News

Campaign launched to save tiny 1888 "immigrant house"

Downtown, Shoreline discussed as best location for historic structure

Local residents once fought to save the home of Mountain View pioneer and businessman Henry Rengstorff, but now there's an effort to preserve a tiny home that provided shelter for the laborers, immigrants and struggling artists of the city's past.

"This was a house that people came to in Mountain View who were absolutely just starting out," said Marina Marinovich of 166 Bryant St., a tiny cottage behind the Pearson house.

Marinovich's father and grandparents lived in the home in the 1920s and 1930s after immigrating from Croatia, and she spent a lot of time inside the house during her youth in the 1970s when her best friend, an artist, paid $98 a month to live there for several years.

As downtown increasingly towers over it, Marinovich has dubbed the vacant 14-by-20-foot home the "immigrant house."

She wants to honor her grandfather's wish to save the place, but has only a few months to do it. She was spurred by last week's approval of an office project for the site. Developer Roger Burnell and City Council members have said they will work to move the tiny house onto a downtown lot owned by the city or next to the Rengstorff House at Shoreline Park. But such efforts have not been required of Burnell, who could still demolish the little house along with the historic Pearson House at 902 Villa Street, which council members seem less interested in saving.

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Marinovich is circulating an online petition to gain support for saving the immigrant house.

Humble beginnings

Marina's grandparents and her father later lived comfortably on an 8-acre Mountain View orchard later annexed into Los Altos (Marina still lives on part of that property), but their humble beginnings took place at this very house at 166 Bryant where they lived until 1932.

Her grandfather, George Marinovich, moved into the house in 1923, after having left Croatia in 1913. He worked as a hard laborer in mines, digging trenches and sending money back home where his family had been starving. His landlord, Mabel French, taught him English. "He dug a trench from Mountain View all the way out to the Bay," Marinovich said. The city hired him to do that," she said. "He did anything he could."

It took 15 years until he could afford to have his wife Zuva join him in 1928, and a year later they could afford to bring over only one of their four children, Marina's father Benjamin. He was an adult by then and couldn't recognize his dad when he finally arrived with only 10 cents in his pocket. All three of them lived in the small house for three years.

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Marinovich recalled her father later visiting the home in the 1970s, and "when he pulled up to look at the house I could just see him going through all these memories."

Built in 1888, she believes the house may be the oldest residential building in downtown, older than the Pearson House next door.

Countless others also lived in it.

"My mom lived with her family in that immigrant farm house during World War II," said a poster under the name jholzmann on the

Voice's online forum. "It's hard to imagine seven people living there at once. I think it would be a nice addition to Shoreline. (She could tell some stories if anybody wants to listen.)"

Council support

Marinovich sees preservation of the immigrant house as "honoring our ancestors and the people that actually did all the work, the real hard labor to get where we are today."

A majority of City Council members appeared supportive of saving the house at the July 10 meeting. Several expressed interest in moving it to Shoreline Park to contrast with the Rengstorff House, though members of the Mountain View Historical Association and Friends of Rengstorff House say it might not be a good fit.

"The idea of having a small immigrant house next to Rengstorff House really attracts me," said council member Ronit Bryant. "Although I don't want to add houses or buildings to the park, this is a very small structure. As far as educational value this should be really useful."

Council member Margaret Abe-Koga also said she would be in favor of moving it to Shoreline near the Rengstorff House.

"Putting it out at Shoreline is not a bad idea," said council member Tom Means of the immigrant house.

"We restored the Rengstorff House, let's also show how the workers lived here," said council member Jac Siegel. "It wouldn't be a big deal to have it moved out to Shoreline."

"I'm OK with taking the immigrant house somewhere, not so interested in the Pearson House," said Mayor Mike Kasperzak.

Council member Laura Macias was the only member to raise concerns about moving the house to Shoreline.

"Having waxed poetically about all the wildlife there, that's probably the last place I'd want to move an old house," Macias said.

Instead Macias favored moving it to a downtown lot owned by the city, "maybe next to Dunn's Automotive where that parking lot is never full," Macias said.

