Outfitting the Garage
Preservation efforts enhanced by authentic tools, equipment and furnishings.
Restoration projects offer a unique opportunity to slip silently through previously closed portals connecting the present to bygone times. When done correctly, they create the closest experience available to stepping into a time machine and being transported back.
A Craftsman drill press, nearly identical to this one found on ebay for $75 (US), made its way across the country in the rumble seat of Dave and Lucile’s car.
For the past year, extensive preservation, restoration and rehabilitation efforts for the Hewlett-Packard Garage and the nearby house and shed have been meticulously carried out and recorded. As the ancestral home of HP and birthplace of Silicon Valley was mapped, deconstructed, repaired and then reconstructed, historical reference material was also being assembled and carefully studied.
Forgotten treasures, oral histories, photographs and archival materials — along with manuals and magazines from the early years of the 20th century — each contributed to the overall picture of how the historic house, garage, shed and grounds of 367/369 Addison Avenue appeared in their original period of significance: 1938 and 1939.
With work complete, the buildings are strong and beautiful; preserved for future generations. Now, another story that has been being written behind the scenes comes to light; the recreation of the furnishings in the interiors of the buildings as they would have been when Bill and Dave were breathing life into their infant enterprise.
A Matter of Expectation
“The reason it is important to recreate the settings in both Dave and Lucile’s flat and Bill’s bunkhouse,” Nancy Ludlow, HP Real Estate and Workplace Solutions project manager for the Addison Avenue preservation and rehabilitation efforts said, “is that these buildings are the prelude to entering the garage. Recreating authentic appearances helps to set the expectation for visitors and help mentally transport them back in time prior to viewing the garage.”
Nancy, in addition to her position as a REWS project manager, is especially qualified for this undertaking since she is a Certified Interior Designer with a specialty in the specification and creation of period designs.
Since most people who will come and visit the garage were not even alive when Bill and Dave developed the first products there, it became an imperative for Nancy and HP Corporate Archivist, Anna Mancini, to evoke this truly unique moment in time.
“It’s well recognized that Bill and Dave were in the vanguard of the electronics revolution,” Anna said. “But what people don’t often think about is that while the technology they helped to create totally permeates our daily lives, it did not yet exist in theirs.”
Anna feels the importance of recreating that non-technical simplicity of the settings helps to mentally set the era for the visitor and instill a sense of wonder at how significant their contributions were.
“Incidentally,” she added with a smile, “the search for the perfect items was also the most fun part of the project.”
Nancy and Anna take a closer look inside a bureau under consideration as furnishing for the house. Authenticity, workmanship and cost were all scrutinized before purchase.
Formulating a Plan
Anna and Nancy took a methodical approach to developing their inventory of necessary pieces. A basic list of items to populate the house, workshop and shed was gleaned from a small collection of photographs and oral histories including those of Bill, Dave, Lucile and HP’s first sales representative, Norm Neely. For those items not located in the brick and mortar shops, e-Bay and donations of HP employees and alumni filled in the gaps.
At the top of their list were:
- A Wedgwood stove for the kitchen, like the one Bill and Dave used to bake the paint on panels for the oscillators;
- A Craftsman drill press for the garage (HP’s first piece of equipment — carried cross-country from Schenectady to Palo Alto in the rumble seat of Dave’s 1936 Chevrolet;
- A large dining room table and working upright typewriter, like the one Lucile described where she typed and kept company books;
- A fold-down or Murphy Bed for the dining room — the Packard’s sleeping accommodations in their renovated flat; and
- A camera suitable for taking home photographs — used to snap HP’s first advertising photo of an oscillator.
In order to formulate a shopping list for furniture and items not mentioned in archival materials, Nancy made a scale drawing of the interior spaces and developed a decorating plan that included placement of each needed piece.
Anna developed a list of items that would be needed to replicate the appearance of the garage workbench and bunkhouse. These sets of lists ensured that each building would have exactly what was necessary to evoke the appearance of the era.
Then, of course, they developed a list of everyday items that would have been in any average home of the day: assorted kitchen items, bookshelves, books, knick-knacks, magazines, end tables, linens, sofas, chairs, a telephone, a clock, a radio etc.
Lucile typed up all of the company correspondence on an upright typewriter very much like this vintage Underwood Anna found in a vintage typewriter repair shop.
Books and Vintage Equipment
One of the blessings bestowed upon the restless Silicon Valley is a kind of emerging collective consciousness that strives to honor its unique past. History San Jose (HSJ) is one of the treasure troves of the region dedicated to preserving the physical and intellectual artifacts of the early days of the west coast technology boom.
Situated across from San Jose’s historic Kelly Park, HSJ’s eclectic inventory of donated equipment, books and photographs was generously opened to HP when the preservation project began. Assembled materials were made available on long-term loan and make significant contributions to authentic recreations of the bookcases in the house as well as the workbench environs of the garage.
Sorting her way through boxes of antique books and stacks of outdated equipment, Anna discovered - among other treasures - original copies of books that Bill, Dave and Lucile would have used during their Stanford student days including the classic “Radio Engineering” textbook by Fred Terman.
“The books were a great find,” Anna said. “Having them made available to HP on permanent loan is an invaluable gift.”
In the electronics equipment inventory, Anna also discovered a 200A audio oscillator personally presented to Stanford University by Bill and Dave. This rare find will rest on the mantel in the ground floor flat as a visual reminder that it was here that the partners snapped a photograph of their first production model for use in a promotional mailing to potential customers. Other finds plucked from the repository included a ham radio, assorted gauges and tube-driven test and measurement equipment, and vintage tubes.
This set of Audels Handbooks for Engineers & Mechanics, donated by HP alumnus, Lee Hudson, belonged to his father and would have been present in many 1930s workshops.
Vetting Vintage Goods
A plethora of antique colonies and second-hand emporiums are situated within easy traveling distance of Palo Alto, so Anna and Nancy embraced the year-long physical and virtual search to furnish the property with gusto.
“The very first piece of furniture we purchased,” Anna said, “was the Murphy bed. Nancy and I discovered it in a second-hand furniture store. At first, we couldn’t figure out what it was. When we opened it up and saw it was a Murphy bed, we couldn’t believe how lucky we were.”
A second, and equally exciting adventure on the hunt to outfit the garage, was locating a Craftsman drill press. After a search on eBay had run for several months - bingo — the perfect candidate showed up. “Luckily, I knew just what we were looking for,” Anna said. “I had a photo of the original drill press in the archives.”
She made the bid and won it for $75 (US). “I had it delivered to the model shop at HP Labs, and they repaired the wiring and got it working. It was in perfect condition — just like the one Dave Packard carried across the country in the rumble seat of his 1936 Chevrolet.”
Wrapping it up
Both Anna and Nancy agreed that it has been a great project to work on “At times it has been incredibly demanding,” Nancy said. “But all, in all, it’s been a real labor of love.”
Anna concurred. “It’s good to know that when our work is done,” she said, “the garage and its surroundings can be a source of company pride and a symbol of inspiration for many years to come.”
Enjoy the online photo-sampler of vintage equipment and household items collected to outfit the Addison Avenue property courtesy of the HP Archives.