NEIGHBORHOOD SPOTLIGHT COLLEGE TERRACE OF PALO ALTOJanuary 19, 2017
“Everything old is new again.” - Peter Allen & Carol Bayer Sager
Palo Alto is renowned as the “Birthplace of Silicon Valley” and has a worldwide reputation as a center of innovation and technology. However, the origins of Palo Alto in 1886 were a touch more intoxicating.
At that time, Palo Alto did not exist. Instead, the thriving town of Mayfield had an established downtown around El Camino Real and California Avenue. Leland Stanford approached Mayfield’s residents and said he wanted to make Mayfield the college town for the university he was establishing. While initially greeted with enthusiasm, his requirement that the town be dry and close its 13 boisterous saloons was promptly declined. Consequently, Mr. Stanford formed Palo Alto, which remained alcohol-free until the 1960s.
Refusing Stanford was the beginning of the end for Mayfield. Many Mayfield citizens were drawn to the better schools and liquor-free environment of Palo Alto to raise their own children. As early as 1904, Palo Alto properties were selling at a premium due to the area’s great public schools. Thanks to our rich local archives at paloaltohistory.org regarding these heady times, we know one Mayfield resident complained, “Mayfield people are tired of having the roughs from all around the country come here, get drunk and raise a row. We’re tired of renting our cottages for $5 and $6 a month…when a house can’t be had in Palo Alto for $20-$25.” Do high Palo Alto rents seem familiar to anyone?
Mayfield eventually hit difficult times and sought to rectify their mistake. They banned saloons, and finally Palo Alto agreed to annex Mayfield in 1925.
Portions of Mayfield are now known as the College Terrace and Southgate neighborhoods. These are now quintessential Palo Alto neighborhoods, combining charming architecture with great walkability to Stanford and the shops and restaurants on California Avenue. Residents include Stanford professors and students who love the proximity to the university. In addition, attorneys and scientists enjoy being close to the cluster of law firms and technology companies that ring Stanford and Stanford Research Park.
I fell in love with the College Terrace neighborhood in the 1990s while looking for rentals close to my law firm of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. I vowed one day to live on its tree-lined streets. My dream came true in 2012 when one of the neighborhood’s iconic homes came on the market. 2275 Amherst is an 1893 “Queen Anne” Victorian that displays grand beauty, complete with a wraparound veranda overlooking the grounds and seven bedrooms which my four children quickly conquered.
The home was originally purchased by Walter Miller, Stanford’s first Latin professor, and legend has it that his children were not allowed to play until they conjugated all of their Latin verbs. After that, the home became known as “The Mayor’s House” because the Mayfield mayor lived there for over a decade. This historic home, which I greatly enjoyed living in, is very representative of the strong history and traditions that emanate from one of Palo Alto’s most storied neighborhoods.
As in the rest of Palo Alto, the housing inventory in and around College Terrace is evolving. Indeed, the faculty and staff of Stanford University are so drawn to the convenience of the neighborhood, the university is midway through the process of building 180 new housing units on 17 acres situated between California Avenue and Page Mill Road. While these units will be limited to Stanford employees and the allocation thereof will be by lottery, the allure of the neighborhood will continue to climb.
Demand remains strong as many local properties are purchased by successful families with the intention of being thoroughly updated or replaced with floorplans more conducive to today’s busy lifestyles. For the coming year, DeLeon Realty forecasts above-average appreciation between five and seven percent for this neighborhood.