Part One - Rengstorff House - The Victorian Beauty
A few weeks ago my husband and I were reminiscing over our morning espresso about when we used to walk and ride our bikes often at the Shoreline park. It isn't as if it is that far away - about 9 miles - it just went off our radar for years. We decided to drive over there that April morning and take a walk. We are getting our bikes back out after the winter and riding again, so when the muscles are back in shape we'll ride over and take a picnic lunch. You probably think that California should be warm and sunny by now, and so did we, but after a short warm spell in April, we had cold weather and rains again right up to earlier last week and temperatures have still been in the middle to high 60s during the day.
Parking just several blocks east of Hwy 101 by San Antonio Road on Terminal Blvd we commenced our walk to the park and as we headed down the cement path and turned to go around the Northeast side of Shoreline Lake, ten year old memories started to bubble up that we chatted briefly about as we enjoyed the view in the warm spring sun. Finally reaching the Southeast side of the lake there is the Lakeside Cafe and across the parking lot from that is the Rengstorff House.
Henry Rengstorff grew up in Germany in the early 19th Century. Hearing stories of the California gold Rush, he left home at 21, sailing around Cape Horn and arriving in San Francisco in 1850. But he was too late to join the gold rush and he took a job on a Bay Steamer that traveled between San Francisco and Alviso (San Jose).
He eventually left shipping to work as a farm laborer in the Santa Clara Valley (oh how that valley must have looked back then!) and saved up enough to purchase squatter's rights to
290 acres of land in San Jose. He later bought another 290 acres, and eventually his total
land holdings grew to 2,000 acres. In 1864 he bought 164 acres on the bay east of what is
now Shoreline Business Park and there he built "The Victorian Beauty." Built of virgin Redwood and Douglas Fir trees, it is the oldest know building in Mountain View. It was owned by generations of Rengstorff family and relatives until it was sold in 1959.
The house was built in 1867 and was an example of the Bay Area's "late Victorian Italianate" architecture. It was one of the most significant houses in Mountain View. The lace curtains in all the windows made me want to peek inside at the 19th century life. Although a little of my fantasy was shattered when I saw the un-curtained window to the kitchen equipped with a modern stove and microwave oven. This made me decide to live in the dreams in my head instead of coming back to take the docent tour of the inside of the house. Adjacent to the kitchen area, we sat on the low stone wall in the back and gazed at the yard and the flower covered portico over a back entrance feeling soothed by time travel back it's beginnings.
Ten year old memories or one hundred and fifty - the Rengstorff House and surrounding park are a pleasant and peaceful way to spend a couple hours or a whole day.
I'll be back in Part Two of this series with a tour of the lake and marshlands.