LOS ALTOS, CA
THE LOS ALTOS HISTORY MUSEUM SPAGNOLI TANK HOUSE
The tank house was probably built in 1915 by the first Swedish owners of the orchard on what is now Pine Lane in the City of Los Altos but became better associated with the name of the second owners, who operated an orchard on that large plot for over 50 years, the Spagnoli Family. The Spagnoli Tank House, as it is now called, was declared a historic resource by the Los Altos Historical Commission not only because the structure is over 100 years old, but also because its architecture is a good example of tank house construction and is one of the few remaining left in Santa Clara Valley. It is wider at the base than at the top in order to better bear the weight of over 300 gallons of water pumped up into the tank for storage from the local ground well located on the original property.
The structure was originally clad with horizontal board siding but after being relocated to its present site on the History Museum’s grounds the board siding had been covered up with manufactured cedar shingle siding panels to mask the original deteriorated boards beneath, and to better harmonize with the existing J. Gilbert Smith House that also shared the property adjacent to the public library to the west. Additionally, the original projecting upper tank floor fascia had also been removed because of budget constraints at the time.
Over the many years that followed the structure’s relocation and restoration, the roof supporting the water tank began to leak. In addition, the Museum realize the interpretive displays of the nearby orchard equipment along with the signage did not properly convey to the public the tank house’s history or its functional purpose. The Museum did have a vintage electric well pump motor displayed in a small enclosed structure attached to the base of the building, but its placement and lack of descriptive signage as to its original use did little to convey to the visitor how the conveyance of water from ground wells was so important to agriculture during early development of the Santa Clara Valley.
Our responsibilities included not only to development of the plans for the Spagnoli Tank House restoration and reconstruction, but also to assist the Museum with developing the construction of new exhibit structures for their existing orchard equipment displays and adding a new windmill exhibit to the site.
This project received the 2022 Preservation Award from the Santa Clara County Preservation Alliance.