Three Acts in the Life of a Three-Story House
One: A Home for the Gamble Family
Construction In 1902, on a 2.3 acre lot, the three-story house
(5,450 sq. ft.) and its carriage house (1,075 sq. ft.) were
built for $6,039. The property was at the edge of town, and
special arrangements were made to have electricity extended
to the house. In character with New England houses, fireplaces
and chimneys were in interior walls to conserve heat. The
central hallway was also characteristic of this style.
A rendering of the house was one of four "Artistic
Homes of Palo Alto" featured in the September 1904 issue
of the Overland Monthly. The architectural style of the house
has been variously described as Colonial Georgian Revival
or New England Colonial Revival. Through the end of the 19th
century, architecture in the United States was a series of
revival styles based on European trends: Greek, Roman, Romanesque,
Gothic and Renaissance. Colonial Revival was part of the Renaissance
Revival style. It was inspired by the Stuart and Georgian
building styles popular with homesick English colonists in
the late 17th and 18th centuries.
Under the eaves, the cornice is ornamented with
a course of dentils (which trace back to Greek architecture).
Just below that is a frieze or band of plain wood siding which
attempts to simulate a stone band of masonry. The clapboard
siding is narrow with two clapboards cut from a single piece
of siding. On the north side, tucked around the corner, the
living room window is a "Palladian motif" adopted
from ruined Roman buildings by Italian architect Andrea Palladio.
Palladio (1505-80) had a stronger and longer lasting influence
in England and colonial America than any other architect.
The ground floor originally included an entry hall, living room, dining room, music room, library, kitchen and pantry,
and office and bath. There was also a lattice porch off the library. The central stairwell rises from the large entry hall to the second
and third floors. The second floor had 5 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms,
and the third floor included 2 more bedrooms and a storage area.
The house was the home of Edwin Gamble (son of
the co-founder of Procter & Gamble), his wife Elizabeth
L. and their four children, James, George, Elizabeth Frances
and Launcelot. The family moved from Kentucky to Palo Alto
shortly after James started attending Stanford University,
where all four children were to study. The Gambles used the
carriage house as a stable for their riding horse, cart horse
and pony (which Elizabeth rode around the pony ring on the
property). Mrs. Gamble died in 1927, and Edwin in 1939.
Act Two: A Home for Elizabeth F. Gamble
Elizabeth F. Gamble returned to the family home after graduating
from Wellesley College. She developed a keen interest in gardening
and plowed up the old pony ring and orchards on the north
half of the property to plant flowers for cutting and show.
She inherited the property upon her father's death.
1937 and 1938, the north and south sides of the house were
extended and a toolhouse was added to the carriage house from
designs by Charles K. Sumner. Elizabeth had the teahouse added
in 1948, designed by landscape designer Allan Himes Reid,
in the midst of the gardens so guests could gather there for
refreshments. The front porch was modified in 1953 by architect
Palo Alto Garden Club toured the gardens for many decades
and Elizabeth allowed the house to be used for their annual
flower shows. In spite of her inherited wealth, Elizabeth
was a quiet, modest and unassuming woman who preferred civic
affairs to social one and was very generous to many organizations.
Her brother, George, returned to the family home in his later
years and lived there until his death in 1972. Elizabeth F.
Gamble died in 1981, at age 92.
Three: A Home for a Community Garden Center
Elizabeth F. Gamble willed the house and grounds to the City
of Palo Alto in 1971, with the stipulation that she and her
brother would continue to live there. The City received many
proposals for the property, including one to demolish the
house. The Garden Club of Palo Alto spearheaded a drive to
preserve the estate for a community garden center. In 1985,
the City approved their plan and leased the estate to The
Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden Center. The organization raised
funds to repair the structures, improve public access and
reconstruct the formal gardens.
1987, other structures have been added: storage building,
restrooms, green house and lath house. The Carriage House
was remodeled as a meeting area. The second floor was converted
to full living quarters for the Garden's horticulturist and
his family. The house also provides offices and work space
for the staff and volunteers, and a horticultural library.
In xxxx, after the gardens had been revived into an "aesthetic
and horticultural treasure," a major project was undertaken
to renovate and decorate the dining room, library and entryway
to their original turn-of-the-century elegance. It is now
the setting for the monthly formal tees, weddings, private
parties, and other events.
The property is included in the Historical and Architectural
Resources of the City of Palo Alto - Inventory and report
1979 (revised 1984) in Category II: "Structures which
represent a particular architectural style or way of life
important to the city." The State of California has designated
the property as a Point of Historical Interest.