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News

First St. closure set for Saturday

First Street in downtown Los Altos will be closed Saturday (Nov. 22) between West Edith Avenue and Shasta Street for street paving. The closure is scheduled from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. In the event of poor weather, the work will be rescheduled for a later ...

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Schools

Scientists bring experiments into MV classrooms

Scientists bring experiments into MV classrooms


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
During a Science is Learning geology lesson, Theuerkauf Elementary School students learn about igneous rocks by observing how sugar changes form when heated.

Hundreds of local elementary students perform experiments w...

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Community

Local actors star in PYT's 'Oklahoma!'

Local actors star in PYT's 'Oklahoma!'


Courtesy of Peninsula Youth Theatre
PYT’s “Oklahoma!” features, from left, David Peters of Mountain View, Jenna Levere of Los Altos and Kai Wessel of Mountain View.

Time is running out to catch Peninsula Youth Theatre’s production of “Oklahoma!”...

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Sports

Eagles advance

Eagles advance


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Los Altos High’s Carmen Annevelink, left, and Kristen Liu put up a block against Mountain View. Annevelink totaled 20 kills.

Mountain View High’s out-of-the-gate energy could last for only so long against rival and he...

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Comment

Coping with addictions: Haugh About That?

Preparing to deal with my lifelong addiction, I stood in front of the mirror ready to confess the shame I’d been hiding. The first step to healing, I reminded myself, is to admit something is wrong.

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Special Sections

NASA, Google agreement preserves Hangar One

NASA, Google agreement preserves Hangar One


Bruce Barton/Town Crier
Hangar One, pictured here last January, will be restored under an agreement between Google and NASA.

NASA and Google Inc. forged an agreement last week that allows Google to lease a portion of NASA’s historic Moffett Fede...

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Business

State Street science center closing Nov. 30

State Street science center closing Nov. 30


Ellie Van Houtte/
Helix at 316 State St. is closing after the completion of a one-year grant from Passerelle Investment Co. The science center became a popular destination because of its various exhibits. Town Crier

A popular downtown destination...

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Books

Children's author signs books at Linden Tree

Children's author signs books at Linden Tree


Author Tiffany Papageorge is scheduled to sign copies of new her book 11 a.m. Dec. 6 at Linden Tree Books, 265 State St., Los Altos.

Papageorge’s “My Yellow Balloon” (Minoan Moon, 2014) is a Mom’s Choice “Gold” winner. In the book, the Los Gat...

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People

JAMES WINDELL SMITH

JAMES WINDELL SMITH

January 11, 1939 – November 6, 2014
Resident of Mountain View

James Windell Smith, a 40 year resident of Los Altos, passed away from complications after a post-surgery stroke November 6th, 2014 in Los Gatos, California.

Born on January 11, 1939 on...

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Travel

Olive Sonoma: There's more to the quaint town than wine

Olive Sonoma: There's more to the quaint town than wine


Eren Göknar/ Special to the Town Crier
While many day-trippers may think that Sonoma is all about the grapes, the region boasts other delights. Try a biplane ride over the patchwork landscape.

Sonoma, a scenic two-hour drive from Los Altos, boa...

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Stepping Out

LA Stage Company opens 'Fairway'

The Los Altos Stage Company production of Ken Ludwig’s new comedy “The Fox on the Fairway” is slated to run Thursday through Dec. 14 at Bus Barn Theater, 97 Hillview Ave.

A tribute to the English farces of the 1930s and 1940s, “Fox” is a romp that p...

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Spiritual Life

Author of Jewish historical novel slated at Congregation Beth Am

Author of Jewish historical novel slated at Congregation Beth Am


The Beth Am Women have scheduled “A Conversation with Author Maggie Anton” 7:30 p.m. Nov. 20 at Congregation Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Road, Los Altos Hills.

Anton, winner of the 2012 National Jewish Book Award for Fiction, will discu...

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Magazine

Christmas At Our House home tour celebrates 26 years

Christmas At Our House home tour celebrates 26 years


Courtesy of Christopher Stark
Homes on the St. Francis High School Women’s Club’s Christmas at Our House Holiday Home Tour showcase a variety of architectural styles.

The days grow short on sunshine but long on nostalgia as the holidays approach...

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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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