When Walt and Crystal Gamage moved into their new home on Channing Avenue, the stay was supposed to be temporary. The house wasn't big enough for a family with three teenage daughters, and the small lot had a short list of inconveniences to boot.
"The back yard was a disaster. I didn't like the garden. I didn't like the orientation," Crystal Gamage said.
Bottom line: She didn't like the house — at least until they changed the landscaping.
The family of five had planned to stay for a year. That was in 1957. Now, more than 50 years later, Crystal still lives in her little home in the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood of Palo Alto, and she can't see herself anywhere else.
Most of the homes in the area were built in the early 1950s and sold for little over $14,000, Gamage said. Prices today are often above the $1 million mark.
Although the homes were originally built as tract houses, each has developed its own little piece of individuality over time. Her family added a new living room in 1961 in order to increase living space. Nowadays new residents often pursue similar projects to accommodate larger families, she said.
Nearly every home in Duveneck has a tree in its front yard. Some blocks, like one on Iris Way, have two street-long rows of trees planted with such symmetry that the little street resembles a tunnel of greenery that leads to a quiet place in the country.
The community was once called Green Gables before the merger of Green Gables and Crescent Park elementary schools in 1982. The neighborhood and the elementary school at its center were then named for Los Altos Hills philanthropists Frank and Josephine Duveneck, founders of the Hidden Villa environmental education center.
Neighborhood Association President Karen White has been a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis area since 1979. In 2006, she and her husband co-hosted a block party with the help of longtime residents Tad and Maureen Simons. The event was designed to bring together neighbors new and old and to promote a "Neighborhood-Watch" type of camaraderie. More than 200 people took part in the festivities, White said.
"Everyone seemed to have a great time," White said. "We plan on making it an annual event."
Newer residents are often drawn to Duveneck/St. Francis because of the opportunity to send their children to the many esteemed public schools in the area, White said.
"We have more children now than we had 15 years ago," she said. "Many families move from other cities because of our excellent schools."
The neighborhood is close to the main library and both Rinconada and Eleanor Pardee parks, making it a perfect place for a growing family, Jonathan Foster, a resident since 2000, said.
"The reality is that it's a very attractive neighborhood that is perhaps a little bit less expensive realistically than some of the other neighborhoods around here," he said.
Many of the neighborhood's residents are active in the Palo Alto community. In 2005, Foster led the effort to pass Measure A, the parcel-tax initiative benefiting schools in the Palo Alto Unified School District. He and hundreds of others are also taking part in the ongoing discussion of what to do with Edgewood Plaza shopping center, located at the heart of Duveneck/St. Francis.
CHILDCARE AND PRESCHOOLS: Duveneck Kids' Club, 705 Alester Ave.
FIRE STATION: No. 3, 799 Embarcadero Road
LIBRARY: Main Library, 1213 Newell Road
NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: Karen White, 650-494-7026, KarenWhite4@sbcglobal.net
PARKS (NEARBY): Rinconada Park, 777 Embarcadero Road; Eleanor Pardee Park, 851 Center Drive
POST OFFICE: Main, 2085 E. Bayshore Road
PRIVATE SCHOOLS (NEARBY): International School of the Peninsula, 151 Laura Lane; St. Elizabeth Seton, 1095 Channing Ave.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Duveneck Elementary School, Jordan Middle School, Palo Alto High School
SHOPPING: Edgewood Shopping Center
MEDIAN 2008 HOME PRICE: $1,486,000 ($950,000-$1,790,000)
HOMES SOLD: 17