Thu07242014

News

Obama visits Los Altos area

Obama visits Los Altos area

President Obama made a fundraising stop today at a private residence in Los Altos Hills, an appearance that spurred traffic disruptions, helicopters scouting overhead and protesters. In the wake of his visit, unknown persons, apparently no fans of ...

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Schools

MVLA rolls out laptop integration this fall

MVLA rolls out laptop integration this fall


Town Crier File Photo
Starting in the fall, daily use of laptops in the classroom will be standard operating procedure for students at Los Altos and Mountain View high schools as the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District launches a pil...

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Community

Generations blend behind the scenes at 'Wizard of Oz'

Generations blend behind the scenes at 'Wizard of Oz'


Altos Youth Theatre and Los Altos Stage Company rehearse a scene from “The Wizard of Oz.” ELIZA RIDGEWAY/ TOWN CRIER

A massive troupe of young people and grownups gathered in Los Altos this summer to stage the latest iteration of a childhood sta...

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Sports

Football in July

Football in July


Town Crier file photo
Mountain View High’s Anthony Avery is among the nine local players slated to play in tonight’s Silicon Valley Youth Classic.

Tonight’s 40th annual Silicon Valley Youth Classic – also known as the Charlie...

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Comment

Pools should be included: Editorial

Los Altos residents should be receiving calls this week from city representatives conducting a survey to determine priorities for a revamped Hillview Community Center.

Notice that we did not say “civic center” – chastened by a lack of public support...

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Special Sections

Looking for life without lows, local diabetic tests artificial pancreas

Looking for life without lows, local diabetic tests artificial pancreas


Photo by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Dr. Trang Ly, left, reviews blood sugar readings on a smartphone with Los Altos resident Tia Geri, right, and fellow participant Noa Simon during a closed-loop artificial pancreas study for Type 1 diabetics.
...

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Business

Palo Alto law firm coming to 400 Main

Palo Alto law firm coming to 400 Main


Ellie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
Longtime Palo Alto law firm Thoits, Love, Hershberger & McClean plans to open an office at 400 Main St. in Los Altos after construction is complete in November.

A longtime Palo Alto law firm plans to expand into L...

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Books

"Frozen in Time" chronicles harrowing WWII rescue attempts


Many readers can’t resist a true-life adventure story, especially those that shine a spotlight on people who exhibit supreme courage in the face of adversity and end up surviving – or not – against the odds.

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People

RICHARD PATRICK BRENNAN

RICHARD PATRICK BRENNAN

Resident of Palo Alto

Richard Patrick Brennan, journalist, editor, author, adventurer, died at his Palo Alto home on July 4, 2014 at age 92. He led a full life, professionally and personally. He was born and raised in San Francisco, joined the Arm...

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Travel

Travel Tidbit: Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers spa getaway

Travel Tidbit: Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers spa getaway


Courtesy of Ritz-Carlton
The Ritz-Carlton in Lake Tahoe offers fall getaway packages that include spa treatments and yoga classes.

Fall in North Lake Tahoe boasts crisp mornings and opportunities to spend quality time in the mountains. Specially ...

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Stepping Out

PYT stages 'Shrek'

PYT stages 'Shrek'


Lyn Healy/Spotlight Moments Photography
Dana Cullinane plays Fiona in Peninsula Youth Theatre’s “Shrek The Musical.”

Peninsula Youth Theatre presents “Shrek The Musical” Saturday through Aug. 3 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts...

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Spiritual Life

Foothills Congregational: 100 years and counting

Foothills Congregational: 100 years and counting


Courtesy of Carolyn Barnes
The newly built Los Altos church in 1914 featured a bell tower and an arched front window. Both continue as elements of the building as it stands today.

Foothills Congregational Church – the oldest church building ...

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Magazine

Festival features fun for everyone

Festival features fun for everyone


TOWN CRIER FILE PHOTO
The Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival boasts more than 375 craft and arts booths.

This weekend’s 35th annual Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival promises to be jam-packed with fun activities for just about everyone. The eve...

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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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