A Pioneer Family
Henry Rengstorff grew up in Germany, where his father owned and operated a country tavern near Bremen. Like so many others of his generation, young 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. Too late to join in the Gold Rush, he took a job on a bay steamer traveling between San Francisco and Alviso.
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.
He met and married Christine Hassler, a native of Wurtemberg, Germany. The Rengstorff home reverberated with the sounds of their children: Mary, John, Elise, Helena, Christine, Henry and Charles.
In 1864, Rengstorff bought 164 acres of land which is now part of Shoreline Business Park, located a quarter mile north of Bayshore Freeway. There he built the Rengstorff House.
Near where the house stands today, Rengstorff built a ship landing. The Rengstorff Landing played a significant role in the economic development of Mountain View and the Peninsula. Prospering farmers exported their lumber, fruits and grains. Returning ships brought hardware and building supplies for the growing region. An original journal from the Rengstorff Landing was discovered in the house during its restoration.
When Rengstorff died in 1906 at age 77, his daughter Elise Rengstorff Haag and her husband moved into the family home, bringing with them Perry Askam, the orphaned son of Elise’s sister, Helena Rengstorff Askam. Perry inherited the house after his aunt died.
In 1959, Askam sold the house 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, eventually moved to its present site and restored. In March 1991, the Rengstorff House was dedicated as a public facility by Mountain View’s City Council.