Not sure about Shoreline

That idea is shared by Nick Perry, board member and newsletter editor of the Mountain View Historical Association. "It'd be great to see 166 Bryant St. preserved, but I'm conflicted about moving it to Shoreline Park," Perry said in an email. "The Rengstorff House is there because its closely associated with the history of the city's baylands and has always been in the North Bayshore. Before we decide to move any Old Mountain View structures to Shoreline, we should try to find locations that are more like their historic setting. Storing both 166 Bryant and 902 Villa on one of the city-owned lots one block away on Franklin Street would give the community more time to find the best solution."

Gerold Kaminsky, former Shoreline manager for the city and Friends of Rengstorff House board member, also weighed in.

"It would be nice to save the house, but it does not belong at Shoreline," Kaminsky said in an email.

No promises

Marinovich said she hasn't heard from Burnell since he promised her he would try and save it as he was trying to build support for the office project lat week. Burnell has not made any public promises about saving the house and did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Siegel said Burnell had previously offered to spend as much as $500,000 to move the Pearson House, restore it and maintain it for a few years. But council members let him off the hook last week by not making such preservation efforts a requirement of the office project. Zoning Administrator Peter Gilli said Burnell could not demolish the buildings until buildings are financed, designed and permitted by city staff, a process which usually takes at least a few months, sometimes years.

City staff members say they will examine options for moving the house this summer and report on "all the liabilities, insurance requirements, what it takes to move a house, the city's requirements for moving a house, implications of warehousing it and what properties could be used," said Jannie Quinn, the city attorney.

"At this point I don't know where we could possibly move it," said Scott Plambaeck, city planner for Burnell's office project. "We still need to meet and discuss the options. We will probably know more in a few weeks."

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Campaign launched to save tiny 1888 "immigrant house"

Downtown, Shoreline discussed as best location for historic structure

by Daniel DeBolt / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Fri, Jul 20, 2012, 11:27 am

Local residents once fought to save the home of Mountain View pioneer and businessman Henry Rengstorff, but now there's an effort to preserve a tiny home that provided shelter for the laborers, immigrants and struggling artists of the city's past.

"This was a house that people came to in Mountain View who were absolutely just starting out," said Marina Marinovich of 166 Bryant St., a tiny cottage behind the Pearson house.

Marinovich's father and grandparents lived in the home in the 1920s and 1930s after immigrating from Croatia, and she spent a lot of time inside the house during her youth in the 1970s when her best friend, an artist, paid $98 a month to live there for several years.

As downtown increasingly towers over it, Marinovich has dubbed the vacant 14-by-20-foot home the "immigrant house."

She wants to honor her grandfather's wish to save the place, but has only a few months to do it. She was spurred by last week's approval of an office project for the site. Developer Roger Burnell and City Council members have said they will work to move the tiny house onto a downtown lot owned by the city or next to the Rengstorff House at Shoreline Park. But such efforts have not been required of Burnell, who could still demolish the little house along with the historic Pearson House at 902 Villa Street, which council members seem less interested in saving.

Marinovich is circulating an online petition to gain support for saving the immigrant house.

Humble beginnings

Marina's grandparents and her father later lived comfortably on an 8-acre Mountain View orchard later annexed into Los Altos (Marina still lives on part of that property), but their humble beginnings took place at this very house at 166 Bryant where they lived until 1932.

Her grandfather, George Marinovich, moved into the house in 1923, after having left Croatia in 1913. He worked as a hard laborer in mines, digging trenches and sending money back home where his family had been starving. His landlord, Mabel French, taught him English. "He dug a trench from Mountain View all the way out to the Bay," Marinovich said. The city hired him to do that," she said. "He did anything he could."

It took 15 years until he could afford to have his wife Zuva join him in 1928, and a year later they could afford to bring over only one of their four children, Marina's father Benjamin. He was an adult by then and couldn't recognize his dad when he finally arrived with only 10 cents in his pocket. All three of them lived in the small house for three years.

Marinovich recalled her father later visiting the home in the 1970s, and "when he pulled up to look at the house I could just see him going through all these memories."

Built in 1888, she believes the house may be the oldest residential building in downtown, older than the Pearson House next door.

Countless others also lived in it.

"My mom lived with her family in that immigrant farm house during World War II," said a poster under the name jholzmann on the

Voice's online forum. "It's hard to imagine seven people living there at once. I think it would be a nice addition to Shoreline. (She could tell some stories if anybody wants to listen.)"

