Monday, July 17, 2017

A New Series on Local (Silicon Valley) History: Robin Chapman's First Columns on "Santa Clara Valley Lives"

The house Sarah Winchester built for her sister on the San Francisco Peninsula. Located between Palo Alto and Mountain View, the acreage eventually led to the founding of the city of Los Altos. And the house still stands.

I'm writing a new series of columns for the Los Altos Town Crier, a paper that reports from the heart of what we now call Silicon Valley. It was called the Santa Clara Valley when I was growing up here (that is still its official name) and the stories are about the region before it became the center of the tech revolution. We're calling the feature "Santa Clara Valley Lives" and I wanted to share my first columns with readers who do not subscribe to the Town Crier, but are inclined instead to look for my work on this blog. 

The photo of the house above, forms the basis for of my first column. The glimpse you can see of it through the trees gives us a whisper of a reminder of the Winchester Mystery House of San Jose, for which Sarah Winchester is so famous. Perhaps it is the interesting angle on those gables.

Now that I've read more about her, I realize she was quite a different person from the crazy lady of myth, a story much publicized to market her curious old San Jose house to tourists. Embedded in the real history I've read about her, I also found the story of how her desire not to be bullied by the railroad led to the founding of the town where I was born.

My second column is about the architect Frank Lloyd Wright. He was publicizing his "organic" style of architecture when a realtionship with one of the fathers of Los Altos led him to help select the site for the Los Altos City Hall. He suggested city leaders build it smack in the middle of an apricot orchard. The orchard still stands today.

Click the links below for my first two columns. I will have more links to share with you soon.

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