Trouble viewing? Open in web browser.

Journalist Resources Stanford News Stanford Experts Contact Us
Stanford University homepage

News Service

April 16, 2008

Annual walking tour to feature four faculty houses with unique histories

Frank Mace MacFarland, a former professor of histology at Stanford and director of the Hopkins Marine Station in its infancy, dedicated his life to the study of sea slugs. Small, colorful and soft-bodied, these alien-looking nudibranchs often live on the sea floor, just below the low tide line. But for the first half of the 20th century, a handful also resided in the study of MacFarland's shingled Tudor-style house on San Juan Hill on the main campus, where the professor kept a collection of marine life. The house, constructed in 1914 for a total cost of $7,060.40, was designed by architect Arthur B. Clark in collaboration with MacFarland's wife, Olive. The study, which was built into the original structure, included a lab bench and sink and was rumored to smell of formaldehyde from the many specimens stored on its redwood shelves.

The original shelving, sans slugs, remains in the study. Most of the home's other original features have been preserved as well, including its vacuum system and wall fixtures—all said to have been designed by Olive MacFarland. The house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.

According to the current owner of the house, James Lock, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, the features give the house a sense of history and character. "It's nice to live in a place with roots," Lock said. "The house was built almost 100 years ago, but its original features are remarkably intact." The MacFarland house is only one of about 150 historic faculty homes on the Stanford campus, most of which have unusual stories and architectural features hidden behind their doors. Occupied by current faculty members, these houses are not normally open to the public.

But the welcome mat will be rolled out in front of four of them on Sunday, April 27, when the Stanford Historical Society hosts its fourth annual Historic House and Garden Tour.

Also included in the tour is another home inspired by Arthur Clark's aesthetic, only a couple of streets away from the MacFarland house. Originally built in 1905 for electrical engineering Professor Harris J. Ryan, the house is now occupied by Gail Lapidus, senior fellow emerita at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. Many of the house's original features remain, including Moorish arches in the entryways and a detached carriage house. However, a fire in 1939 forced the owner at the time—anatomy Professor Charles Haskell Danforth—to remodel significant portions of the house, including replacing the original exterior shingle siding with stucco.

Of course, wherever there are historic houses, there's bound to be a story of one that is haunted. And at one point, the third home on the tour was known for an eerie hum emanating from within. Built in 1908, this house was first owned by Burt Estes Howard, a political science professor. During a spell when it was vacant, between 1955 and 1965, several bee colonies occupied the otherwise empty house—and gave off the ghostly drone. By the time new residents moved in, the house had decayed significantly and required renovations. The necessary overhaul, while preserving many of the elements of the original house, resulted in the removal of the house's eaves and front porch because of dry rot. Originally a Craftsman shingle-style house and now resembling a New England farmhouse, the dwelling contains a solarium with a view of the garden's majestic oak trees.

The fourth house on the April 27 tour, designed by architect Charles Kaiser Sumner in 1925, is asymmetrical on all sides and has been owned by several renowned Stanford economists: Professor Lawrence H. Goulder, who currently owns the house; his teacher in graduate school, Moses Abramovitz, who lived in the house nearly 30 years; and Rennie Wilbur Doane, the house's original occupant, who also belonged to Stanford's first undergraduate class and taught economic entomology—the study of insects that economically impact humans. Doane focused on mosquitoes. But a bronze replica of a more benign bug, the cicada (a Provençal symbol of good fortune), adorns the front door's small window.

Tickets for the tour can be purchased from the Stanford Historical Society. The cost is $20 per person before April 19, and then $25. To purchase a ticket, send a check made out to Stanford Historical Society to: Sweeney, Box 19290, Stanford, CA 94309. For more information about the tour, see the group's website,

Proceeds will help support the group's Stanford Historic Houses Project. The project, which documents campus houses built before 1930, recently won a 2007 Governor's Historic Preservation Award in recognition of its exceptional work in historic preservation.

Arielle Lasky is an intern at the Stanford News Service.



Susan Sweeney, Stanford Historical Society: (650) 324-1653,

Related Information


Update your subscription

  • Email:
  • Phone: (650) 723-2558

More Stanford coverage

Facebook Twitter iTunes YouTube Futurity RSS

Journalist Resources Stanford News Stanford Experts Contact Us

© Stanford University. Stanford, California 94305. (650) 723-2300.