Downtown Walking Tour
view the full tour on Google Maps here.
This tour is 2 miles long and includes 7 stops. It begins at the Palo Alto Art Center and ends at City Hall.
You can take the tour in order, or click on any address below to see directions from wherever you are. If you take a detour to grab a snack, you can return to any stop on the tour!
Takoohy "Queene" Amirian, 1908-1988
Instrumental in founding what is now known as the Palo Alto Art Center, Takoohy "Queene" Pambookjian, was a refugee who survived the Armenian genocide in Turkey in 1915.
Queene (pronounced "Queenie") immigrated to the United States when she was 10 years old and later earned degrees from Boston University and American University. She married Lemyel Amirian in 1937, and when they moved to Palo Alto in 1950, Queene began 38 years of civic and cultural contributions to the community. She held leadership roles with the Girl Scouts, the PTA, and the American Association of University Women. She was also a playwright and lecturer.
During the 1960s, she served on the board of the Volunteer Bureau and led Palo Alto Citizens for a Cultural Center. The Palo Alto Community Cultural Center, now known as the Palo Alto Art Center, was founded in 1971 with her support. Queene was also the first president of the Senior Coordinating Council of the Palo Alto area. She was instrumental in creating the senior center now called Avenidas. The city honored her twice with Distinguished Service Awards.
When a room was dedicated in her honor at the Cultural Center in 1984, she told the Peninsula Times Tribune that it was her escape from genocide that had given focus to the rest of her life.
"Having lived under tyranny," she said, "the freedom and opportunity of this country is the most wonderful thing a person could have."
— adapted from Palo Alto Online 1994 article by Peter Gauvin
Take a photo of yourself at the Palo Alto Art Center, and post it to Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #PaloAltoWelcomeWeek!
Anna Zschokke, 1849-1929
Anna Zschokke was one of the first residents of the new town of Palo Alto and the first to record its history.
Born in Germany in 1849, Anna arrived in the U.S. at the age of three, and grew up in Indiana. In 1877, Anna, her Swiss-born husband Oscar, a doctor, and their son moved to California. They settled first in Kern County and then moved to Santa Clara to help alleviate Oscar’s TB and malaria.
They purchased a parcel of land in the new town of University Park (later renamed Palo Alto), intending to move there when their children were older and ready to attend Stanford. After Oscar died in 1890, Anna moved there with her three young children—Irma, Arthur, and Theodore. The Zschokke family was one of the first six families in the new community. At first, they lived in a tent on their property, then in a barn, and finally in a house. After Stanford University opened in 1891, the town’s population began to grow, and Anna realized that there were enough children to establish a separate school rather than sending students to Mayfield. She was instrumental in getting authorization to create a new two-room schoolhouse, which was built in four days on Bryant Street.
Using a Zschokke family fund established in Switzerland that allowed members of the extended family to borrow money, Anna built a second house in Palo Alto to use as an income property. However, she recognized Palo Alto’s greater need: a high school. The student population was outgrowing its space on the second floor of the elementary school on Channing, so Anna offered her new house at 526 Forest Avenue. It served as the town’s high school for several years until one was built in the late 1890s across the street from the elementary school.
As the town continued to expand, Anna wrote the first history of Palo Alto, which was published in the 1910s in the Palo Alto Times.
Anna died in 1929 at age 80 in her home, and in 2010 the city named a small downtown park on High Street in her honor: Anna Zschokke Plaza.
— Watch a short film on "The History of Palo Alto Schools"
Take a photo of yourself at Palo Alto's first high school, and post it to Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #PaloAltoWelcomeWeek!
Wong Foon Yen/Fern Mock, 1908-2008
Wong Foon Yen was born in 1908 in China’s Guangdong Province. Her father had moved to California in 1882, briefly returning to China to marry Wong Foon Yen’s mother. After fourteen months of married life, he left his pregnant wife in Guangdong and returned to San Francisco, arriving the day Wong Foon Yen was born.
In 1926, eighteen-year-old Wong Foon Yen traveled to San Francisco on the Pacific Mail Steamship President Pierce to find her father, who had not written home since 1909. She spent the 28-day voyage studying and rehearsing details of the life of her “paper mom” and accompanying family friend, Chiu Wong Shee, committing details of Shee’s life in Butte, Montana, to memory.
