Los Altos History Museum Receives Preservation Award

LOS ALTOS, CA (June 7, 2022) In recognition of National Historic Preservation Month, the Santa Clara County Preservation Alliance hosted an Awards Night honoring individuals and organizations who have made significant historical and cultural preservation contributions throughout Santa Clara County. The Santa Clara County Historical Heritage Commission nominated Los Altos History Museum to receive an award for outstanding building restoration of the historic Spagnoli Tank House.


In the ceremony on May 21st, the Museum’s Executive Director, Dr. Elisabeth Ward, received the award, along with Donny Chu of DC Construction. It was presented by Chris Manning, Chair of the Santa Clara County Historical Heritage Commission. The County had awarded the project a $100,000 grant in 2018.


“I was so pleased to have the opportunity at the Awards Night to recognize DC Construction for their work in restoring this 107-year-old building which was completed in 2020,” said Dr. Ward.


The Spagnoli Tank House, built in 1915, was relocated from its original location on Pine Lane in Los Altos to the Museum in 1993. When its roof began leaking, the Museum applied for a grant to have it fixed, and to restore some of the Tank House’s architectural features, such as the lattice work and cornice, and original-style shiplap siding.


In addition to stabilizing the structure and repairing the roof, DC Construction created special crown molding to match the historic look of the building. With a crane, they hoisted the tank off and installed historically appropriate metal sheeting underneath.


“Tank Houses were the most iconic landscape feature of the agricultural period and essential to the fruit-growing industry for irrigation,” said Dr. Ward. “The tank on top stored water until needed to irrigate the orchard. Typically, the bottom level of a Tank House was used for storage until the 1920s and 30s, when people began living in them.”


Santa Clara County once had thousands of tank houses. “The one at the Museum is one of the few remaining standing, and the only one regularly open for school tours.”


Visitors may request a docent-led tour of the Spagnoli Tank House during the Museum’s open hours, Thursday-Sunday, noon-4pm. To learn more about the restoration project, visit losaltoshistory.org/2019/12/tank-house-makeover/


Los Altos History Museum began in 1977 with the opening of the J. Gilbert Smith House historic farmhouse, built in 1905. In 2001, the Los Altos History Museum opened its modern building next door, which houses the Museum’s collections, permanent and changing exhibitsstore and administrative offices. The Museum and its grounds are available for rent during evenings and weekends. Its collections are owned by the City of Los Altos and are managed by an independent nonprofit organization, whose staff and volunteers are responsible for all programs and operations.


The Museum is open Thursday through Sunday, from noon-4pm. Admission is free. Tours of the J. Gilbert Smith House are available during open hours. The outdoor agricultural exhibit, gardens and picnic area are accessible beyond Museum hours. For more information, visit: losaltoshistory.org, email hello@losaltoshistory.org, or phone 650.948.9427 x14.


Los Altos History Museum: Elisabeth I. Ward, 650.948.9427 x10, eward@losaltoshistory.org