Real Estate

Monta Loma

Mid-century modern architecture on Palo Alto border

When Maren Whitson and her husband moved to the Monta Loma neighborhood where there are predominantly Eichler-style houses with garages as the dominant façade, the couple's reaction was, "Whoa! What are all these garages?"

But over the five years since they moved into their Eichler-built home near Thaddeus Park, they have come to appreciate mid-century modern architecture and its impact on the neighborhood.

"Part of the architecture in our neighborhood is you don't get to the front door unless you walk way onto the property because the front doors are set so far back. But, we've found that this encourages people to go out front," Whitson said. "A lot of people are playing on driveways and out walking dogs. I just love to come out here with my kids and watch people go by."

Located near the south Palo Alto border, Monta Loma has a distinct look and feel. Nearly all of the approximately 1,008 homes are less than 1,300 square feet and feature open floor plans and large windows that integrate indoor space with the outdoors. Joseph Eichler, John Mackay and Mardell Building Co. -- all leading developers of contemporary design built the tracts during the post-World War II housing boom in the 1950s.

Ben Baumgartner, who has lived in Mountain View for 77 years, used the GI Bill to purchase the last house in the Mardell Manor tract of the neighborhood near San Antonio Road in 1957 to be close to his parents' apricot farm on Evelyn Road.

"When I first moved in, I could have fired a rifle from my front door toward San Antonio, and I wouldn't have hit any other houses," he recalled.

Baumgartner said all the homes in his tract were prefabricated at a construction yard and hauled to the neighborhood on trucks.

"When you have a construction yard that cuts everything to exact size and nails it together and sets it up, everything fits perfectly," Baumgartner said.

Helen Wolter, who moved into an Eichler in the neighborhood in 2004, said Eichlers used to be cheaper than other homes because a lot of people didn't like the style. But that's changed. Now, there's a renewed appreciation for the sleek and clean lines of the homes, possibly in part to Apple founder Steve Jobs, who lived in one of the Monta Loma homes as a boy and attributed the home's style to influencing the design of his computers.

Houses that sold for around $225,000 in 1996 are now selling for more than $1.1 million, according to a report from real estate company Trulia.

Whitson said she believes the neighborhood's strong sense of community is what makes Monta Loma so attractive.

She and her husband initially moved to the area because it was more affordable than Palo Alto and close to downtown, but after renting an apartment there for two years, the couple decided they wanted to stay long term, and purchased a house just down the street.

"When we moved in, people were very happy about having a young couple who seemed like they would be around for a while," she said. "So many homes in our neighborhood are owned by people who've been around for a long time. I think that's part of the character that we like and want."

Now, with two young sons, Whitson said living in the neighborhood is a whole new experience.

"It's a fantastic neighborhood for a family with kids," she said. Every August, the neighborhood holds an ice cream social, and in December, there is a progressive dinner. Whitson recently launched a play group for preschool-age children, which already has attracted 35 families.


CHILDCARE AND PRESCHOOLS: Hobbledehoy Montessori Preschool, 2321 Jane Lane; Monta Loma Babysitting Co-op (part of Monta Loma Neighborhood Association)

FIRE STATION: No. 3, 301 Rengstorff Ave.

LOCATION: bounded by just south of San Antonio Road, West Middlefield Road, Rengstorff Avenue and Central Expressway

NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: Monta Loma Neighborhood Association, Estuardo Montufar, president,

PARKS: Monta Loma Park, Thompson Avenue and Laura Lane; Thaddeus Park, West Middlefield Road and Independence Avenue

POST OFFICE: Mountain View, 211 Hope St.

PRIVATE SCHOOLS: Waldorf High School of the Peninsula, 180 N. Rengstorff Ave.

PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Mtn. View-Whisman School District -- Monta Loma Elementary School, Crittenden Middle School; Mtn. View-Los Altos Union High School District -- Los Altos High School

SHOPPING: Central Expressway and Rengstorff Avenue; Monta Loma Plaza, West Middlefield Road and Rengstorff Avenue; The Village at San Antonio Center

— Linda Taaffe, 2014


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