By Khalida Sarwari
Warren Heid, the award-winning architect who left his mark on homes and buildings across the Bay Area from the Plaza Del Roble and The Inn at Saratoga to the former San Jose Mercury News building, the Ponderosa Lodge at Mount Hermon and Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church, died on Feb. 9. He was 94.
According to Saratoga Historical Foundation President Annette Stransky, Heid designed and built more than 300 buildings in the area, a little more than 30 of which were in Saratoga. Many were offices, stores and restaurants, although he also designed private homes, government buildings, schools, churches and hotels, including one in Tahiti.
Heid opened his own Saratoga office in 1958 in what locals recognize as the John Henry house on Big Basin Way. That’s where he would spend the next five decades up until his retirement in 2008. He is credited with designing the First National Bank on Big Basin Way, Congress Springs Elementary School and the Saratoga City Hall council chambers.
His accomplishments garnered him recognition from the city of Saratoga in 2016 and a Citizen of the Year award in 1983. Other accolades include the Masonry Institute Honor Award, the Factory Magazine Top Ten National Industrial Plants of 1968 Award for the design of the San Jose Mercury News Plant and the American Society of Landscape Architects Award in 1968 for designing the Mt. Hermon Ponderosa Lodge.
In the days following his death, friends and colleagues stepped forward to share their thoughts about Heid. Carol Mason served as his secretary and office manager in the 1970s and continued working with him in various capacities in the 1980s. She described Heid as a good-natured boss who was generous with his time and ideas.
“He had an infectious enthusiasm for life and loved people,” Mason said. “His family and community were always his priority.”
Mayor Mary-Lynne Bernald said she will remember Heid as “a true gentleman” who has left a lasting legacy with his architectural designs.
“Warren Heid contributed in so many other ways to our Saratoga community,” she said. “He will be deeply missed.”
Former Mayor Jill Hunter also expressed her condolences. She and Heid were acquainted, she said, when they served on a committee together in 1985 to close an elementary school.
“We ended up, after a year of studying the issue, deciding not to close a school which was fortuitous in retrospect,” she recalled. “There was nothing about Saratoga that Warren did not know. I would always call Warren when I was looking for an answer to some issue in Saratoga.”
David Eshleman, president of the Saratoga Rotary Club, remembered Heid for being the club’s informal historian, documenting everything that transpired down to the minutiae. Heid also had perfect attendance at Rotary meetings for four decades, making it a point to attend the meetings of the local rotary wherever he was traveling. Eshleman said the two worked together for many years and that he had “a great deal of respect” for Heid.
“He was a very valued member and he will be missed,” said Eshleman. “I think that he was one of those longtime Saratoga residents that was really a pillar of this club for many years.”
Jackie Welch, a retired reporter for the Los Gatos Times-Saratoga Observer, and Heid served together on a committee that helped found the Saratoga History Museum. Her family often went Christmas caroling with the Heids and Pecks, she said.
“I think it was probably last Christmas when we saw him,” she said. “Our Christmas caroling group sang outside their door. (But) I think my favorite experience with Warren was when he remodeled the Swanee dress shop to be suitable for a museum. He was very talented and he was very public-minded. He did a lot of things for the community just gratis. ”
Steve Benzing, an architect in Saratoga, worked at Heid’s firm in the 1980s and prior to that, dated his daughter, Susan, in high school. Heid gave him his first job ever in 1965, he said, as a “summer office boy.” Benzing helped Heid design the Saratoga Inn.
“It was an incredible learning experience and one I was amazed to get through,” he said. “I can’t believe the patience of that man.”
Benzing said he will remember Heid as an “unbelievably generous man when it came to doing things for people” and a “phenomenal architect.”
Warren Braue Heid was born in Alameda on Jan. 31, 1924 to Evan and Erna Heid. He was raised in Los Gatos and graduated from Los Gatos High School and UC-Berkeley with a degree in architecture.
For a few years during the second World War, Heid served in the U.S. Army Air Corps as a sergeant in the Airborne Signal Corp in India and China. He later worked at his uncle’s firm, Binder and Curtis.
Architecture aside, Heid was an avid toy train collector, amassing an impressive collection that dated back to the early 1900s. He was heavily involved in civic groups, either as a member or leader, including the Saratoga Rotary Club, Saratoga Men’s Club, Saratoga Heritage Preservation Commission, Saratoga Historical Foundation, Montalvo Association and the Santa Clara County Planning Commission.
In 1948, Heid married Sheila Stanfield. They had two children. Besides his wife, he is survived by son, Jeff, a landscape architect; daughter, Susan Walsh, a retired schoolteacher; and five grandchildren.
He and Sheila lived in a Tudor-style home on La Paloma Drive. The house originally belonged to Lillian Fontaine, who raised her daughters, actresses Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine. Heid remained friends with de Havilland.
A memorial service for Heid will be held April 7 at 1 p.m. at the Saratoga Federated Church.