National Register of Historic Places in San Mateo County

National Register #78000768: Commodore Watkins House in Atherton 15 September 2012
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National Register #78000768
Commodore Watkins House
98 Alejandra Avenue
Atherton
Built 1866

This house was built for Commodore James Thomas Watkins and his wife. Watkins was the able Captain of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company which opened the Pacific area not only to trade but as a quicker and easier means of transportation from the East Coast.

In 1848, the company chartered regularly scheduled coastwise transport from Panama to San Francisco and later north to the Columbia River. It acquired the contract for transporting mail to California in 1852, which coincided with Watkins and his wife moving from Maryland to San Francisco.

In 1854, Commodore Watkins and his wife were among the first San Franciscans to purchase a town houses in the new South Park subdivision near Rincon Hill.

In 1866, Commodore Watkins purchase 10.6 acres in Atherton and immediately hired ship carpenters to build his Gothic Revival house.

Because the property contained numerous huge, spreading oaks, the Watkinses named their estate Fair Oaks. By the following year the family regarded Fair Oaks as their primary residence although the Commodore continued to work in San Francisco and commute by train.

The Commodore Watkins House is the only surviving house built by early San Francisco country squires who had homes on the Peninsula and commuted to San Francisco on the newly built railroad. The house is typical of their dignified and comfortable homes which combined opulence and Yankee practicability.

Adapted from the NRHP nomination.

When the Commodore Watkins House was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, it was located on Isabella Avenue in Atherton. The house was moved to its present location in 1998 and restored.

The Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places determined that the move would not cause an appreciable loss of integrity and that the house would continue to be listed.

Buildings that Moved

It's not just that the people of the American West are restless, the buildings themselves sometimes pack up and move when - for one reason or another - the neighborhood no longer suits them or the neighbors no longer want them or opportunity waits down the road.

And when buildings remain in place, they are often searching for their identities.

Acting Superintendent's Office, Yosemite
Alford-Nielson House, Ferndale
Alpine Hotel, Markleeville
Ashland Depot Hotel, Ashland, Oregon
Bagby Stationhouse, El Portal

Bayview Hotel, Aptos
Bridgeport Elementary School, Mono County
Carter House, Ashland, Oregon
Christian Church, Gilroy
Chuck's Railroad Room, Westwood

Colfax Freight Depot (Moved Twice), Colfax
Commodore Watkins House, Atherton
Coyle-Foster Barn, Shasta State Historic Park
Croll Building, Alameda
Dallam-Merritt House, San Francisco

Errea House, Tehachapi
Fairwind, Eureka
Galarneaux House, Sacramento
Glass House, San Ramon
Glendale School (Moved Twice), Sparks, Nevada

Goleta Depot, Goleta
Gray's Station, Truckee
Hostess House, Palo Alto
Hodgdon Homestead Cabin, Yosemite
House at 2214 Clay Street, San Francisco

Hutton House, Saratoga
Independence Hall, Woodside
J & T Basque Restaurant, Gardnerville, NV
Jamestown Branch Jail (Moved Twice)
Jax Truckee Diner (Moved Twice), Truckee

Jorgensen Studio, Yosemite
Lake Mansion (Moved Twice), Reno
Lathrop House, Redwood City
LeConte Memorial Lodge, Yosemite
Little Church on the Hill, Oakhurst

Mansion House Hotel, Watsonville
Marcus Books and Jimbo's Bop City, San Francisco
McCredie House, Central Point, Oregon
Meherin House, Pismo Beach
Mendocino Masonic Hall, Mendocino

Methodist Episcopal Church, Placerville
Migliavacca Mansion, Napa
Milton Masonic Hall, Milton
Moab Cabin, Moab, Utah
Mt. Buckingham School, Darrah

Nevada-California-Oregon Railway Depot, Alturas
Old Log Jail (Moved Twice), Markleeville
Old Mammoth Saloon (Moved Twice), Mammoth Lakes
Old North San Juan School, North San Juan
Old St. Patrick's Church (Moved Twice), San Francisco

Perry's Dry Goods, Gardnerville, NV
Phelps House (Moved Twice), San Francisco
Rengstorff House, Mountain View
Reno Arch (Moved Five Times), Reno
Roper House, Ashland, Oregon

St. James Catholic Church, Georgetown
Sylvester House , San Francisco
Tribune-Republic Building, San Luis Obispo
Tubbs Cordage Company, San Francisco
Tucker House, Martinez

Twenty Mile House, Cromberg
United Methodist Church, Nevada City
Webber House, Yountville
Wood House, Modesto
Yosemite Transportation Company
Yosemite Valley Chapel

Of the buildings and structures we have visited, the original Reno Arch holds the record for number of moves. It has been moved five times since it was built in 1926.

Jax Truckee Diner holds the distance title. The building moved from New Jersry to Pennsylvanis in 1948, then from Pennsylvania to Califonia in 1992.

Probably the most ambitious relocation occurred on July 4th 1904, when the Southern Pacific Railroad loaded most of the town of Wadsworth, Nevada, onto rail cars and transported the town thirty miles west to create a new town which became known as Sparks.

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