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News

LA Council race adds 3 new faces to city politics

LA Council race adds 3 new faces to city politics


The Town Crier chronicled the first election of Los Altos City Council incumbent Jarrett Fishpaw in 2010 and documented the Los Altos candidacy of Jean Mordo, who volunteered as a longtime public servant in Los Altos Hills before moving to the flat...

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Schools

St. Simon launches web-based learning management system

St. Simon launches web-based learning management system


Courtesy of St. Simon Parish School
St. Simon fifth-grader Matthew Cummins uses a laptop in class last week. The school’s cloud-based Schoology system boosts organization and collaboration.

Families at St. Simon Parish School in Los Altos laun...

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Community

Los Altos to celebrate 100 years of library use with 'Centennial Faire'

Los Altos to celebrate 100 years of library use with 'Centennial Faire'


Town Crier File Photo
The Los Altos main library is among the more popular branches in the county library district system, set to celebrate 100 years.

In 1914, Babe Ruth made his debut with the Boston Red Sox, wages hit $5 per day, the first ste...

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Sports

Eagles eye another stellar season

Eagles eye another stellar season


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Los Altos High outside hitter Carmen Annevelink, right, goes for the kill Thursday against Palo Alto, as teammates Sarah Tritschler, left, and Lulu Kishton prepare to play defense. The Eagles won the match in straight ga...

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Comment

Torok, Walter, Dave for MVLA board: Editorial

There’s really nothing major you can criticize about the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District. It offers a diverse array of effective programs for all types of students. Its instructors, with few exceptions, are outstanding.

Howe...

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Special Sections

'Funabout' Fiat

'Funabout' Fiat


Photos courtesy of Fiat
The 2014 Fiat 500e uses 29 kilowatt-hours per 100 miles, which the engineers claim is the equivalent of 116 mpg of gas use. It has a sticker price of $33,095.

If you believe in climate change, would love to see alternat...

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Business

App developer eyes First Friday as testing ground

App developer eyes First Friday as testing ground


Ted Fagenson

An East Bay app developer is testing his newest creation in downtown Los Altos.

Ted Fagenson, co-founder of Skrownge (pronounced “scrounge”), told the Town Crier that he’s beta testing his mobile gaming app this week ...

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Books

From story to bookstore: Local journey highlights Halloween

From story to bookstore: Local journey highlights Halloween


Courtesy of Dee Ellmann
Jenny Hurwick self-published her picture book last month after decades of storytelling.

During her years working as a teacher and a Los Altos mom, Jenny Hurwick loved to tell stories. One tale she crafted for her son just se...

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People

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

July 27, 1953 – August 12, 2014

Native Los Altan died Medford, OR. Graduated Bellarmine Prep. Married Josephine Domino, 1950. Licensed Auto Mechanic, Private Pilot, skilled Computer Scientist. Tim “could fix anything”. Afflicted with cancer 2001. ...

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Travel

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup


Rich Robertson/Special to the Town Crier
The sun sets over the Aegean Sea in Bodrum, Turkey, left.

Tours that whisk you from Istanbul to Bodrum in 11 days are as plentiful as souvenir hawkers in Turkey, but traveling from the Blue Mosque to Topkapi ...

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Stepping Out

'Gypsy' on its way out

'Gypsy' on its way out


Chris Berger/Special to the Town Crier
Alison Koch of Los Altos plays Dainty June in “Gypsy.”

This is the final weekend to catch the Sunnyvale Community Players production of “Gypsy” at the Sunnyvale Theatre. The musical is slated to close Sund...

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Spiritual Life

Ugandan pastor visits U.S. to raise support for children's ministry

Ugandan pastor visits U.S. to raise support for children's ministry


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Herman Lukwago educates children in Uganda.

Imagine life if your father had 25 children and you were raised in poverty in rural Uganda.

Now imagine that you and your siblings were orphaned at an early age and you ass...

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Magazine

Local events add color to autumn calendar

Local events add color to autumn calendar


Van Houtte/town crier Visitors make their way through the Children’s Alley.

As Los Altos’ signature Chinese Pistache trees exchange their summer green for vibrant hues of yellow, orange and red in the fall, an abundance of local events also ad...

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Hidden treasures: Historical home reveals secrets to the past


Photo By: Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Photo Ellie Van Houtte/Town CrierNick Tanner and Dr. Jill Hagenkord’s home on Formway Court in Los Altos boasts a colorful history dating from the early 1900s.

