink, with poofed sleeves reminiscent of the mutton-legged style popular
among Victorian ladies. A cascading train trailed behind her when she
walked down the stairs and out into the garden.
The house itself
is decorated in flowered fabric wallpaper, and furnished with antiques
acquired by the Mountain View Historical Association. Usually couples
chose the covered patio and small circular-shaped garden in back for ceremonies,
but Leslie and Joey brought so many guests they set up on the front lawn
Soon she stood in front of her new husband, surrounded
by nature's beauty and joyful faces. It took her breath away. Shoreline's
sailing lake created the picturesque backdrop to their first kiss as a
married couple. The lush green vegetation, white roses, Shasta daisies,
and day lilies provided more than enough decoration.
and vines and everything -- it was fabulous. Every guest commented on
it, and most of the guests wanted to stay and tour the house before and
after the wedding."
The focus of the house is a formal dining
room and parlour, with a large kitchen suitable for caterers in the rear.
Small offices are reached by the central hall. Upstairs are dressing rooms
and a bath. "It was just perfect," said Leslie.
I didn't want to have an outdoor wedding -- we looked at so many indoor
places, but they were too formal. It wasn't 'us'. But the Rengstorff House
held sentimental value for me because I grew up in Mountain View, so I
always considered it."
Built in 1864 by landowner and rancher
Henry Rengstorff, the house was originally located a quarter mile north
of the Bayshore freeway. It was moved to its Shoreline Boulevard location
20 years ago. There it underwent a restoration process to insure both
the architectural integrity and aesthetic values of the house. In 1991
the Rengstorff House was dedicated as a public facility by the City Council.
Weddings began to take place soon after, under the guidance
of volunteer Katie Gooch. A lady of certain age and maturity, Gooch puts
engaged couples at ease with her languid southern drawl and an unmistakable
air of confidence. She knows just how everything will unfold on each bride's
special day, and how to make it all flow smoothly. Food will be set up
in the kitchen, guests will be kept away from the bride's quarters and
gently directed to stroll in the garden.
According to Gooch,
people can't help but feed off the ambience of the place. People want
to be in a place that is quaintly and quietly old-fashioned.
else would you a have a significant amount of weddings with harps and
violins?" Gooch asked. "And it's a great place for a horse and carriage.
Picture a gorgeous white carriage, black shiny horses and burgundy upholstery
coming up to the house. It's really beautiful."
Gooch, many of the couples who end up having their wedding at Rengstorff
House do it for the same reason Leslie and Joey did. They long to bring
a hint of history, of childhood pleasures, or of sentimental memories
to the occasion. In Mountain View couples often court in the park. Watching
Canada Geese by the lake, golfing, and watching your true love struggle
along in their wind surfing class does indeed inspire a good number of
marriage proposals, said Gooch.
"We had a couple that met here
at Shoreline roller blading, and when he proposed to her he brought her
back up here to go bike-riding," Gooch said. "And many people tell me,
'My grandparents had a house that looked like this.' They have fond memories
of their grandparents and this house gives them the feeling they had when
they were children."
"People who come up here are romantic,"
Gooch said. Leslie's mother agrees. Her husband of 37 years, Tom, still
calls her his bride.
"Something borrowed, something new, something
old, something blue and a sixpence in your shoe," recited Jan. Carrying
on a tradition of her own, she dropped an English coin in Leslie's shoe
just before the ceremony. The coin, which was given to Jan by her grandmother,
represents a wish for good luck.
For Jan her luck came when
her daughter finally decided to get married and to have her wedding at
Rengstorff House, Jan's favorite place.
"My intent was to always
have the wedding at the Rengstorff house -- but as mother of the bride
I had to go along when she wanted to look at other places," Jan said with
As for the father of the bride, Tom Frankum says watching
his daughter get married in her home town, and sharing the day with family
and friends made it all the more special.
"She wanted a nice
hometown place and we checked different venues but we already knew the
Rengstorff place and knew it had a nice atmosphere," Tom said. " It was
very special -- the fulfillment of a dream. Dads think about their daughters
getting married before they even go away to school," he said.
of the Rengstorff weddings take place outside during the months of mid-April
to mid-October because of the great weather. According to Gooch, winter
weddings are primarily held indoors, are smaller scale and occasionally
are candle-lit ceremonies. "The Rengstorff house is so enchanting -- the
bride feels different walking down the aisle at the Rengstorff house,"
"You get a Victorian house, gardens, and a narrow staircase that the
bride can float down." She rounds the house and comes into the view of
the wedding. Rather than walking down the aisle she comes around the corner,"
said Gooch. "It is a real Victorian feeling - ahh," Gooch recalled, smiling.
Romance at the Rengstorff House
The spirit of the Victorian era with its paeans to romance and fidelity
surrounded Leslie Frankum on her wedding day. She and her husband to be,
Joey Bryan, fell in love with the idea of bringing a sense of history
and tradition to their wedding ceremony. For them, Rengstorff House proved
to be the perfect place to celebrate their commitment.
Rengstorff House, which dates to circa 1864, is located in Shoreline
Park. Designed in an Italiante Victorian style, the house was transferred
to the park from the Rengstorff family estate in 1980. The staff and groundskeepers
who care for the house tend to its gardens, furnishings and upkeep to
create a place where weddings will have a magical feeling.