Rengstorff House in Mt View
May 13, 2019
Would you ever have guessed that one of the oldest and most historic homes in the area was right near the luxury apartments in Mountain View? It’s true! The Rengstorff House, “Mountain View’s oldest home and one of the finest examples of Victorian Italianate architecture on the West Coast,” is located right on Shoreline Boulevard, and waiting for you to take a tour. Before you make your visit, though, we’ll be taking the liberty of filling you in on a few details about this legendary property, and that Victorian Italianate architectural style that’s been its claim to fame.
What in the World is Victorian Italianate Anyway?
Before we delve into the Rengstorff House, it’s important that you understand a bit about the Victorian Italianate architectural that it represents. This style is a distinctly 19th Century one which lasted from about 1840 until 1885, enjoying its peak popularity between the 1850s and 1870s. It began as a “reaction to the rigid formalism that had come to dominate nineteenth-century architecture,” influenced heavily by Italian buildings and getting its start in England.
By the time this style came to the States, it took on a character of its own, blending those Italian influences with the American spirit to create something wholly original and uniquely enjoyable. It was a common sight in both the West and Midwest, and its buildings are typified by their height (generally two or three stories), low-pitched roofs, wide eaves, elegant ornamentation, narrow windows, and lovely wraparound porches and columns. California is where the earlies Victorian interpretations on the style were developed, and you’ll see that exemplified by buildings like the Painted Ladies in San Francisco and, of course, the Rengstorff House, which we’ll be taking a look at next.
The Rengstorff House and Henry Rengstorff
Henry Rengstorff was once a young American, drawn to California by the temptation of the gold rush in 1850. In an interesting plot twist, he arrived to California too late to taste the fruits of the gold rush, but took a series of jobs that allowed him to save enough money to purchase about 290 acres worth of land in San Jose.
Rengstorff’s farm took off big. Just three years after that initial 290-acre purchase, he was able to buy another 290-acre plot of land. Now expanded in his operations, Rengstorff was raising “grain and hay near Milpitas, [keeping] cattle in San Mateo and [planting] fruit trees in Los Altos.” This success saw his fortune continue to multiply, eventually giving him the funds to purchase more land the property where Rengstorff House stands today in 1864 (what is now known as the Shoreline Business Park).
The Rengstorff House was built in 1867, for Rengstorff to show off his wealth and raise his family of six children in a life of luxury. When Rengstorff died, his daughter, Elise Haag took control of the home, but in time, it was eventually abandoned and fell into disrepair. Though it was saved from demolition in the 1970s, it wasn’t until 1991 that the property was fully restored to its former glory:
“Saved from destruction and then beautifully furnished by a community-based organization known as the Friends of "R" House, the facility features ornate brass chandeliers, plaster rosettes, push-button light switches, Bradbury & Bradbury wallpaper designs and Eastlake furniture. The 12-room, 3,955 square foot structure is graced with 11-foot ceilings on the first floor and 10-foot ceilings on the second story.”
Rengstorff House, now restored (at a cost of some $1.25 million) and on the National Register of Historic Places, features many charming qualities, including its grandiose dining room, lovely brick patios, sweeping lawns, beautiful gardens, and, of course, nearby Shoreline Lake. You can tour the property on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Sundays, and while these tours are free for members of the Friends of “R” House, you’ll need to offer up a small fee if you’re a non-member.
Becoming a member isn’t a difficult task, however, and if you’re really interested in helping out Rengstorff House and their “friends,” you might also consider volunteering your time. The Friends of “R” House are always looking for “dependable assistance” and could use a hand with many of the special events they hold from time to time, like their exhibitions and Spring Tea sessions. One such event, the Rengstorff House “Haunted Mansion,” has been chronicled in detail to give you an idea of the atmosphere. It seems the spooky stories offer a riveting way to immerse yourself in the environment of this old building at night, and might make for a pretty good evening out if you’ve got the family in tow.
In addition, beautiful Rengstorff House is also available for rent, if you’ve got a special event going on sometime soon:
“The Rengstorff House is available for rent for up to 150 guests during our non-public tour times, including weekends Friday/Saturday anytime or Sundays after 4:30pm, as well as weekdays anytime Monday/Thursday or Tuesdays/Wednesdays beginning at 5:00pm.”
You can get a look at the rental rates here, and get more info on making a reservation on the Mountain View City Government’s website. There are also tons of great photos that will allow you to get a view of Rengstorff House in all its splendor before you head out to take a look in person.
Add This to Your Tour of the Area Around the Luxury Apartments in Mountain View
It should come as no surprise that stellar communities like The Village Residences are right in the middle of all sorts of great things to see and do in Mountain View. Add Rengstorff House to your list of hotspots to visit, and once you’re done, just pick a direction and you’ll find something new and exciting to explore in the area. Life at The Village Residences makes it easy, so be sure to check out the community if you’re not already calling it home, and drop us a line when you’re ready to make this your new home base in sunny, sublime Mountain View.