Stately elegance

Publication Date: Friday Feb 4, 2000

Stately elegance

Crescent Park provides a leafy sanctuary for its residents

by Blair Tindall

Dawn Macurdy has lived halfway around the world, but when it came time to find a new home, she chose Palo Alto's Crescent Park neighborhood in a heartbeat. "We looked at three houses--I walked in here and just fell in love with the arched windows," said Macurdy. Macurdy and her husband, George Billman, moved here from Hong Kong five years ago. Because they and their small daughter had shared a 400-square-foot apartment there, the couple welcomed the spacious homes and large lots of Crescent Park.

Crescent Park is bordered by San Francisquito Creek on the north, Fulton Street on the west, Edgewood Drive on the east and Channing Avenue in the south.

Its distinctive, stately homes, access to good schools and libraries and its proximity to downtown give the area an edge, according to Crescent Park Neighborhood Association president Carla Schneiderman.

Schneiderman, a busy marketing strategy consultant, traded in a larger house for her current University Avenue digs, citing a need for simplicity and coziness. "This place reminds me of a New England summer house, a home on Cape Cod," she said.

Her airy living room is casual, filled with cookbooks, watercolors and oriental rugs. A cello case stood next to louvered windows that looked out onto an enclosed garden. It was hard to believe the flow of traffic on Palo Alto's main drag was only footsteps away from the stucco wall surrounding the garden.

"It's important to me to get active in the community," said Schneiderman.

"The people in this area really care in terms of development and taking care of the neighborhood."

She attributes Crescent Park's architectural diversity to a relaxed attitude toward imposing stringent building restrictions of others. "Otherwise, we wouldn't have this wonderful mix of homes," she said.

Realtor Hanna Shacham agreed. "The variety of styles makes Crescent Park appealing to buyers," she said. She listed contemporary, Cape Cod, colonial, Tudor and Spanish-style homes as part of the landscape.

But all this comes at a price--homes starting at $1 million, with some costing over $5 million. Even so, Shacham said most of her customers are young professionals with children.

"Also, it's one of the areas where you can find an upscale home on a relatively large piece of land--one half to one-third of an acre," Shacham said. Large, mature trees, and wide streets make it a welcoming environment to people from all over the world who have bought there.

Schneiderman likes the friendliness and traditions of the neighborhood. "There's an annual social in Eleanor Pardee Park," she said. "The committee provides drinks and hors d'oeuvres, and it's potluck. We get to know residents who've lived here for 30 or 40 years--and there's entertainment for the kids, like the comic magician Daffy Dave."

Another regular neighborhood happening is the Halloween pumpkin-painting contest, for which local merchants get in on the action by providing prizes.

Macurdy's University Avenue home has lots of open space for her five- and two-year olds to run around. She's expecting a third child this spring. Macurdy is impressed with the neighborhood loyalty--she said the son of her home's previous owner even comes to visit the house when he's in town. She also knows people who grew up here and returned to the neighborhood.

"There's an interesting mixture of people about our age--I like the support system of so many other stay-at-home moms," she said. Staying put is a big change for Macurdy, who set up Esprit stores in the Philippines, Korea, Bali, Guam, China, Australia and Saudi Arabia before coming to Palo Alto.

With one daughter approaching school age, Macurdy is grateful for good schools and other resources nearby. Both she and Schneiderman appreciate the convenience of being within walking and biking distance of downtown.

Schneiderman mused on what makes this area so special to her. "Although it's important to change so things stay vital, scale has been preserved in Crescent Park," she said. "Maybe people in Crescent Park find a way to allow its character to stay the same." 

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