Like so many others of his generation, Henry Rengstorff was lured to California by stories of the gold rush. At the age of 21, young Henry sailed around Cape Horn and arrived in San Francisco in 1850. Too late to join the gold rush, he took a job on a Bay steamer traveling between San Francisco and Alviso. Later, he became 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.
As Rengstorff's fortune grew, so did his land holdings. Just three years after his first land purchase, Henry added another 290 acres to his holdings. He raised grain and hay near Milpitas, kept cattle in San Mateo and planted fruit trees in Los Altos. Finally in 1864, Henry bought the 164 acres of land which is now part of Shoreline Business Park north of the Bayshore Freeway. Near where Rengstorff 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.
On a site framed by orchards and the San Francisco Bay, rancher and entrepreneur Henry Rengstorff and Christine Hassler-Rengstorff set about building his family home in a quiet place yet to be known as Mountain View. The Rengstorff home reverberated with the sounds of their children: Mary, John, Elise, Helena, Christine, Henry and Charles. 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. Rengstorff House now stands a source of civic pride and serves as the oldest home in Mountain View as well as one of the finest examples of Victorian Italianate architecture on the West Coast.