Nick Tanner always has loved historical houses and thought it would be cool to own one with a hidden passageway and secret room.

He got his wish – and then some – when he and his wife, Dr. Jill Hagenkord, happened upon the house on Formway Court in Los Altos built by Mary Jane and William Lee Formway at the turn of the century. The name Formway is familiar to many because of the Formway Machine Shop, which gained worldwide fame. The house was passed down to second-generation owners William E. and Myrtle Formway.

Tanner, Hagenkord and their two young children, transplants from Nebraska, were biding their time in a rental while searching for a house in a tight market.

Then one day last year, by chance, Tanner spotted a “For Sale” sign on Formway Court as he was rehearsing a “Gangnam Style” dance with a group of Almond School fathers who literally danced their way there. A fence separates the school and the homes on Formway Court.

Tanner, a connoisseur of history, fell in love with the house – not to mention the three-car garage with a casita above it. His wife liked the deck and backyard with its towering redwoods. And Catie, 9, and Mark, 6, could play on a quiet cul-de-sac adjacent to their school.

“I literally drop Mark over the fence when I take him to school,” said Tanner, a stay-at-home dad. Hagenkord, who graduated from Stanford University School of Medicine, is a molecular genetic pathologist and chief medical officer at InVitae.

The family moved into the home five months ago and are on a voyage of discovery.

“I go around the house and look for treasures,” Tanner said. “You never know what you’re going to find, and what you do find is not around anymore.”

Just the other day, he discovered a hidden room behind a wall in the upstairs master bedroom.

Best of both worlds

The two-story clapboard Period Revival farmhouse, which boasts a hipped roof and small hipped-roof dormer, was built between 1905 and 1910, surrounded by 10 acres of apricot, peach and prune trees.

In 1921, Formway established the Formway Machine Shop, located on 1.5 acres at 514 Almond Ave. It began as a Model T garage before becoming a manufacturing firm for walnut hulling equipment, notably the Wizard Walnut Huller. The first Formway Wizard machine is still on display at the Los Altos History Museum.

The orchards vanished and, in 1971, Formway Machine Shop pulled up roots and moved to Sunnyvale. But the farmhouse survived and has been well loved.

“I think it takes a special kind of person to own this type of home because of the work that needs to be done,” Tanner said. “The previous owners did a great deal to improve the property. Much like they did, we, too, are doing our best to add value.”

For instance, Tanner just redid the uneven and distressed driveway, removing 7,000 bricks and replacing them with concrete pavers.

“Because I’m a one-man show, I have yet to start on the pathways,” he said.

The bricks are part of the property’s history, so he managed to recycle some of them in the neighborhood.

“History is what makes the house special,” he said. “Inside, you can see the transition from old to newer style of architecture. It’s the best of both worlds.”

Previous owners Bill Heenk, owner of Sequoia Landscape & Construction in Los Altos, and his wife, Doreen, lived in the home for 10 years.

“My wife and daughter found it on the market back then, and we couldn’t turn it down. It had so much character,” said Heenk, who was familiar with remodeling older homes.

He renovated the kitchen, moved the stairs to create more space, repiped with copper, installed a Trex deck and putting green and added “little things to be comfortable.”

Toward the end of their occupancy, the Heenks added a family room because rooms in older houses are typically small.

“It was to welcome new grandkids. We made sure the new exterior matched the rest of the house,” said Heenk, adding that it “was fun living there and we really miss it.”

Hidden treasures

Meanwhile, the new owners are adding their stamp to the house, which is a historical gem. Doors have Tiffany-style stained-glass panels and glass or brass doorknobs. The original built-in sideboard (minus the doors) graces the dining room, which is encircled by a plate rail and illuminated by a Venetian glass and crystal chandelier. A half-bath has a pull-the-chain water closet and pedestal sink.

Off the foyer to the left is a sitting room with a window seat. Next comes a small bedroom with its adjoining bathroom. To the right, next to the dining room, is a bedroom paneled in redwood. At the rear of the lower floor are the family room, open kitchen and old walk-in pantry.

Upstairs is really one big master suite, complete with his-and-hers opposing sinks set in antique sideboards. The taps were made by Herbeau, a French company that makes new faucets that look like old ones.

At one time, the upper floor was divided into three small bedrooms. Perhaps that accounts for the hidden room Tanner discovered.

“This house has lots of character,” he said. “It’s a mystery house that keeps revealing itself.”

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