Professorville Historic District



Period of Significance: 1895 - 1979

Notable Architects: Birge Clark, Bernard Maybeck, Frank McMurray

Styles: Colonial Revival, Classical Revival, Craftsman, Prairie, Spanish Colonial Revival, Queen Anne, Tudor, Vernacular, California Ranch, Rustic Bungalow, First Bay Tradition

Features: varied architectural styles, verdant canopy, streetscape patterns, material palette

Contributing Resources: 113 (original)


Professorville, located near the historic core of Palo Alto and current downtown, is Palo Alto’s oldest historic district and one of its oldest residential districts. It is listed on both the National Register of Historic Places and Palo Alto’s Historic Inventory. After Stanford University opened in 1891, the land on which Professorville currently exists was set aside as land for the future homes of those affiliated with Stanford University. Many of the homes in Professorville were built from the 1890s through the early 1900s and became the homes of Stanford’s first professors, hence the title “Professorville.”  By the 1920s, Professorville was almost fully built out and dominated by single family homes with detached garages at the rear of the lot. Because Professorville is one of the oldest residential districts in Palo Alto, it reflects the unique background of the city’s origins and its early ties to the founding of Stanford and contributes greatly to Palo Alto’s overall character and heritage.

Professorville’s architectural styles vary greatly, reflecting the varying tastes of its first residents, who were primarily Stanford faculty. Because many of the first professors of Stanford were from the East Coast and Midwest, they imported popular architectural styles from those regions. Although a multitude of architectural styles can be found in the district, two of the most common styles found in Professorville include Colonial Revival and Craftsman. Many of these homes have the shingle siding that contributes to Professorville's distinctive character. In addition, the large lot sizes of the district enabled residents to build large homes surrounded by ample and mature vegetation. These two factors, large lots and heavy vegetation, contribute to the overall character of the streetscape of Professorville.

In 1993, the locally designated district's boundaries were expanded east to Embarcadero Road, beyond the earlier identified district, encompassing additional properties that contribute to the historic character of the neighborhood.  The City's expanded district contains nearly 200 residential properties.

The City Council recently reviewed and adopted the Professorville Design Guidelines.  These illustrated guidelines provide advice and direction for undertaking work in ways that retain the architectural character and historic integrity of the district, consistent with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. The guidelines address common scopes of work such as new building additions, façade changes, moving/lifting buildings on lots and new construction on developable sites.  For more information, see the Professorville Historic District Design Guidelines.


Want to learn more?
Check out these great resources.