Playhouses on display at Stanford Shopping Center make “dreams happen” for local non-profit Rebuilding Together Peninsula

by Linda Hubbard on June 1, 2017

The fabulously-designed and built playhouses that currently dot the Stanford Shopping Center have been a fixture  since 1993 when the shopping center first began hosting the biennial event benefiting Rebuilding Together Peninsula. This year’s auction, Dreams Happen, will take place on June 3. If past winning bids are a guide, the playhouses will fetch anywhere from $13,000 to over $100,000.

Thanks to a heads up by local architect John Onken, we’re spotlighting some of the playhouses built by Menlo Park firms or sponsored by Menlo Park organizations, ably photographed by InMenlo contributing photographer Robb Most.

“Support for the Dreams Happen charity has been shared  between local architects and contractors for almost two decades, explained John, who is playhouse chair this year. “We’ve all pitched in by building playhouses, donating materials or labor, or, in this case, chairing the event.”

“I had been the architect for three previous playhouses, and this is my first year stepping up into Gary Ahern’s shoes acting as playhouse chair. There’s a lot to go into an event like this that’s very much behind the scenes — the design, organization, logistics (getting the houses back and forth from Stanford Shopping Center and their final homes), a Gala board of 25 volunteers, managing donations and buyers.

“I’m always excited to talk to friends and neighbors in Menlo Park during playhouse ‘season’ when they’re surprised by finding these incredible structures almost by accident while shopping. We’re all just sitting on our hands in an excited state of anticipation as we await the big auction on Saturday, seeing what families have caught the ‘playhouse bug’ and want to be part of the Rebuilding Together movement. [Note for information on absentee and/or proxy bidding, contact Annel Aguayo at (650) 366.6597 x230 or at]

“I’m also a huge fan of the work Rebuilding Together Peninsula does. We all wonder what we can do to tackle homelessness in the area. RTP’s work is a direct and tangible charity that attacks the problem at the roots, by maintaining and repairing homes before families become homeless. We keep families in their homes, and we do our part to keep the area’s low-income building stock available to the people who really need it.

“The great thing about Dreams Happen is that what we raise in the semi-annual auction pretty much funds the administration and operation of the charity, so that later donations and support can go directly into the building projects themselves.”

The playhouses will be on display at the shopping center a week after the auction. You can view all the playhouses online at the Rebuilding Together website.

Photos by Robb Most

Playhouses credits: top: WellieWishers Garden Playhouse/Gary Ahern/Menlo Park architect; top right: Stanford Cinema by Larry Kahle who’s a planning commissioner in Menlo Park), bottom right: Lacuna sponsored by Menlo Park-based Facebook; Farm to Table by David Baker Architects; Fire House built by Menlo Park Firefighters Association

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