Publication Date: Friday Feb 5, 1999
Persevering to preserve the pastHacienda's owners' patience rewarded with a shining example of history
by Jennifer Klein
When Palo Alto architect Monty Anderson began restoring the landmark Hacienda de Lemos in Old Palo Alto, he understood the importance of the job he was undertaking. He just wasn't sure if the end result would be praised or vilified by preservationists.
Seven years and about $1.5 million later, the verdict is in, and Anderson passed with flying colors.
As proof of his success, the California Preservation Foundation recently presented Anderson and the home's owners, Harry and Shirley Hagey, with a 1999 Preservation Design award in the category of rehabilitation/adaptive reuse. The award recognizes efforts to restore structures to their original forms without altering the historical character.
"I think Monty did a great job on remembering what everything looked like and then making it work," Shirley said.
Hacienda de Lemos--also known as Waverley Oaks, the name of the cul-de-sac where it sits--was built over a span of 10 years in the 1920s and 1930s by Pedro de Lemos, a former curator of the Stanford Art Museum and founder of the Carmel Art Institute. De Lemos, who was an artist in his own right, designed the house himself. He also handcrafted many of the colorful and whimsical tiles that decorate the inside and outside of the house. The architecture is classified as "Spanish eclectic."
The long, arduous process of restoring the house began shortly after the Hageys bought it in 1991. Because there were no drawings of the over-9,000-square-foot house, the first step was to draw some up.
Anderson next spent eight weeks measuring and photographing every inch of the property. He also had a structural engineer conduct an inspection.
"All of this showed us a few things." Anderson said. "First, water and termites were eating the structure up and second, seismically, the building was a structural nightmare. We had to find a way to come in and make the house sound."
When they took off the stucco in places, termites had left the studs looking like ragged driftwood. Whole sections of walls were eaten away.
"The character of the house is already recognized, so we needed to take all these parts apart, fix them and put them back together without anyone noticing," Anderson said.
However, the Pueblos section of the Hacienda, once used for servants' quarters, was so damaged by termites that it was torn down and rebuilt so that the exterior would look exactly as it did before. The house was too big for tent treatment, but other parts of the house were spot treated for termites.
The next major structural task was making the house relatively earthquake safe. Supports for the roof members were not well attached and the beams were undersized. In many places the foundation was inadequate and cracked, Anderson said.
"The renovation is near the same amount of work it took to build the house," Anderson said. "It really was like four large projects in one."
As far as the interior went, Anderson pretty much kept out of the way. The only major work that he did, other than structural support, was installing a low-voltage lighting system and remodeling the kitchen. All of the renovation work inside was to help make the Hacienda more livable.
"The living room and other rooms were masterpieces on their own," Anderson said.
Anderson and his small crew of contractors tackled the house in sections. Depending on what part of the Hacienda they were working on, the Hagey family would move into a different section.
While the kitchen was being remodeled, they camped out in the family room and cooked their meals in the Casita, a smaller cabin that used to house migrant workers and is still being restored.
As parts of the Hacienda were finished, the Hageys would work with Susan Strahorn, the owner of Optimum Environments of Menlo Park, on the interior decorating of each room.
"It was hard to figure out what to put in the house because it's not Mexican, it's not Spanish colonial or Mediterranean," Shirley said. "It's a mix."
Fortunately, one of de Lemos' granddaughters contacted the Hageys about some furniture and other pieces she was planning on selling. Many of the items had originally been in the Hacienda, such as a pair of straight-backed, leather chairs and a statue of the Virgin Mary that de Lemos had had inside a nook beside the front door.
The Hacienda is filled with de Lemos' artistic touches. From intricately carved wooden ceilings to stenciled patterns on the walls and windows, de Lemos gave each room a unique feeling.
"We like the humanness of each room," Shirley said. "I think that's the artistic talent of Pedro--it's livable."
Still, when the Hageys moved in, it was clear that the Hacienda's interior would need to be brightened up. The family room walls were covered with shredded burlap, and the kitchen was not designed to accommodate a family.
"The architecture was the star here, and we tried to respect what de Lemos did," Strahorn said. "But a family lives here, so we tried to make it livable."
One of the more difficult problems to solve was making it clear to visitors which entry is the front door. The main door, which opens onto a courtyard, is not the first door off the driveway, which confuses people making deliveries.
"The delivery people still deliver everything to the wrong door," Shirley said. "One day I came home to find that the person who delivers the telephone books had left one at each door they came across. Every time I opened a door, I would find another phone book."
Strahorn and the Hageys haven't found a truly effective way to avoid confusion, but they did install a doorbell to replace the two large knockers and hand-rung bell that de Lemos used.
"We had a lot of fun with this," Strahorn said. "This is the kind of job that spoils you."