Tue09302014

Mountain View on the Move

Approval for Immigrant House relocation excites supporters


Photo By: Photos Courtesy of Mary Kay Marinovich
Photo Photos Courtesy Of Mary Kay Marinovich

Volunteers including firefighters and city councilmembers, top, pitch in May 30 to clean up the site at 771 N. Rengstorff Ave., future home to the Immigrant House.

The Immigrant House has a home.

In the wake of the city’s recent $3 million purchase of a property at 771 N. Rengstorff Ave., the Mountain View City Council May 21 approved relocating the small 1880s-era house to the site.

Although the council has yet to formally approve the newly purchased land for park use, its action with Immigrant House points in that direction. The property’s owner, Frances M. Stieper, sold the 1.22-acre property to the city with the preference that it be used for either a park or affordable housing.

Although Immigrant House is tiny at 400 square feet, it looms large in the life of Los Altos resident Mary Kay Marinovich, who founded Friends of Immigrant House to campaign for a reprieve for the historical structure. It was home to family members who came to America from Croatia in search of a better life – thus leading to its name, Immigrant House. Through her efforts, the house, formerly located at 166 Bryant St., was saved from demolition earlier this year and moved to the city’s Municipal Operations Center until a new site could be found.

“We will be putting the house in the new park,” Marinovich said. “It will be a representation of what Mountain View was like to live in at the turn of the century.”

Major hurdles remain, however – namely, moving the house to the new location and renovating it. Costs are estimated to range from $50,000 to a city staff estimate of $225,000.

In light of the community support that has stepped forward, cost estimates remain uncertain. Marinovich May 30 rounded up several volunteers, including Mountain View Mayor John Inks, to clear out debris at the Rengstorff property – overgrown brush and trash that had accumulated over decades as the owner could no longer could keep up with maintenance.

Former Los Altos mayors Roy Lave and Bob Grimm also have helped. Lave, executive director of the Los Altos Community Foundation, said the foundation would act as a fiscal sponsor for Immigrant House fundraising.

The foundation can accept donations on its behalf, sparing Marinovich the hassle of founding her own nonprofit group to handle funds.

Members of the Kiwanis Club of Mountain View have provided funding and support for the relocation, and Mountain View firefighters are assisting in the effort.

Councilmembers selected the Rengstorff location from several options, including Shoreline Park adjacent to the historical Rengstorff House and Deer Hollow Farm, run by the city of Mountain View.

The relatively small park location suits some Immigrant House supporters just fine.

“It would be kind of lost in a bigger setting,” said Carol Lewis at the May 21 meeting. “It deserves a location of its own, by itself, where children can appreciate it more.”

Although noting that the city would provide oversight, the council placed the responsibility of fundraising on Friends of Immigrant House volunteers. The group is charged with raising money for such items as architectural drawings and materials.

City Manager Dan Rich said the effort has “evolved into a partnership” between the city and the volunteers. Marinovich said she plans to schedule an event Aug. 19 to celebrate the Immigrant House and its history.

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