A Pioneer FamilyHenry Rengstorff grew up in Germany. Like so many others of his generation, Henry was lured to California by stories of the Gold Rush. He left home at the age of 21, sailed around Cape Horn and arrived in San Francisco in 1850 with $4.00 his pocket. Too late to join the Gold Rush, he took a job on a bay steamer traveling between San Francisco and Aviso.
Later, Rengstorff left shipping to work as a farm laborer in Santa Clara Valley, where he saved enough money to purchase squatter's rights to 290 acres of land in San Jose. Just three years later, he added another 290 acres to his holdings. As Rengstorff's fortune grew, so did his land holdings. He raised grain and hay near Milpitas, kept cattle in San Mateo and planted fruit trees in Los Altos.
In 1864, Rengstorff bought the 164 acres of land, which are now part of Shoreline Business Park, located a quarter mile north of Bayshore Freeway on Shoreline Boulevard. There he built the Rengstorff House.
He met and married Christine Hassler, also a native of Germany. The Rengstorff home reverberated with the sounds of their children: Mary, John, Elise, Helena, Christine, Henry and Charles.
Near where the house stands today, Rengstorff built a ship landing and warehouse. Rengstorff Landing played a significant role in the economic development of Mountain View and the passengers and prospering farmers' lumber and grains from his landing. Returning ships brought hardware and supplies for the growing region.
RestorationIn 1959, Perry Askam, grandson of Henry Rengstorff, sold the family home to a land development company. A succession of owners held the property over the next 20 years.
In 1979, the house was purchased by the City of Mountain View for $1.00 and moved to unused property at Shoreline. The next move was to its present site in 1986, but it was not until 1990 that the contract for its restoration was awarded. The restoration architects were Page & Turnbull and the general contractor was Mayta & Jensen, Inc. Total cost of the restoration was just over $1,250,000. On a windy March 2, 1991, Mountain View's oldest house, a fine example of Victorian Italianate architecture, was officially dedicated and opened for the public to view.
The house has 12 rooms, 3955 square feet. There is a marble fireplace in each of the four front parlors and a larger fireplace with a wooden mantel in the dining room. The downstairs rooms are decorated in Bradbury & Bradbury wallpaper, cove molding, picture rails, push-button light switches and chair rails. Upstairs rooms house Shoreline staff. The kitchen is modern to accommodate the rental program.