“With its shaded streets and historic homes, Old Palo Alto offers a traditionally elegant style of living accented by the amenities of the day.”
A neighborhood of affluent elegance, Old Palo Alto (MLS #237) is full of wooded lanes and an abundance of impressive, pre-war homes offering a diversity of architectural designs.
The graceful charm of Old Palo Alto has appealed to the local elite from the start. Edwin Percy Gamble, the father of Proctor & Gamble heiress, Elizabeth Gamble, constructed the borough’s first residence in 1902. The Waverley Street estate was bequeathed by Elizabeth to the city in 1985. Known as Gamble Garden, it offers education and outreach programs, serves as a horticultural resource, hosts a variety of events and is one of the most picturesque manors in the city.
Other well-known Old Palo Alto residents include Google co-founder Sergei Brin and Apple Computer’s Steve Jobs, who also resided on Waverley Street.
Architectural styles abound here, including historic Tudors, decorative Craftsmans and cozy bungalows. Its shaded streets are peaceful and offer easy strolls to the city’s two business districts as well as the Cal Train station on California Avenue. Drawn by its sophistication and allure, Old Palo Alto is a place where people set down roots.
The moniker Old Palo Alto is a bit deceptive as this borough is far from the oldest in the city. It became part of Palo Alto proper in 1917, 27 years after the city incorporated. The name fits, though, partially because the history of the land itself, once called the Seale Addition, is deep rooted and because the name fits with the elegant tradition and grace afforded by this highly desired neighborhood.
History of Old Palo Alto
In the mid-1850s, two San Francisco contractors, brothers Thomas and Henry Seale, came to own 1,400 acres of the Rancho Rinconada del Arroyo de San Francisquito. They received this property as payment for assisting Don Rafael Soto’s daughter, Maria Luisa, in defending her claim to the land.
For 30 years, the Seale brothers used the land to cultivate hay for their livestock. In 1887, the brothers began to sell off their ranch, beginning with 697 acres sold to Leland Stanford’s assistant, Timothy Hopkins.
In 1904, Thomas Seale’s son, Alfred, now in control of the property, began subdividing the land for residential development. Before any homes could be constructed, Alfred had to dig a well to meet city code requirements. “He who lives in Palo Alto has the best California has to offer,” proclaimed a brochure accompanying the auction of the Seale Addition Subdivision #8 in 1904. Though that statement may have been true then and definitely holds true today, nine years later, only 70 homes stood on the “Seale Addition”, including the one built by Elizabeth Gamble’s father, Edwin, known today as Gamble Garden, one of Palo Alto’s city treasures.
Residents of Old Palo Alto have a longstanding feud over the actual name of their beloved borough. Some stand firm that it is, indeed, Old Palo Alto, while others insist it is the Seale Addition. What isn’t under debate is that Old Palo Alto is one of the city’s finest neighborhoods.