When Jone Manoogian and her fiancé walked through an Eichler in a cul-de-sac in Charleston Gardens, they knew their search had come to an end. "This'll be a great starter house," she thought. That was 1956. More than a half-century later, the Manoogians have yet to find reason to leave.
"We still love it," she said. "We'll stay here until they kick us out." Initially drawn in by the mid-century modern architecture, which still seems up-to-date, she cited the close-knit feel and the proximity to schools, shopping and Highway 101 as factors that have made Charleston Gardens an ideal home. Her sentiments about the neighborhood are not unusual.
"It's sort of like a little secret, which is nice," Eileen Brooks said. The small neighborhood, which is bounded by three busy streets -- East Charleston, Middlefield and San Antonio roads -- enjoys a surprising degree of seclusion, and almost no traffic. Residents value the quiet, small-town feel, while remaining within walking distance of major shopping and community centers.
Charleston Gardens was first named and developed in 1951, but during building, the initial developer, Williams & Burroughs, went bankrupt and sold its available sites to Joseph Eichler. As a result, homes of multiple styles may be seen interspersed with one another. The neighborhood was absorbed into a nearby Eichler development called Charleston Terrace for a time before eventually reverting back to its original identity of Charleston Gardens.
Today, the neighborhood owes its cohesion to two factors: natural boundaries in the form of busy streets, and the efforts of partners George Browning and Jean Wilcox. After moving to the neighborhood in 1985, Wilcox began working to organize residents into a single recognized body, an idea that took off when the first annual Charleston Gardens block party was held about a decade later. Now, under the auspices of Browning, the community's efforts center on emergency preparedness. The two developed an email tree, through which they relay news and information of neighborhood interest. Browning said people enjoy the correspondence with one another, and most remain on the list even after moving away.
Turnover can be high in Charleston Gardens, Browning noted, but a healthy cadre of long-time residents complements the 40 percent rental rate. Young families are drawn in by the easy access to good schools, and children can often be seen playing in the magnolia-lined yards, which Brooks said gives the neighborhood a healthy feel.
Renters aside, many young families are finding Charleston Gardens to be an ideal permanent home, just like the Manoogians 55 years ago. Malcolm Fleschner moved to the neighborhood in 2004 with his wife and three young children, and he, too, extols the location above all else.
"We don't have to go far to shop for groceries at Piazza's, enjoy the cultural events, playgrounds, athletic fields and running track at Cubberley, pick up some books at the Mitchell Park library or grab an ice cream cone at Rick's," he said. The Fleschners needn't travel far for good company either. The residents of their Charleston Gardens cul-de-sac gather together for a potluck dinner nearly every Friday evening.
"Our neighbors aren't just neighbors -- they're friends," he said.
CHILDCARE AND PRESCHOOLS (NEARBY): Children's Pre-School Center, 4000 Middlefield Road, T1; Good Neighbor Montessori, 4000 Middlefield Road, K4; Young Fives and PreSchool Family, 4120 Middlefield Road; T'enna Preschool (OFJCC), 3921 Fabian Way
FIRE STATION: No. 4, 3600 Middlefield Road
LIBRARY: Mitchell Park branch, 4050 Middlefield Road (temporary location during construction)
LOCATION: bounded by Middlefield Road, East Charleston Road, Montrose Avenue, Sutherland Drive
NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: George Browning, firstname.lastname@example.org
PARK: Mitchell Park, 600 East Meadow Drive
POST OFFICE: Cambridge, 265 Cambridge Ave.; Main, 2085 E. Bayshore Road
PRIVATE SCHOOLS: Challenger School, 3880 Middlefield Road; Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School, 450 San Antonio Road; Kehillah Jewish High School, 3900 Fabian Way; Palo Alto Prep School, 4000 Middlefield Road, H2
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Fairmeadow or Hoover elementary schools, J.L. Stanford Middle School, Gunn High School
SHOPPING: Charleston Center