This Old House
A history of the Addison Avenue property, birthplace of HP and the Silicon Valley
In the late 1970s, while on an HP site tour, Bill Hewlett discovered an old HP disk drive chassis still intact but marred by rusting screws. When he expressed chagrin at the obvious flaw, someone tried to excuse the low quality by saying HP didn’t make the faulty part.
“Maybe not,” Bill offered, “but it has my name on it!”
Palo Alto Mayor Jim Burch presents Mark with a proclamation declaring December 6, 2005, HP Garage Commemoration Day. HP and the city worked closely together on the project.
By any other name
The principle embodied in this particular story - while both charming and endearing - is also revealing. It sheds light on an aspiration as old as the company itself; if the HP name goes on, the quality must go in.
In that spirit, work has now begun on the preservation of the humble HP garage and the rehabilitation of the location where Dave and Bill brought their dreams of a business to life. The construction fence went up on the 367 Addison Avenue site the week of January 25th, and work crews have their marching orders.
Precisely because the project bears the company name, every facet of the work to be done is designed to contribute to the authentic preservation of this precious piece of the company’s past and symbol of its inventive future.
The garage is generally regarded by historians, engineers and others - in and out of the high-tech industry - to be one of the most significant artifacts of the early days of the electronics industry remaining in Silicon Valley today.
The garage stands to serve as a real, physical touch point with the roots of Silicon Valley.
An interesting wrinkle in the designation of the HP garage as California Registered Landmark #976 is that the designation applies exclusively to the garage and does not extend to the house or rear shed Bill used as a bunkhouse.
Furthermore, what most people don’t know is that this status - sweet though it sounds - comes with little or no protection.
There are no state-mandated standards in place to shelter the garage from the ravages of the years.
Historical find – The basement at 367 Addison yielded important finds such as these original doors, stacked on the ground and fortuitously left behind. Finds like this and the original dormer, left in the attic, assist in returning the house to a more original look.
City historic property
Because the City of Palo Alto considers all buildings on the 367 Addison Avenue site to be part of the Qualified Historic Property, the house, the shed and the garage are all eligible for consideration under the State Historic Building Codes - codes that allow more flexibility in dealing with the unique construction problems inherent in historic buildings.
But even status as a Palo Alto City Historic Property only affords the meager protection of requiring that 60-days notice be given before tearing it down. This vulnerability, in large measure, is a prime motivator behind the restorative efforts HP is now shepherding.
With care and respect
Long before being named a landmark, the Addison Avenue property assumed a place of honor on the “star map” of Silicon Valley. Without many clues, visiting engineers, dignitaries, techies and others managed to find their way to the site where the HP epic began. The idea of starting a global corporation, on the scale of HP, in a backyard garage is integral to the entrepreneurial dream, and people are naturally drawn to it. Its condition presents the face of the company; past, present and future to the world.
Starting with the garage
Most of the preservation efforts will concentrate - and rightfully so - on the garage.
The garage structure will be left “as-is” as much as possible. Because of the historic significance of both the exterior and interior of the building, all upgrades are being designed to be unobtrusive.
Safety highlights include:
- Installation of stabilizing 4-inch square steel tube columns with spread footing foundations at each interior corner of the garage;
- Repair of wood damage and building of an elevated sill that will minimize future water invasion and termite infestation;
- Where damage to existing wood is too heavy for repair, salvaged wood of the same age will be carefully integrated into the building; and
- Exposed knob-and-tube wiring - a key-defining feature of the garage and crucial to historical accuracy - will be preserved.
Rehabilitation is the primary thrust of all work on the house. Wherever possible, remaining materials will be repaired and re-used. Salvageable materials, including latter-day appliances, bricks, wood and interior fixtures that do not play a significant role in the rehabilitation are being recycled, donated and reused so that impact on landfill and the environment are minimized.
- The unsightly front and back porch enclosures, back stairway and second story landing (added much later) are being removed.
- Remaining historic features are being repaired when possible. Where replacement rather than repair is required, the new feature will match the old in design, color, texture and materials;
- The original dormer on the front of the house will be recreated;
- Mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems are being updated to apply with or exceed required codes;
- The house will receive a new roof, gutters, downspouts, flashing and shingles;
- The clinker-brick chimney will be taken down, catalogued brick by brick and meticulously reconstructed according to current codes; and
- Bloomberg – “Hewlett Packard’s Hurd Opens Door on Restored Garage” and
- Worker safety as well as air and soil quality standards with respect to lead abatement are being diligently pursued.
Online Coverage included:
- CNN.com - where the Reuters story appeared alongside photos of the garage.
- ABCNews.go.com - in Michael Malone’s column “Remembering the HP Way”
- BusinessWeek.com - Techbeat blog
- Wire Photos were carried by:
- Associate Press
- Getty Images
Television and Radio coverage included:
- KGO (ABC) San Francisco -– multiple newscasts
- KNTV (NBC) San Francisco — multiple newscasts
- KPIX (CBS) San Francisco -– multiple newscasts
- KRON (independent) San Francisco
It is estimated that the print coverage alone captured the attention of millions worldwide.
