Walter LeClerc first saw Alpine Hills in 1953. He loved the wide-open spaces and great vistas. It was then covered with brush with a few small, scattered oaks. After serving in the army in Alaska, he, his wife Grace, and their 4-month old daughter returned to the land he remembered, bought property in 1960 and had built their house by 1962.
He remembers the willingness of Wells Fargo to be flexible enough with a loan that he could work (he was an orthodontist) three days a week and build his house for three days. One day the LeClerc children were delighted to see cowboys outside, looking for cattle that had strayed. Their property was flat, a rarity in Alpine Hills, and provided an excellent playground. Houses were few, but many had swimming pools, and the owners were generous in sharing. One family was a neighborhood gathering place with a pool and an outside bar. Whenever their outside light was on, everyone was welcome to come by. Even then, traffic was an issue, even though he found it a pleasure to drive to work in Menlo Park, meeting perhaps 2 or 3 cars on the way.
Elsa Roscoe and her then-husband Ray Spafford found Portola Valley on a sightseeing jaunt in the days when the Alpine Hills sub-division was just being laid out. They fell in love with the place with its few houses tucked in among the trees; they felt they’d fit in well with the outdoorsy people.
Developer Don Holden carved out an extra “problem lot” for them on Holden Court. It had an irregular shape and was overgrown with vegetation; they considered the lot a challenge, but it had a better price than the others and had a forest in back and a fine view. People said: why would you move way out there? No street lights, no sidewalks, no sewers, and no private phone lines. In fact, for years the Spaffords shared a party line with their neighbors the Linvills. That arrangement worked so well that the two families continued it for many, many years, until the phone company said they had to have private lines.
She was an ardent naturalist and loved animals, especially her cats, Reilly and ENC. Elsa modeled for Eastman Kodak and at charity events in an earlier time. She outlived three husbands, traveled the world, sometimes on freighters, went on digs every summer with Earthwatch, volunteered at the USGS and practiced yoga every day from her 60s onward.
Esther and Martin Litton bought four acres in Alpine Hills in 1958 for $9000 and built their home there. For thirty years Esther was the Instructional Materials Clerk in the school district. Martin, interested in the outdoors and conservation since he was a boy, was the Travel Editor for Sunset Magazine and led dory trips down the Colorado River for decades. He has been honored nationally for his leadership in environmental protection and is a Blues and Barbecue honoree
Documenting life and times in the Town of Portola Valley, California