History of the Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden

In 1901, Edwin Percy Gamble, son of the co-founder of Procter & Gamble Co., visited Palo Alto when his eldest son enrolled at Stanford University. One year later, he moved his family from Kentucky to Palo Alto. The Main House and Carriage House were built in 1902 for the Gamble family by C. A. Bates, a San Jose contractor, for the sum of $6,039. It was the first house constructed south of Embarcadero Road, with the exception of the Seale Ranch. The Gamble family had four children: James, George, Elizabeth Frances, and Launcelot. The sons were graduates of Stanford University. Elizabeth attended Stanford for one year before transferring to and graduating from Wellesley College.

After college, Elizabeth spent the remainder of her life in the Gamble house. Her gardens became known throughout the community and she shared them generously. In 1971 Miss Gamble gave the estate to the City of Palo Alto with the stipulation that she and her brother, George, could live there throughout their lives. George died in 1972 and Elizabeth in 1981 at the age of 92. In 1985 the Palo Alto City Council approved a plan to lease the estate to the Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden. The non-profit foundation has restored the formal gardens to the original plans, laid out the demonstration and working gardens, added irrigation, paths, and lighting. Necessary structural repairs have been made to the existing buildings, and the horticulturist’s office, tool house and a gazebo have been added.

A conversation with Miss Gamble adapted from an article by Joanne Elders, probably for the Palo Alto Times in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s, provides a bit of a personal insight into her character.

On the occasion of the centennial, more notes about the Gamble House, its construction and inhabitants was published in Three Acts in the Life of a Three-Story House.