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News

Hills man arrested on molestation charges

Hills man arrested on molestation charges

Gregory Helfrich

Santa Clara Sheriff’s detectives have arrested a Los Altos Hills man they suspect repeatedly molested a child decades ago.

Detectives arrested Gregory Helfrich, 54, on a warrant at his Old Page Mill Road home April 27 and...

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Schools

Local AAUW gives gift of science to junior high students

Local AAUW gives gift of science to junior high students


Courtesy of Jessica Harell
Blach Intermediate School seventh-grader Paris Harrell, who loves science and animals, recently received a scholarship from the local branch of the AAUW to attend Tech Trek camp.

It’s not every day that a junior hig...

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Community

At 98, former language teacher remains a lifelong learner

At 98, former language teacher remains a lifelong learner


Federici

Longtime Los Altos resident Mario Federici, who turned 98 Feb. 24, is a man of many languages. He shared his knowledge with thousands of students during his long career as a teacher.

Federici was born and raised in Italy, where he stud...

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Comment

Attend an event, get involved, have fun: Editorial

You don’t have to run for city council to get involved in the community. Sometimes it can be as simple as attending a Los Altos event. You’ll have plenty of opportunities, as the May and June calendars are bustling with activity.

The Dow...

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Special Sections

Racing around Monterey

Racing around Monterey


Gary Anderson/Special to the Town Crier
The easy handling of the VW Golf R, above, makes for an ideal ride along the Big Sur coast.

 

When automotive journalists are asked to list their favorite places in the world to drive, Monterey alway...

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Business

'Steampunk' eatery toasts local libations

'Steampunk' eatery toasts local libations


Courtesy of Eureka
Eureka, a new restaurant in downtown Mountain View, highlights local craft beer and whiskeys on a menu of food spanning from sea to farm.

Craft beer and fancy whiskeys headline the menu at Eureka, the new restaurant that opene...

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People

Stepping Out

PA Players seek escape in 'Into the Woods'

PA Players seek escape in 'Into the Woods'


Courtesy of Palo Alto Players
The Baker’s Wife, left, and Cinderella’s erstwhile Prince stand out in the Palo Alto Players production of “Into the Woods.”

Little Red Riding Hood sets forth at the outset of “Into the...

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Spiritual Life

Los Altos United Methodist Church service salutes Heifer International

Los Altos United Methodist Church service salutes Heifer International


Courtesy of Los ALtos United Methodist Church
Hidden Villa will bring some of its farm animals to Los Altos United Methodist Church Sunday to support the nonprofit Heifer International.

Los Altos United Methodist Church is scheduled to salute th...

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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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