Council support

Marinovich sees preservation of the immigrant house as "honoring our ancestors and the people that actually did all the work, the real hard labor to get where we are today."

A majority of City Council members appeared supportive of saving the house at the July 10 meeting. Several expressed interest in moving it to Shoreline Park to contrast with the Rengstorff House, though members of the Mountain View Historical Association and Friends of Rengstorff House say it might not be a good fit.

"The idea of having a small immigrant house next to Rengstorff House really attracts me," said council member Ronit Bryant. "Although I don't want to add houses or buildings to the park, this is a very small structure. As far as educational value this should be really useful."

Council member Margaret Abe-Koga also said she would be in favor of moving it to Shoreline near the Rengstorff House.

"Putting it out at Shoreline is not a bad idea," said council member Tom Means of the immigrant house.

"We restored the Rengstorff House, let's also show how the workers lived here," said council member Jac Siegel. "It wouldn't be a big deal to have it moved out to Shoreline."

"I'm OK with taking the immigrant house somewhere, not so interested in the Pearson House," said Mayor Mike Kasperzak.

Council member Laura Macias was the only member to raise concerns about moving the house to Shoreline.

"Having waxed poetically about all the wildlife there, that's probably the last place I'd want to move an old house," Macias said.

Instead Macias favored moving it to a downtown lot owned by the city, "maybe next to Dunn's Automotive where that parking lot is never full," Macias said.

Not sure about Shoreline

That idea is shared by Nick Perry, board member and newsletter editor of the Mountain View Historical Association. "It'd be great to see 166 Bryant St. preserved, but I'm conflicted about moving it to Shoreline Park," Perry said in an email. "The Rengstorff House is there because its closely associated with the history of the city's baylands and has always been in the North Bayshore. Before we decide to move any Old Mountain View structures to Shoreline, we should try to find locations that are more like their historic setting. Storing both 166 Bryant and 902 Villa on one of the city-owned lots one block away on Franklin Street would give the community more time to find the best solution."

Gerold Kaminsky, former Shoreline manager for the city and Friends of Rengstorff House board member, also weighed in.

"It would be nice to save the house, but it does not belong at Shoreline," Kaminsky said in an email.

No promises

Marinovich said she hasn't heard from Burnell since he promised her he would try and save it as he was trying to build support for the office project lat week. Burnell has not made any public promises about saving the house and did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Siegel said Burnell had previously offered to spend as much as $500,000 to move the Pearson House, restore it and maintain it for a few years. But council members let him off the hook last week by not making such preservation efforts a requirement of the office project. Zoning Administrator Peter Gilli said Burnell could not demolish the buildings until buildings are financed, designed and permitted by city staff, a process which usually takes at least a few months, sometimes years.

City staff members say they will examine options for moving the house this summer and report on "all the liabilities, insurance requirements, what it takes to move a house, the city's requirements for moving a house, implications of warehousing it and what properties could be used," said Jannie Quinn, the city attorney.

"At this point I don't know where we could possibly move it," said Scott Plambaeck, city planner for Burnell's office project. "We still need to meet and discuss the options. We will probably know more in a few weeks."

Comments

Ellen Wheeler
Blossom Valley
on Jul 20, 2012 at 2:10 pm
Ellen Wheeler, Blossom Valley
on Jul 20, 2012 at 2:10 pm

I loved reading the history of this house. Thank you! I'd always wondered about it when I used the "new" city parking lot across the street. I hope we can save it.


Honor Spitz
another community
on Jul 20, 2012 at 2:33 pm
Honor Spitz, another community
on Jul 20, 2012 at 2:33 pm

One of the arrogances of youth is that it thinks that they have invented the universe. There is little regard or respect for that and those who came before. Even a humble little abode such as this is worthy of recognition, and hopefully there will be a place for it as a reminder of our heritage. At best, there will be photographs and oral histories (such as appeared in Daniel's article) that will go into the archives at the Mtn. View History Center in the Library.


sparty
Shoreline West
on Jul 20, 2012 at 4:04 pm
sparty, Shoreline West
on Jul 20, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Part of the hubris of the older generation is celebrating hard work only in the past and for the "right side" of history.

If Renstorff were alive today he'd have Occupy clowns on his lawn every day protesting him for being successful.


