AKA: Stanford University, President's House, Stanford, CA; President Herbert Hoover Residence, Stanford, CA

Structure Type: built works - dwellings - houses

Designers: Clark and Clark, Architects (firm); Clark, Arthur Bridgman, Architect (firm); Arthur Bridgman Clark (architect/artist); Birge Malcolm Clark (architect); Charles Tiffen Davis Sr. (architect)

Dates: constructed 1919-1920

3 stories

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623 Mirada Avenue
San Juan Hill, Stanford, CA 94305-8473

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Set on 2.1 acres in Stanford's San Juan Hill faculty housing neighborhood directly south of the campus, the Lou Henry Hoover House was built for President Herbert Hoover and his wife Lou Henry in 1920. Architect Arthur Bridgeman Clark (assisted by his son architect Birge M, Clark) designed the Hoover House to suit the clients' tastes for modesty and lack of ostentation. A collection of white, flat-roofed, unornamented, cement plastered cubes, the house dramatically contrasted with the European period revival styles favored during the 1910s and 1920s within the Hoover's social milieu. Satisfying client preferences, Clark also explored interests that the Clarks had Native American and North African architecture with this frankly stark and geometric aesthetic. Its purity of form allied the design with avant-garde, contemporary works by California architect Irving J. Gill in Southern CA, although a link between Clark and Gill has not been proven.

Building History

Lou Henry Hoover (1874–1944), wife of President Herbert Hoover (1874-1964), worked with Arthur Bridgman Clark (1866-1948) to design this unusually spartan residence. The Hoovers did not like affectation, and sought a residence that was practical and modern. Herbert knew of the frequent wildfires in the hills around Stanford, and demanded that the house be fireproof. (This concern eliminated the use of shake roofs and wood siding, and militated for stucco walls, hollow tile construction and flat roofs.) The house reflected the stylistic preferences primarily of Lou. It was a blend of various "primitive" influences, ranging from North African, Native American, Spanish Provincial and Early Californian. The San Diego work of Irving J. Gill (1870-1936) resonates here, but it is not clear that Lou knew of his work. It does not seem to reflect the radical International Style work of Le Corbusier (1887-1965) or others in Europe.

Assisting in Clark's office were his son, Birge M. Clark (1894-1989), who would go on to become the most prominent architect in Palo Alto, CA, and Charles T. Davis (born c. 1884 in CA), another draftsman. Lou Henry and Herbert Hoover lived in this dwelling only occasionally while he served as head of the US Food Administration during World War I, as a Belgian relief worker after the war, and as Secretary of Commerce from 1920-1928. The house became the center of national attention during his two presidential campaigns in 1928 and 1932, when he waited for election returns here. His Presidency marred by the Depression for which he was blamed, Herbert and Lou left Washington, DC, and resided here quietly until her death in 1944. He lived another 20 years, but decided to lodge at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York, NY. After his death, the President deeded the house to his alma mater, Stanford, which subsequently decided that it should became the residence of the University's President. It continues in that role to this day.

Building Notes

The Hoovers initially commissioned a house design from the San Francisco architect, Louis Christian Mullgardt (1866-1942), who was contemporaneously designing, "The Knoll," a grand hilltop residence intended to house the university president. Mullgardt proudly broadcast his commission for the large Hoover House, in the waning months of World War I. The Hoovers felt his publicity indiscrete, and fired him. They then looked within the tight-knit Stanford community of that time and selected Stanford Art Professor Arthur Bridgeman Clark (1866-1948) to design their house. A.B. Clark had produced designs for many other professor's houses on Stanford's Campus and in Palo Alto, CA.

The rear of the house displayed a large number of outdoor living spaces, at the time very popular in both Arts and Crafts as well as Spanish Colonial Revival architecture in CA. Roof decks are visible on the second and third floors, with steps clearly communicated by white, cubic, stepped walls. One formal variation, a half-octagon, projected out from one side of the second floor supported by stepped corbels. Unlike contemporary International Style buildings, however, the Hoover House did not offer a light, volumetric appearance. Wall thickness of the Hoover House was not minimized as in works by Le Corbusier. On the other hand, walls were also not as heavy as those of abobe Pueblos or adobe CA ranch housess, creating a visual impression somewhere in between the avant-garde and the "primitive."

The interior of the Lou Henry Hoover House did not share the austere, pared-down look of the exterior, but had woodwork elements and decorative features in common with contemporary Arts and Crafts and Spanish Colonial Revival residences.


In 2008, solar panels were installed on the roof of Hoover House.

California Historical Landmark (Listed 1977-10-14): 913

National Register of Historic Places (Listed 1978-01-30): 78000786 NRHP Images (pdf) NHRP Registration Form (pdf)

National Historic Landmark (Listed 1985-02-04): ID n/a

PCAD id: 10601