As the “minor daughter of a domiciled Chinese Merchant,” Wong Foon Yen was exempt from America’s Chinese exclusion laws. She planned to legally enter the United States through California, travel to Montana, marry into Chiu Wong Shee’s family, and return to China with her husband after three years of saving money in America.
In 1909, however, her father had died of a heart attack in Gilroy, California. Though he was honored by a large funeral procession, news of his death never reached Guangdong.
As Wong Foon Yen entered her teen years, plans were made between the two families. Without her father to guarantee her entry into American, Wong Foon Yen agreed to assume the identity of Chiu Wong Shee’s daughter Chiu Look Lon and join Shee on the steamship to America as her “paper daughter.” This was her opportunity to find her lost father and begin a new life in America.
While still aboard the steamship in San Francisco harbor, Wong Foon Yen received news of her father’s death. She arrived at Angel Island determined to make it to America. She and Chiu Wong Shee were questioned extensively about their relationship and family in Montana. After answering 143 questions, they convinced officials that they were truly mother and daughter. After five weeks on Angel Island, they landed in San Francisco and moved into rooms on Clay Street. After spending so much time together, they truly felt like mother and daughter, and it was decided that this new “daughter” should not marry their son in Montana.
Two months after arriving, Wong Foon Yen married the Dai Ho Mock, nephew of her Clay Street landlady. She created the name “Fern” from the phonetics of “Foon Yen” and abandoned her plans to return to China. Fern and her husband moved to Palo Alto, purchased a home at 904 Cowper Street, and raised three children, along with a dozen grandchildren and great-grandchildren. In 2008, Fern Mock passed away after celebrating her 100th birthday.
Take a photo of yourself at Fern’s Palo Alto home, and post it on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #PaloAltoWelcomeWeek!
Bill Hewlett, 1913-2001
Dave Packard, 1912-1996
In this 12-by-18-foot garage, college friends Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard first pursued the dream of their own company. Bill and Dave met in the early 1930s while studying radio engineering at Stanford University. The two became fast friends, spending many weekends camping and fishing in the Colorado mountains.
After earning their degrees, Hewlett went on to graduate study at both Stanford and MIT, while Packard took a job at General Electric. In 1938, they returned to Palo Alto and renewed their friendship. Encouraged by Stanford professor and mentor Fred Terman to start a business, they set up shop in the one-car garage you see before you. They founded Hewlett-Packard Company on January 1, 1939—a coin flip decided the order of their names. Their first big breakthrough came when Disney purchased multiple audio oscillators for use in the production of the film Fantasia.
Bill Hewlett was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where his father taught at the University of Michigan Medical School. In 1916 the family moved to San Francisco after his father took a position at Stanford Medical School, located at the time in San Francisco. Bill attended Lowell High School and was accepted at Stanford University in honor of his late father who had died in 1925.
In 1939, Bill married Flora Lamson and they raised five children. In 1966, Bill and Flora founded the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which became one of the largest private foundations in the United States. Through their foundation and privately, the Hewletts donated millions to universities, schools, museums, and non-profits.
David Packard was born in Pueblo, Colorado, and moved to California to attend Stanford University. In 1938, he earn a master's in electrical engineering at Stanford and married Lucile Salter. They would eventually have four children.
Packard was appointed U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense by President Nixon in 1969, and he returned to HP in 1972 as Chairman of the Board. In the 1980s, he began to focus on philanthropic projects. He and his wife had created the David and Lucile Packard Foundation in 1964, and in the 1980s and '90s, Dave dedicated his time to supporting organizations like the Monetary Bay Aquarium, Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, and the electrical engineering department at Stanford University.
Take a photo of yourself at the HP Garage, and post it to Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #PaloAltoWelcomeWeek!
Victor Arnautoff, 1896-1979
Victor Mikhail Arnautoff was a Russian-American painter and art professor. He was born in the Russian Empire in 1896, and though he showed early artistic talent, when World War I began, he enrolled in military school and held leadership positions in the White Siberian army. After the Bolshevik Revolution, he escaped into northeasten China, where he remained for five years. There, he met and married Lydia Blonsky, and they had two sons.
In 1925, Arnautoff arrived in San Francisco on a student visa to study at the California School of Fine Arts. He became active in the city's leftist arts scene. In 1929, he moved to Mexico and worked as Diego Rivera's assistant. When Rivera left temporarily to paint a mural in the U.S., Arnautoff was left in charge of the murals at Palacio Nacional in Mexico. The Arnautoffs' third son was born in Mexico.
