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The story behind the random century-old barn on Apple's futuristic $5 billion campus

Apple Park
Apple Park

(Apple Park as of the end of MayYouTube/Matthew Roberts)

Tucked away in a corner of Apple Park, the company's new futuristic, custom-designed $5 billion campus in Cupertino, California, is a particularly low-tech building. It stands out in a campus of gleaming glass and concrete structures where even the door handles are custom designed.

So why did Apple recently construct an early-20th century barn in the shadow of its massive new "spaceship" campus? Here's a good picture from a recent drone flyover video filmed by Matthew Roberts.

Apple Barn
Apple Barn

(YouTube/Matthew Roberts)

It turns out, the historic "Glendenning Barn" was on the land first, and after a former Cupertino mayor asked Apple CEO Tim Cook what the company planned to do with the barn in the early stages of campus planning, Apple carefully took it apart and eventually put it back together, just the way it was constructed before.

The Glendenning barn, built in 1916, had previously survived several changes of ownership, as the land around it transformed from farmland owned by the Glendenning family, to orchards, to an HP office park, and now, to Apple's new headquarters.

Apple Barn
Apple Barn

(The barn when the area was still farmland.Cupertino Historical Society)

The barn wasn't specifically protected by local law, but the Cupertino Historical Society tried to save it, and it was beloved by the site's previous owners, HP, which used it as a gathering place for beer bashes and picnics. "I’m anxious to one day see it again," Ed Miller, a former HP manager, told the Mercury News.

Apple will store sports equipment and landscaping supplies in the barn. But its value to Apple is more as a little piece of history that shows how Silicon Valley has changed.

An environmental impact report commissioned by Apple in 2013 gives the full backstory of the land that Apple's "spaceship" campus now sits on:

The project site was occupied by Robert and Margaret Howie Glendenning beginning in the 1850s. The Glendennings, originally from Scotland, were one of the first European-Americans to homestead in Cupertino. In 1851, the couple began farming 160 acres of land, living initially in a tent on the land. After building a house and planting crops, the owners of the Alviso Land Grant laid claim to the property, and the Glendennings were compelled to purchase the land at $30 an acre. Margaret Glendenning finished the land payments upon the death of her husband in 1868.

By 1884, when Robert and Margaret’s children had come of legal age, the Glendenning property was divided among the family. Margaret Howie lived on the southern half of the property and the northern half was divided amongst the six Glendenning children: Mary, Margaret C. (Caroline), Ellen (Ella), Joe, Jim, and George. In 1888, approximately 60 acres of the property contained orchards and the remaining portion was utilized for grain and hay production. Margaret Howie had a house built on her property in 1889, where she lived with her daughters, Margaret C. Burrell and Ellen Glendenning.

In 1914, Margaret Burrell obtained her mother’s parcel and her daughter and son-in-law, Grace and John Leonard, purchased the land. Leonard converted 48 acres of the property from dry-farming (hay and grain production) to irrigated orchards. It is thought that John Leonard built the Glendenning Barn around this time. The Leonards established a dehydrating and packing business on the property.

In 1964, Varian Associates purchased the Glendenning property from John Leonard and his son, Burrel. The Glendenning parcel was one of several family properties, including the Lester, Craft, and Orlando families, to be purchased by Varian. The Varian lands were pooled into the VALLCO land corporation, the name of which was derived from the first names of the principal parties involved in the sale. The Glendenning-Leonard acreages were the key parcels to be incorporated into VALLCO Park and became the site of the Varian building, the first constructed in the park. VALLCO continued minimal farming operations into the 1970s, but a master plan and associated development phased out farming.

Apple Barn
Apple Barn

(YouTube/Matthew Roberts)

VALLCO sold 46 acres to Hewlett-Packard in 1968, followed by another 50 acres in 1971. Aerial photographs from the 1980s show the barn, pump house, and windmill tower, but the Glendenning house built for Margaret Howie Glendenning, Margaret Burrell, and Ellen Glendenning was demolished in the early 1970s. The Hewlett-Packard and Ridgeview campuses were constructed in phases from the mid-1960s to late 1980s. Hewlett-Packard sold the 98-acre office park in November 2010 to Apple as part of its plan to consolidate employees at its Palo Alto campus. The property is just north of a 50-acre site Apple bought in 2006 and east of the main Apple campus. The properties purchased by Apple in 2006 and 2010 are part of the project site.

Check out the most recent Apple Park drone flyover video below:

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