1920s: A very fine era for Stanford historical homes
House and garden tour features Lower San Juan neighborhood
Four homes in Stanford University's Lower San Juan neighborhood will be open for the eighth annual Stanford Historic House & Garden Tour on April 22, but true history buffs might want to pick up the book that includes another 22 homes.
The eclectic tour is based on the Stanford Historical Society's latest volume, "Historic Houses VI: Lower San Juan Neighborhood, Continued."
The tour offers a taste of the riches in the book, including who designed and built the homes, and the generations of Stanford professors who have lived there.
Dottie and Joe Shrager (a Stanford Medical School professor and chief of the Division of Thoracic Surgery) were attracted to their Spanish eclectic home, designed by Charles K. Sumner in 1926, partly because they'd just come from the East Coast. There they owned an 18th-century Federal farmhouse sitting on 4.5 acres.
"We wanted modern, airy, but Joe had his heart set on a traditional home," Dottie Shrager said. They liked the idea of living on campus, but they wanted a house that didn't need fixing up.
So a key reason they chose the historic home on campus was the extensive renovations done by the last owner, Kathleen Sullivan. She lived there from 1993 when she joined the Stanford Law School faculty until she moved east in 2008, after serving as the first woman dean of the law school.
Shrager credits Sullivan with creating the sight line from the dining room, through the kitchen, laundry room and family room, ending with French doors leading outside.
Sullivan restored the home from the inside out, beginning with the infrastructure (plumbing, electrical, heating) and continuing to the kitchen and bathrooms. Working with contractor Michael Doherty of Santa Cruz and interior designer Greg Anton of San Jose, she added barrel vaulting and niches, reshaping an archway but retaining original doors, windows and cabinets.
Outside, Sullivan brought in Tim Vine of Landsystems Landscapes, Redwood City, retaining redwoods and cedar in front, persimmon and live oak in back and eucalyptus on the side. Many rooms step directly outside, onto brick patios, with winding paths leading around the garden, including a rhododendron and azalea garden near the kitchen.
Shrager pointed to some of the charming touches: a "Juliet-balcony" window overlooking the living room that allows air flow from a nearby window; a "Hobbit" door — a challenge for her tall husband — that leads outdoors; deeply recessed arched windows in the living room; and a charming oval high window.
Although the Shragers found the house ready to move in, they have made a few changes. The original fireplace was replaced with a gas-burning version, which is used extensively to heat the living room. "We live in this room now," Shrager said.
Several panels of their wooden front door have been replaced with glass, bringing light to an otherwise dark space. And, every house the family has lived in has had a tree swing. The children, ranging from 7 to 14 at the time, insisted.
And they have other plans of their own for the future. They plan to move the Spanish citrus orchard from the shady rear of the property to the sunny front, and sometime they will replace the original wrought-iron railing on the front porch, adding Spanish tiles at that time.
On tour day, much of the art displayed will be by Flo de Bretagne, a Palo Alto artist who is working with Dottie Shrager on a children's book. The paintings are whimsical, colorful — and not at all in the 1926 mode, but Shrager says the white walls are a perfect backdrop to display them.
Other homes on tour, which supports the Stanford Historic Houses Project, include:
* a 1925 Birge Clark-designed Spanish eclectic-style with Moorish arches and a formal rose garden;
* * a 1929 Theodore W. Lenzen shingled, Tudor-style home;
* * a 1929 Henry C. Collins, complete with model railroad.
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What: Stanford Historic House & Garden Tour
When: Sunday, April 22, 1 to 4 p.m.
Where: Lower San Juan Neighborhood, Stanford campus (Park in Parking Structure 6, 560 Wilbur Way, Stanford)
Cost: $30; "Historic Houses VI" will be available for $25 (at the registration desk near the parking).
Associate Editor Carol Blitzer can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.