In 1931, Victor's family moved back to San Francisco. Victor completed his first mural commission in 1932 for the Palo Alto Medical Clinic, here at the Roth Building. The frescoes he created for the clinic contrasted modern medicine with earlier medical practices. Initially, the frescoes caused a minor scandal because patients were depicted partially undressed. Residents drove slowly along Homer Avenue to view the murals, causing a traffic jam and provoking a threat from clinic surgeon Fritz Roth that he would move in once the walls were whitewashed. (The furor abated and the murals remain.)
In the 1930s, Victor completed murals at the Coit Tower in San Francisco, the Presidio chapel, George Washington High School, and the California School of Fine Arts. His works focused on humanist themes, including concerns about class, labor, and power. He also held solo exhibitions throughout the 1930s. Victor taught art at Stanford University from 1938 to 1962, and beginning the late 1940s, he also taught at the California Labor School. Arnautoff held leftist political views, and he joined the Communist Party and several artists' unions. His politics were often reflected in his work.
Though he had become a naturalized U.S. citizen, Victor returned to the Soviet Union two years after his wife died in 1961. He published a memoir and created large tile mosaics. He remarried in 1970 and died in Leningrad in 1979.
— TO learn more about VIctor Arnautoff's Life, watch this presentation by Robert Cherny, San Francisco State University (1 hour), here
Take a photo of yourself at the Roth Building, the future home of the Palo Alto Museum, and post it to Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #PaloAltoWelcomeWeek!
Irene Ruth Mock Wong, 1925-2016
Irene Ruth Mock was born in 1925 to Sam Ying Mock and Yung Gun Mock at 231 Homer Avenue. She was the sixth of seven children who were all delivered and named by Dr. Edith Johnson, the first female doctor of Palo Alto. Dr. Johnson delivered 3,500 babies during a 30-year career, charging low-income patients little or nothing.
Irene grew up close to her siblings and graduated from Palo Alto High in 1943. She enjoyed exploring the Stanford Hills by bike, taking hayrides down Sandhill Road, and road-tripping to San Francisco and “the Valley” to cheer on local basketball players.
Irene attended the Oakland Academy of Arts and Crafts and then worked at GE, Ampex, and SRI as a talented graphic illustrator. She and her family moved to Hong Kong from 1974 to 1978 and lived during the summers in the family Queen Anne Victorian home at 225 Homer Avenue. Throughout her life she loved travel, art, and family. After her daughter left for college at UC Davis in the 1990s, Irene traveled frequently to Hong Kong and also became a prolific watercolor and Chinese brush painter.
Irene's artwork has inspired her daughter to take up watercolor at the Pacific Art League where Irene also studied. Her granddaughter is also a talented sketch artist with pencil as well as the modern iPad.
At the age of 90, Irene passed away, drawing to a close the era of Mocks who established themselves in Palo Alto in 1900 as cooks, artists, architects, lawyers, biologists, engineers, and educators.
Take a photo of yourself at 231 Homer Avenue, and post it to Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #PaloAltoWelcomeWeek!
Sid Espinosa, 1972-
Former mayor of Palo Alto, Director of Philanthropy and Civic Engagement at Microsoft
Like so many people, I came to Palo Alto because of a job—then fell in love with this place and came to realize how special it really is.
My father had come to California from Mexico, not speaking English and without any money, but eventually he became a successful Silicon Valley engineer. Such is the opportunity in this region.
I studied at Wesleyan and Harvard and worked in the White House and Justice Department before returning a decade later, drawn to Palo Alto by Hewlett-Packard (HP). Eventually, I became HP’s director of global philanthropy, leading investments in nonprofit organizations both locally and around the world. I saw incredible civic engagement in our community, and how this city is a magnet for entrepreneurs from around the world. Just visit any downtown coffee shop and you’ll hear constant chatter about innovation and change and the future. The energy is palpable.
I got involved, on library bond measures and political campaigns, in business and community organizations. I took advantage of everything at Stanford—from lectures to sporting events to artistic performances. Increasingly, friends asked me to run for city council. Eventually, I did, and I had the privilege of serving as mayor of this city, striving to make Palo Alto even stronger and more vibrant.
It all started from humble beginnings and the American Dream—with a lot of hard work along the way. But I’ve seen that anything and everything is possible, especially here in this land of opportunity.
— Sid EspinoSa
Take a photo of yourself at City Hall, and post it to Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #PaloAltoWelcomeWeek!