Wed04012015

News

Council eyes bond for Hillview center

Council eyes bond for Hillview center


The Los Altos City Council accepted an $87.5 million cost model for its preferred layout for replacing Hillview Community Center. 

Residents could cast their votes as soon as November on a bond measure to partially fund the redevelopment of...

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Schools

Oak students showcase creativity in Destination Imagination competitions

Oak students showcase creativity in Destination Imagination competitions


Courtesy of Jane Lee Choe
The Sharp Cheddars, a team of Oak Avenue School sixth-graders, perform at the Destination Imagination state competition Saturday in Riverside.

A team of seven Oak Avenue School sixth-graders traveled to Riverside last week...

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Community

Heising-Simons Foundation relocates to 400 Main St. property in Los Altos

Heising-Simons Foundation relocates to 400 Main St. property in Los Altos


Bruce Barton/Town Crier
All in the family: Mark Heising, from left, Caitlin Heising and Elizabeth Simons make up the board of the eight-year-old Heising-Simons Foundation, now in its new headquarters at 400 Main St. in downtown Los Altos.

The He...

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Comment

What would Bob do?: Editorial

The recent passing of an extraordinary Los Altos resident, Bob Grimm, has generated a range of heartfelt reaction, from sympathy to fond memories, from all corners. That’s because Bob did not discriminate in his desire to help others with his money, ...

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Special Sections

Cars that are right on track

Cars that are right on track


Courtesy of BMW
The BMW M4 is packed with power, featuring 425 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque.

There’s nothing more fun than driving a responsive automobile that feels alive in the curves and eager to go when given more than a touch ...

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Business

First Street's 'Fort Knox' up for sale

First Street's 'Fort Knox' up for sale


Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
The Los Altos Vault and Safe Deposit Co. is on the market for $4.5 million. Its fortified steel and concrete structure has been compared to the U.S. Federal Reserve’s gold depository.

A downtown Los Altos structure “b...

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Books

'Pope Joan' Book weaves tale around legend of female pontiff

'Pope Joan' Book weaves tale around legend of female pontiff


The idea that there may have a female pope at one time in history has generated much speculation throughout the centuries. “Pope Joan” (Crown, 1996) by Donna Woolfolk Cross, does not answer the question; rather, the author has created a detai...

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People

JOHN BATISTICH

JOHN BATISTICH

John Batistich of Los Altos Hills died peacefully on March 12 surrounded by his family. John is survived by his wife Claire Batistich (Vidovich) of 67 years and children Gary Batistich of Lodi and Gay Batistich Abuel-Saud of Menlo Park. He is also ...

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Travel

Eat, hike, soak: Cavallo Point Lodge offers Marin experience

Eat, hike, soak: Cavallo Point Lodge offers Marin experience


Eren Göknar/ Town Crier
Cavallo Point Lodge comprises former U.S. Army buildings, like the Mission Blue Chapel, repurposed for guests seeking a luxurious getaway.

It used to be a place where batteries of soldiers lived, with officers’ quarter...

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Stepping Out

'Fire' ignites in Mtn. View

'Fire' ignites in Mtn. View


Courtesy of Kevin Berne
The cast of “Fire on the Mountain,” includes, from left, Tony Marcus, Harvy Blanks, Molly Andrews and Robert Parsons.

TheatreWorks is slated to present the regional premiere of the musical “Fire on the Mountain” this wee...

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Spiritual Life

Spiritual Life Briefs

Oshman JCC hosts Judaism and Science Symposium

The Oshman Family Jewish Community Center has scheduled its inaugural Judaism and Science Symposium, “An Exploration of the Convergence of Jewish & Scientific Thought,” 5 p.m. April 12 at the JCC’s ...

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Magazine

Food for thought: Hidden Villa programs offer teens training in sustainability on the farm

Food for thought: Hidden Villa programs offer teens training in sustainability on the farm


/Town Crier It’s not all cute and cuddly for teens participating in the eight-week Animal Husbandry Apprenticeship program at Hidden Villa in Los Altos Hills. Mia Mosing of Palo Alto, left, and Sophia Jackson of Los Altos clean the pigpens – one of...

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Pioneers in LAH history: Maury Johnson family were key figures in development

Photo Dru Anderson/Special To The Town Crier Helen and Maury Johnson, staunch conservationists, enjoy a visit to Yosemite, left. The Johnson home on Weston Drive in Los Altos Hills shows a design that blends in with its surroundings.

The rural, pastoral scenes of 1950s-era Los Altos Hills seem light years away from today’s ultra-affluent community. It was a time when Maurice (Maury) and Helen Johnson began to make their mark as housing developers and civic leaders. Much of the history of early Los Altos Hills runs through them.