Plans for the recreated interiors reflect the simple grace of the house as it would have looked in 1938-1939. It was never a grand house but rather, a modest home both in design and appearance. Plans include:
- Reopening the enclosed front porch and recreating the original shingled guardrail;
- Replacing aluminum windows with double-hung wood windows with the divided-light over plain-glass pattern. Original windows on site will be reused if possible, as will several original doors; and
- Repairing and refinishing original wood floors.
The shed (Bill’s bachelor bunkhouse)
- The structure will be stabilized;
- The roof and shingles will be repaired;
- By lifting and resetting it on a new sill, future water damage and termite re-infestation will be slowed.
- Repair of the frame and installation of bead board walls will evoke the rustic flavor of the shed Bill Hewlett recalled in an oral history of the property.
Vital Statistics for 367 Addison Avenue
Dr. John C. Spencer and his wife, Ione, from 1905-1937. Following the doctor’s death in 1937, Mrs. Spencer continued as the resident landlady. She rented the flat, shed and garage to Bill and Dave
Garage used by:
Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard 1938-1939(Dave and Lucile lived in the downstairs flat and Bill bunked in the shed until he and Flora married in 1939.)
Post Bill and Dave:
The house, shed and garage used as rental property by various owners 1944-2000
Purchased by HP:
Above and beyond
Because the HP name is on this signature project, there are many features that go above and beyond what is required by standard city, county and state codes. They are being included not because they are required, but because HP believes they are the right things to do.
Highlights of “above and beyond” measures HP has voluntarily included:
- Installation of a permeable concrete driveway; reuse of lumber, timber and interior finish materials; water-saving irrigation; hot water energy saver and kitchen appliances; as well as the reclamation and reuse of existing salvaged woodwork — all done with respect to the historic fabric of the site and consistent with HP’s commitment to environmental stewardship;
- All rehabilitation work will be carried out according to the United States Secretary of the Interior’s “Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.”
- These standards call for the restoration of the property to the time periods when the site is associated with Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard and the contribution that the garage start-up made to the broad patterns of American history;
- Structures will include voluntary fire sprinkler, monitored alarm systems and seismic structure upgrades in order to meet Hewlett-Packard’s own site safety standards; and
- Voluntary accessibility upgrades to the site and structures will meet HP’s diversity goals. Included in the plans are a wheelchair lift and an accessible path of travel through every space on the ground floor.
- A simple planting design, gleaned from garden magazines of the time period, will reflect a historically consistent palette including foundation planting and lawn with select flowering trees;
- An accessible path of travel will be provided from the street to the rear entrance; and
- The height of the gate will be reduced to allow a sightline to the garage from the front yard.
Pulling it all together
The mere mention of the HP garage conjures the values and spirit of a revolution led by two earnest young men with a dream and the drive to make it real.
HP embraces the opportunity to preserve the Addison Avenue site as a touchstone from which people everywhere can gather inspiration for years to come.
A rose by any other name
Preserve. Rehabilitate. Remodel. Renovate. Restore. They’re words that are often on the lips of those attempting to describe what it is that’s happening at 367 Addison Avenue. It’s what you do to old houses, right? But what are the actual differences between these terms? What does each entail? And how do they apply to this project?
The following is a brief glossary of the terms that may be useful in talking about the efforts surrounding the HP garage.
Preservation – The ultimate goal of preservation of old buildings is to keep them safe and intact for future generations. The garage, being the building of ultimate significance on the Addison Avenue property will be the object of the most intense preservation efforts. Following strict preservation guidelines, there is much to do to ensure that the building remains strong and safe for the next 100 years.
Rehabilitate – This is the key word for reviving the house and the shed. Following the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties, the project endeavors to return and rehabilitate the house to a state much as it would have been during the span of time “during which significant events and activities occurred.” In this case, the period of significance is 1938-1939, the time during which the site is associated with Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard.
The rehabilitation plans are to bring the house, shed and garage back to a state of health. The structures will be repaired and recreated as they would have looked when Bill and Dave were spending inventive evenings in the garage.
Remodel – Strictly speaking, remodel just means to alter a structure from the original. Good or bad, the house at Addison Avenue has endured any number of remodels in its 100-year history. Remodels have included changes to the exteriors of the building such as adding stairways, enclosing front and back porches, simplifying the roofline and replacing original windows. There was also extensive interior remodeling that altered interior walls, fixtures and room uses. The ongoing remodeling was so extensive that to the untrained eye, it became nearly impossible to discern the original floor plan.
Remodeling is not a goal of the current project.
Renovate – means to restore to a former, better state and to once again make it as it was when it new – in this case, 1905. Because of the extensive remodeling, removal and destruction of both exteriors and interiors of the house by previous owners, a full renovation is not practical. Also, since the goal is to return the house, shed and garage to their condition in the 1938-39 timeframe, a true renovation is not the desired goal.
Restore – means simply to bring something back to some former condition. Restoration assumes original materials remain and that they are in adequate condition to allow restoration. Because of the age and long term neglect of the house, the garage and the shed, there are limited but important opportunities for restoration work.