"I hope it's for a good cause," said Chez TJ owner George Aviet, who looked on from his restaurant's balcony as the home next-door was demolished the morning of April 25.
"Of course it's a shame to see it go, but nobody took care of that building." He added that the neglected home, its porch overhang propped up by a temporary structure, had been an eyesore for many years.
A four-story office building called "Bryant Park Plaza" will go in its place with a ground floor parking garage and cafe. It already has a tenant lined up as downtown office space is under high demand from tech startups. The City Council approved the project in January.
Developer Roger Burnell told the City Council on Tuesday that that pieces of the home were saved at the last minute. Pearson's great grandson, Chris Pearson, stepped forward to take the pieces for a display to be placed at the Pearson Ranch in La Honda, Burnell said.
A recent effort by former arts committee chair Chris Parkinson to move the house to a city-owned Shoreline Boulevard lot for use as an art gallery also failed to gain support. "It didn't come together in the end," Burnell said. "There wasn't sufficient interest or time."
Burnell had originally offered to move and restore the home at 902 Villa Street — at his own expense — to be used as part of a city history museum that was once proposed for the Cuesta Annex. But after residents complained that development would ruin the Annex, the City Council declined the offer.
Bonita Drive resident Josephine Manoli had expressed interest in moving the home into her large backyard, an offer Burnell was interested in but that turned out not to be feasible. The City Council had even entertained using city funds to buy the property in 2010.
For a number of years the home was protected by law. Its proposed demolition in 2001 to make way for another development proposal sparked the creation of an ordinance that protected it along with dozens of historic buildings in Mountain View. But later court decisions have made that ordinance legally irrelevant, said Randy Tsuda, the city's community development director.
Built sometime before 1887, the home was believed to be the fourth oldest in the city. According to a report on the home's history by the Dill Design Group, the house was was developed by Doctor Bowling Bailey, a state Assemblyman, farmer and school trustee who developed the area between 1859 and 1888. The first known owners were Mathurin and Georgette LeDeit, from 1888 to 1892, Mathurin was a French-born butcher who likely commuted to his job in San Jose on the train line a block away.
Charles Pearson owned the house from 1892 to 1946 while he owned a grocery store in a building he built at 220-230 Castro Street and ran the "Old Haverty Corner Saloon" at Castro and Villa. In 1947, Pacific Telephone used the home as an office. Its last known use was as a used-toy store called "Forgotten Treasures."
What was saved on the site is known as the "Immigrant House," a tiny home which was moved to a city storage yard until a permanent home can be found. A campaign by Marina Marinovich, the grand-daughter of Croatian immigrants who once lived there, persuaded the council to have it restored as an example of the tiny homes orchard workers and immigrants once lived in at the turn of the century.