When Johnson and his wife of 70 years, Helen, both died last year, they left a 52-year legacy of community service, creatively designed homes and strong family ties. The Johnsons had lived in town since 1957.

Together, they worked side-by-side with their four sons to develop properties and homes in the Los Altos Hills area, including their first home on Moon Lane, as well as their last residence on Weston Drive.

 

Purissima Hills

Maury served as a director on the Purissima Hills Water District Board of Directors in Los Altos Hills, retiring in 2006 after 47 years of service. He saw the district grow from a small organization of middle-class residents, irrigating backyard fruit orchards, to a district providing water for some of the wealthiest households in Northern California.

“I came here (to his property near Fremont Road) because I heard there was water, and that I would have a water supply at the lot I had,” he recalled in an interview on file with the water district. “All the wells were generally not producing – people were running out of water.”

With Maury’s help, the district brought in pump stations, tanks and, finally, pipelines carrying quality water from the Hetch Hetchy system. He also helped establish the town’s first sewer lines.

Despite nearly 50 years on the water board, Maury said, “I wish I could be on the board again. … It’s interesting – you do some good, and you meet interesting people.”

 

Beginnings

Maury, born in Chicago in 1910 to Swedish parents, helped his father with their family dairy delivery business. Helen, born in 1918 in Youngstown, Ohio, spent most of her youth in Claremont, where she developed an early interest in land and home development.

Maury later attended Pomona College, where he earned a degree in economics and met Helen. They were married in 1939 and moved to Ontario in 1940, where they owned two large orange groves. After 14 years as a teacher in public and private schools, Maury started a construction business.

Helen, who had an eye for real estate, located all the properties they purchased and developed, and handled all the business finances. They built several homes in the Claremont and Palm Springs areas, then spent four years in the Bellingham and Waldren Island area of Washington state before relocating to Los Altos Hills.

Green builder

Maury, a designer and builder of many homes in the area, was regarded as green builder decades before “green” became popular. The Johnsons constructed their home on Weston Drive, as well as a house they designed and lived in next door, out of recycled cedar salvaged from the old Yolo Causeway roadbed near Sacramento. The 3-inch-thick cedar planks were used in the ceilings. The wood was split to measure 1-inch thick for the exterior siding, lending a natural feel to the design.

“Like pioneers,” their son Tor noted, “they bought the land and designed and hand-built the houses. Between them, they touched just about every piece of history in the town.”

The massive redwood beams in the home were recycled from torn-down old buildings in the San Francisco business district. The style Maury admired and built was contemporary, influenced by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, whose work he admired.

Inside the homes, Maury designed and handcrafted built-in drawers and doors. He even handmade the hammered-copper custom 2- and 3-switch wallplates.

Other homes were built on land they developed on Todd Lane, Weston Drive, Baker Lane, Aric Lane and Altamont Circle, where they developed lots. Weston and Aric were named after two of the Johnsons’ sons. Maury also developed plans for a housing development in Summit Woods in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Tor recently toured the lots and homes he and his brothers and their parents worked on in Los Altos Hills, and he recalled the many features of contemporary design and creative use of recycled and unusual woods and techniques of post and beam construction.

The Johnsons designed and built their first home on what is now known as Moon Lane in the Saddle Mountain area.

 

Varied interests

Both Helen and Maury had a passion for the outdoors, nature and the arts, and they decorated their homes with art, sculpture and books from Japan, Sweden and other areas of the world. They had a special fondness for American Indian art, jewelry and culture. Japanese garden design is featured in their entryways, and plantings are accented with colorful maples.

Maury and Helen took pride in their respective Swedish and Polish heritages. Both were active members in the Swedish cultural fellowship of Lindbergh Chapter No. 494 of the Vasa Order of America, with whom they enjoyed dinner meetings at the American Legion Hall in Los Altos.

Helen was devoted to her family as well to music, organic gardening and cooking. Their kitchen had a full view of her beloved vegetable garden and the Japanese garden in the backyard.

Maury’s passions included architecture, music, literature, art, history, hiking in the mountains, skiing and working with his sons. Maury and Helen, members of the Sierra Club, were committed to conservation.

 

Note: Maury died Sept. 11, just shy of his 99th birthday. Helen died May 17 at the age of 91. They are survived by their four sons, Soren (Medford, Ore.), Aric (Oklahoma City), Tor (Los Altos) and Weston (Menlo Park); their grandchildren, Angelique, Greg, Toren, Lisa and Susanna; and their great-grandchild, Victoria.

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