Early YearsHistory Picture in LIFE

The Adobe Meadow neighborhood emerged as a site of rural custom half-acre lots off of Middlefield Road in the late 1940s. It was located in the unincorporated farmland between Palo Alto and Mountain View at a time when Adobe Creek ran along East Charleston Road and the residents along Charleston and the south end of Grove Avenue crossed bridges to the Piers Dairy on Louis Road.

Grove Avenue, Mayview Avenue, and Ross Road were dirt roads where custom older homes first occupied corner lots. Some homes still survive on Middlefield Road at East Meadow, on Ross Road at both East Meadow and Mayview, and along Grove Avenue, while others have been thoroughly remodeled. The first homes had wells for drinking water, since municipal services had not yet reached south of Palo Alto.

One of the earliest residents was Bea Ellis on Grove Avenue, who worked for many years as a school cook. She remembers when the Corina Way and Nathan Way blocks were a carrot field, and fig trees and other fruit trees populated the back lots in mini-farms. Some of the fig trees and wells still survive.

Housing Development in the 1950s

The Brown and Kauffman development along Louis Road north of the new Adobe Creek flood channel was built in the mid-1950s, when Charleston Road was widened. Eichlers sprung up in 1956 on south side of the channel, a twin of a similar development off of Miller Creek Road in Marin County called Lucas Valley. AMNA President Ken Allen grew up in that Lucas Valley subdivision. Ortega School and Ramos Park were built to serve the burgeoning population of school children.

In the 1950s, as Philco built its plant at Fabian Way and as the streets were paved and widened, the street level was lowered along Grove Avenue, leaving a lip along the property lines of the developed lots on both sides of the street and clipping front yards along expansive Ross Road and East Meadow.

City-owned trees were integrated into the front lawns on Grove Avenue rather than planted at the curb. The trees along the 3700 block of Grove Avenue were removed and replanted in the early 1970s, while the trees in the 3800 block of Grove Avenue have survived for over forty years. Many of the homes on the street have been remodeled, often with a garage converted to a room, a carport added, or a second story added over the garage. One standalone garage dating from the late forties has been grandfathered into the neighborhood as a mother-in-law cottage; it was fully remodeled and modernized in the early 2000s.

Next Wave of Housing Development

From the late 1950s into the 1970s, the half-acre lots along Grove Avenue, Mayview Avenue and Ross Road were split, eventually leading to nearly-hidden flag lots behind every home. In 1956, a contractor turned a couple of adjacent very deep lots adjacent the Adobe Creek Channel into a cul de sac called Grove Court, and he and six of his Mormon friend built custom homes–each with a room over a two-story garage. Two families still occupy their original homes, Lorna Holdaway and Curt Harrison.

In the mid-1960s, May Court was fully developed, later adding the first photo-voltaic powered home to the neighborhood. In 1977, the largest undeveloped site along Middlefield Road–just south of the Adobe Creek channel, was slated for development as below-market-rate, high-density residences. Instead, the flood channel was upgraded: the entire ground level was filled, packed, and raised above flood grade to support the development of custom homes along the new Ensign Way and the construction of the LDS Meetinghouse for the large community of Palo Alto Mormons (two congregations now share the building).

Two World War II vintage Quonset huts originally lined Middlefield adjacent the Adobe Creek channel, housing a ballet studio and an auto repair garage. In the 1980s, after the City forced their removal and closure, the lots were developed as residences. Lorna Affleck of May Court continued the ballet studio at the closed high school at the Cubberley Community Center but closed it after conversion proved impractical.

Ortega Court

The biggest anomaly is Ortega Court, once the home of half of Ortega Elementary School. It grew out of the 1980s closure and sale of the properties in the face of drastically reduced enrollment in the schools, as Ross Road School was also closed and converted into Talisman Court, north of East Meadow.

Ortega Court is now a block of larger, custom homes. Ramos Park was expanded with a strip of open field stretching from East Meadow to the back yards along the eastward-turning bend in Ross Road. With the exception of the redevelopment of a cluster of homes off of the 3700 block of Middlefield, there have been no changes to the neighborhood since then, except the remodeling of homes and the resurfacing of the streets.

Recent History

Grove Avenue and Corina Way held block parties starting in the early 1980s. The Grove Avenue block party was eventually subsumed into the annual Mitchell Park Chili Cookoff on July 4, and Arthur Keller, one of the early AMNA organizers, helped morph the Corina event at Ramos Park into a neighborhood association, joining the neighboring blocks in the early 2000s.

Traffic has become a concern to the neighborhood. At Ross and East Meadow, there was a nearly fatal auto-cyclist accident several years ago, and the city responded by adding stop signs to create a four-way stop. In 2003, on East Meadow Circle at the end of East Meadow Drive near the Adobe Meadow neighborhood, two industrial sites began to be redeveloped as high-density town homes. Prior to that time, a traffic semaphore and turning lanes were installed at the corner of East Meadow and Middlefield, and traffic guards were hired, all in anticipation of increased traffic and in recognition that school children cross Middlefield to Fairmeadow Elementary School, JLS Middle School, and Gunn High School. The East Meadow corridor continues to be a safety concern of the neighborhood as more development is contemplated.

For more Palo Alto history, visit the Palo Alto Historical Association.