Ned
Old Mountain View
on Jul 20, 2012 at 6:52 pm
Ned, Old Mountain View
on Jul 20, 2012 at 6:52 pm

"Marina's grandparents and her father later lived comfortably on an 8-acre Mountain View orchard later annexed into Los Altos (Marina still lives on part of that property)"

Let me guess... Marina has benefited greatly from Prop 13. How about she pay for moving this house and maintaining. Why should the city and taxpayers have to foot the bill? Or why not give it to her home city of Los Altos?

Seriously.


wendylee
Old Mountain View
on Jul 21, 2012 at 1:35 pm
wendylee, Old Mountain View
on Jul 21, 2012 at 1:35 pm

The preservation of this history creates benefit for the entire
community.It helps people to be part of something larger than the ego-centric sense of their own accomplishments.
I have known of this home and loved it since growing up in the community in the sixties.
To the person carping about prop 13 which my family campaigned against
being that it was poorly written with eligibility requirements that
were too broadly applied and would destroy schools and services-the owners of orchards in Mountain View and Los Altos fell prey to and watched (as I did) the corrupt re-zoning of their farms before that time that produced insurmountable tax burdens and gutted these beautiful orchards.
I watched as these orchards were torn out -I have now lived long enough not to be appalled by the hubris our deliberate ignorance affords us.
Honoring these hard working people is the least we can do for them and
a great service to our community as a reminder that even the builder of the fanciest boat shares the ocean with the rest of us.


Taxpayer
Martens-Carmelita
on Jul 21, 2012 at 3:26 pm
Taxpayer, Martens-Carmelita
on Jul 21, 2012 at 3:26 pm

Ok, fine, but who is going to pay for upkeep and maintenance of this shack? The taxpayers? How much will that divert from schools?

Then again, if you want to make it your personal project and finance it 100% yourself, then by all means have at it!


wendylee
Old Mountain View
on Jul 21, 2012 at 4:20 pm
wendylee, Old Mountain View
on Jul 21, 2012 at 4:20 pm

OK.Fine too.I'll continue to spend my vacation and tourist dollars
in places that have and honor their communities with a little historical perspective and value their heritage.Having grown up in Silicon Valley and watched it consume the absolute beauty of the Santa Clara Valley I find the latest whizzbang to be a bit of a yawner- something I have no need to travel to or see.
However the community might benefit greatly from a little balance-
my tax dollars in Silicon Valley over the years went to a lot of sweetheart deals for businesses that had no sense of community and
never had to stick around and live with the impact of what enriched them at our expense, and my tax dollars also went to businesses and projects that I really like-I like progress I don't mind
change when it's thoughtful -let's now progress again and become thoughtful-schools are extremely important,too important to become test sites disconnected from their cultural identity.
Besides in the right location this little house might be able to be a little historical info center guiding people to various things of interest in the community.


Sparty
Shoreline West
on Jul 21, 2012 at 10:32 pm
Sparty, Shoreline West
on Jul 21, 2012 at 10:32 pm

Guess what...at the time-- Rengstorff, Mowry, Ralston...all these families were participating in what was the latest whizbang at the time...new machines, new techniques...if not for the old families and their whiz bang ideas the valley of heart's delight would not exist.

if not for their whiz bang we wouldn't have silicon valley. if not for the silicon valley whiz bang we would have the VC boys on sand hill.

if not for the VC boys on san hill, we'd have a lot of people without seems like no big deal--things like easy to get insulin.



wendylee
Old Mountain View
on Jul 21, 2012 at 11:27 pm
wendylee, Old Mountain View
on Jul 21, 2012 at 11:27 pm

I get it Sparty.My father WAS a rocket scientist!Right here!Probably
where Google sits now(they followed the energy)nobody loved a whizzbang
more than he did and nobody got more of a kick out of watching him
play than I did as a kid growing up.
But part of his brilliance was understanding the balance.....
and appreciating those that came before him.
How about we save the house-and then think about our own unique whizzbang museum!
Let's celebrate this beautiful little house as part of the fascinating picture you have painted for us.


Evan
Jackson Park
on Jul 22, 2012 at 7:11 am
Evan, Jackson Park
on Jul 22, 2012 at 7:11 am

The little house, or shack rather, is a dump and an eyesore. It has absolutely no architectural value. Even worse are all the upgrades to include what looks like an cheap Home Depot front door. It will hardly be in the running to attract tourist dollars.

