Real Estate


Community Center

Neighborhood boasts vibrant history, close-knit neighbors

As a teenager in New York, the only time Karen Ewart heard the name "Palo Alto" it was in reference to a Boondock's bathing suit line. Palo Alto's Community Center neighborhood quickly became home for her in 1974 when she moved into a new Eichler with her family.

She spent time at the local community center, listened to live music at Frost Amphitheater, enjoyed Eleanor Pardee Park (which she fondly calls Eleanor Party Park), and frequented the local coffee house for its 70s rock music. She said growing up in Community Center was "freaking awesome."

Ewart, who has now returned to live with her mother, Terri, in their original home on Harker Avenue, said that many of her neighbors have returned to or had remained in their original homes with their families for years.

"Most families were here long term, and people had a chance to bond," she said. "Most of the kids I met had gone through 12 years of schooling together but still welcomed the new kids from New York."

Terri fell in love with the modern feel of the Eichler on a brief visit to Palo Alto. In keeping with Joseph Eichler's trademark of bringing the outside in, the house features a terrace off the living room and 11 sliding doors.

"They couldn't keep us in," Ewart said of her parents.

Today, however, she feels the neighborhood has lost its convivial atmosphere.

"It's a beautiful place to live; it's just getting harder to be here," she said, citing increased real estate costs, a dearth of casual arts and culture events, and a recent string of car thefts on her street.

Robert McIntyre moved to Palo Alto in 1946 and still recalls the unloading of circus elephants on the site of the current Town & Country Village. Since then, he has owned six houses in town, three of which were located in Community Center. He has been at his current Community Center home on Fulton Street for nearly two decades.

Built in 1921, he describes the house as "French-country style with a nice picket fence."

"It just feels like home," McIntyre said. "Most of the neighbors here have been here since I moved in."

His neighbor Irene Kane, who has been living in Community Center with her husband since 2001, helped organize this year's Labor Day block party on Fulton Street.

"I like the fact that it's quiet, and there are not a lot of through streets, so kids can play on the streets," she said.

Kane and her husband live along the peaceful streets in their 1920s craftsman house.

"There are very few of the original houses left," she said. "I loved being able to walk around when all the houses were different. It's sad for me to see all the craftsman bungalows go."

To Jane Gee, a Community Center resident of 22 years, the neighborhood still lives up to its name.

"We're a real caring community and if someone has a hardship ... we make sure they're helped along," she said.

Gee lists empty nesters, the elderly, singles and renters among the Community Center residents, in addition to families from a multitude of cultures.

"I love the wonderful traditions and friendships they all contribute to make this neighborhood friendly," Gee added.

Her children attended three of Community Center's five public schools: Duveneck Elementary, Jordan Middle and Palo Alto High.

Now an empty nester herself, Gee, along with her husband, Bruce, still enjoys seeing families walk to school on weekday mornings.

"I love watching toddlers turn into teens throughout the years in the neighborhood," she said.

Small alleyways that run between houses make Community Center ideal for dog-walking, and in October and November, residents enjoy the yellowing of the large gingko trees that line the streets, according to Gee.

"They are the most beautiful yellow leaves, and then they drop and we call our street 'Yellow wood,'" said Gee, who lives on Greenwood Avenue.

She and her husband have taken up hydroponic gardening (growing plants in water without soil) in their backyard, and hand out lettuce to neighbors on occasion.

"In addition to being a gorgeous street, we are friendly and supporting of each other and respectful of each other," Gee said. "It's things like this that make a neighborhood a home."

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FACTS

Childcare and preschools: Walter Hays Kids' Club, 1525 Middlefield Road

Fire station: No. 3, 799 Embarcadero Road

Library: Rinconada Library, 1213 Newell Road; Children's Library, 1276 Harriet St.

Location: bounded by Middlefield Road, Channing Avenue, Newell Road and Embarcadero Road

Neighborhood association: Peter Allen, pma94301@comcast.net

Park: Rinconada Park, 777 Embarcadero Road

Post office: Main, 2085 E. Bayshore Road; Hamilton, 380 Hamilton Ave.

Private school: St. Elizabeth Seton School, 1095 Channing Ave.

Public schools: Addison, Duveneck and Walter Hays elementary schools, Jordan Middle School, Palo Alto High School

Shopping: Midtown, Downtown Palo Alto

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Muna Sadek is an editorial intern at Palo Alto Weekly.

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