Professorville Historic District

Home of Professor Ferando Sanford

Photograph by Judith Silva, courtesy of the City of Santa Clara

Quick Facts
Palo Alto ; Roughly bounded by Embarcadero Rd., Addison Ave., Emerson and Cowper Sts.

In 1889 land was subdivided to provide home sites for the professors who preferred to own rather than lease university land at Stanford University. The area, which came to be known as Professorville, is bounded by Kingsley, Lincoln, and Addison avenues and the cross streets of Ramona, Bryant, and Waverly. The city of Palo Alto was created subsequent to the founding of Stanford University, essentially to serve as a university town. Construction of the University began on May 14, 1887, on land that had been the Leland Stanford farm. Early founders desired the presence of a town near the University but the two existing nearby towns of Mayfield and Menlo Park did not seem suitable to them, as the founders wanted the new university town to prohibit the sale of alcoholic beverages. Since the two existing towns did not meet this requirement or seem willing to give up their saloon businesses, Leland Stanford, in 1887, acquired 740 acres to create a new townsite. The area's eclectic architecture is known for its brown shingles with gambrel roofs. Classic examples are Professor Angell's home at 1005 Bryant and Bernard Maybeck designed "Sunbonnet House" at 1061 Bryant. Professor A. B. Clark designed the stately 433 Melville house for Professor Charles Gilbert, one of Stanford's first teachers and a leading citizen of Palo Alto.

Stately Dutch Colonials dominate three blocks of Kingsley Avenue. At 450 Kingsley Avenue is the former home of one of Stanford University's pioneer professors, Ferando Sanford, who headed the physics department. The architect, Frank McMurray of Chicago, was a former student of Professor Sanford. He designed the three-story, 14-room frame house with a variety of features fashionable at the time--a Queen Anne corner tower, a Palladian window in front and an unusual archway reaching out past the second story. The comfortable, columned front porch reaches across the front to the west side of the house, where a doorway, once the carriage entrance, has been covered over. The buildings, which give the Professorville area its strongest image, are the brown-shingled houses whose stylistic allegiances range from the Colonial Revival to the Craftsman. The Professorville Historic District reflects the area's origins and its early years to the founding of both Stanford University and Palo Alto itself.

Last updated: January 26, 2018