Tricia and Bill Jennings’ University Avenue home, which Los Altos founder Paul Shoup built more than a century ago, is the first in the city to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The home was added to the federal list Sept. 30 to recognize Shoup’s impact on the development of the region through the Southern Pacific Railroad. The designation “brings a spotlight to Los Altos,” according to city planner Zach Dahl.
Tricia downplayed the praise.
“I just thought it would be cool to have a plaque,” she said when asked by the Town Crier why the couple went through the years-long certification process. “We’re very happy and pleased that the federal government recognizes Paul Shoup. Does it do anything for homeowners personally? No.”
According to a letter from the California Office of Historic Preservation, “Registration provides a number of incentives for preservation of historic properties, including special building codes to facilitate the restoration of historic structures and certain tax advantages.” The letter also states that the tribute does not restrict the home in any way.
Tricia, an attorney and history-lover – Los Altos historian “Don McDonald is my idol,” she said – moved with her husband to Cherry Avenue in Los Altos in 2002 and purchased the Shoup house a year later.
“I was actually pregnant and decided to turn down University Avenue one day and saw a sign for an open home,” Tricia said of how she and Bill discovered the house. “We stopped in and fell in love with the house. (We) loved the pocket doors.”
To obtain the federal certification, Tricia said they paid a specialized architect approximately $10,000 to design and implement the restoration.
The construction permit required by the Los Altos Architectural & Site Review Committee took more than a year to secure. The renovation began in November 2009 and was completed a year later.
Dahl said the designation highlights Shoup’s legacy and impact, evident through his presidency at SP, the railroad that linked Los Altos to San Francisco in the early part of the 20th century.
“I think what it means is we’ve got a house here in Los Altos that not only has local importance from a historical level, but at the state and federal level for being a house (lived in by someone who) contributed to history that’s nationally important,” Dahl said.
Dahl added it’s likely that no other home in Los Altos would qualify for the national recognition.
Laura Bajuk, executive director of the Los Altos History Museum, which hosted the Shoup Centennial Celebration last November, called the home’s accolade “like winning an Oscar.”
“Los Altos doesn’t have a Monticello or Mount Vernon,” she said, referring to the historical homesteads of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, “but this is as close to it as we’re going to get. This is our founder.”