Bridal 2000

Publication Date: Friday, Feb. 11, 2000

Romance at the Rengstorff House

Restored Victorian provides magical setting for perfect weddings

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.

"They 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.

In 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 instead.

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.

"The flowers 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.

"Originally, 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.

"Where 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."

According to 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 a wink.

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.

Most 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," Gooch said.

"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.