And do we know if the many previous tenants held any shocking social views? That type of argument has already killed putting in a museum at the site of the old Shockley lab on San Antonio.

What's next? We make a move to put one of the old run down apartment buildings full of immigrants on CA Ave on the historical register?


wendyleela
Old Mountain View
on Jul 22, 2012 at 1:29 pm
wendyleela, Old Mountain View
on Jul 22, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Many of the people that came to that little house over the last 124 years,had the aspiration to feed the world with their talents for farming and cooking.Their quarters were modest as their main concern was the land and what it could produce.
I think we are still so young as a country,and California is even younger-that it is difficult to take the steps to visualize, define and preserve our living history.Here,especially hard, with the reputation Silicon Valley enjoys as the pioneers of the future.
As one of the posters expressed though,our history here has always been forward thinking- the desire to feed the world was then, as forward thinking as the desire to reach the world is now and with that in mind what a remarkable accomplishment if we preserve this living history and manage to bridge those aspirations.
While we all have a different view of beauty, the most common assessment of value is still linked with rarity.
The age and modesty of this little house makes it rare and precious indeed.




sparty
Shoreline West
on Jul 22, 2012 at 11:09 pm
sparty, Shoreline West
on Jul 22, 2012 at 11:09 pm

ah yes. 1888, the versailles of Mt View


Chick-fil-haaay!!!
Monta Loma
on Jul 23, 2012 at 12:57 pm
Chick-fil-haaay!!!, Monta Loma
on Jul 23, 2012 at 12:57 pm

Mow it down and build a Chick-fil-a.


Garrett
another community
on Jul 24, 2012 at 1:47 pm
Garrett, another community
on Jul 24, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Worked on Villa St near the tiny little farm worker house, 1888 what a time, the valley was know for food production. We had people following the harvest, living in tiny little shacks working, they worked hard. They saved, they worked to save so they can buy land or a decent sized home. Some went on to start businesses or just spend their days working, saving money and being part of the community. The history of Mountain View is full of these wonderful people that came here, the chose our little town over many, in come cases streets were named after them. Save this house to show our past so we might understand what it was like to have nothing, work and work hard to get something.


Rise Krag
another community
on Jul 27, 2012 at 10:58 pm
Rise Krag, another community
on Jul 27, 2012 at 10:58 pm

This house speaks of the history of the Peninsula that was forged by hard work. The immigrant's labor and sacrifice has helped forge the thriving community that we live in today. The small quarters of this early home also teach us that it is possible to living closely and share precious space and resources.


Rhodessa Jones
another community
on Aug 7, 2012 at 9:20 am
Rhodessa Jones, another community
on Aug 7, 2012 at 9:20 am

I live in SF's Noe Valley- a community of beautiful Victorians. I so appreciate the restoration and upkeep of our past architectural efforts! So much gets lost in our modern" throw away" culture. Please save this lovely little house. I say move it and preserve it!


Chere
Old Mountain View
on Dec 26, 2012 at 12:56 pm
Chere, Old Mountain View
on Dec 26, 2012 at 12:56 pm

I found this house for rent in the 1970's for $75.00. My brother and his wife lived there, my sister and a friend, my friend Sue and her husband and later I lived there until the owner died and the bank owned it and raised the rent to $125.00 a month. I tiled the shower. My sister planted a pine tree that was at least 50 feet tall last time I looked but now appears to have been cut down. My sister is now deceased and this house means a lot to me. The painting Marina has of the house was painted by my sister when the house was still cute and white before the bank spray painted it dark brown and killed all my flowers I planted! I am glad you saved it. Thanks!!!!


Tina
Old Mountain View
on Apr 27, 2013 at 7:17 pm
Tina, Old Mountain View
on Apr 27, 2013 at 7:17 pm

You can find the model of the Immigrant House that was in the parade today outside the Mtn. View General Store on Dana St. across from the coffee shop. The store supports local artists and welcomes them to sell on consignment. It's a true local business. Please stop by and show your support.


Name hidden
Cuernavaca

on Jun 4, 2017 at 8:28 pm
Name hidden, Cuernavaca

on Jun 4, 2017 at 8:28 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


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