During the first World War, when, almost overnight, Menlo Park was populated by 43,000 soldiers in training at Camp Fremont, on land which extended from Valparaiso Avenue to San Francisquito Creek, and El Camino Real to the Alameda de las Pulgas, with the Base Hospital and other facilities on Willow Road where the Veterans Administration Medical Center now stands. After the war enough service center activity remained to prompt an effort to reincorporate Menlo Park in 1923 with the same boundaries as the earlier town.
During a meeting of the representatives of the two communities, it became clear to the Fair Oaks property owners that in order to maintain their community as a strictly residential area; they would have to incorporate separately. The author Gertrude H. Atherton, daughter-in-law to Faxon D. Atherton wrote in "The Californians", "Menlo Park (Atherton) has been cut up into country places for what might be termed the 'old families of San Francisco', the eight or ten families who owned the haughty precinct were as exclusive, as conservative, as any group of ancient country families in Europe".
Incorporation planning involving Menlo Park and Atherton, culminated in a dramatic race to the County Courthouse to file differing plans. Atherton representatives arrived only minutes before those from Menlo Park who had wished to include Atherton in their plans. It was at that time they realized that they could not keep the name Fair Oaks that was already the name of a Town by Sacramento. It was decided to honor Faxon Dean Atherton who had been one of the first property owners in the south peninsula and name the Town for him. Atherton was incorporated on September 12, 1923. Final incorporation of Menlo Park took place in November 1927.
The original Menlo Park School District covered the area of the first incorporation. After this dramatic re-incorporation in 1927, the District retained its area of service, explaining why part of Atherton is now in the "Menlo Park City" school district.
Menlo Park was originally the home of the Muwekma Ohlone Indians. At that time they spoke a variety of languages, the Ohlone languages, belonging to the Coastanoan sub-family of the Utian language family. The Spaniards called these native dwellers "Coastanoans", or Coast-dwellers. The Ohlone lived off the land peacefully, gathering nuts, berries and fish from both the ocean and the bay. Because of the abundance of food they never developed a need for agriculture. Evidence of their civilization is still being unearthed on the Filoli estate in Woodside, and along San Francisquito Creek. Click here to learn more of the Ohlone from their tribal website.
In 1854 Menlo Park received its official name when two Irishmen, Dennis J. Oliver and D. C. McGlynn, whose wives were sisters, purchased 1,700 acres (some sources say it was 640 acres) bordering County Road, now El Camino Real, and built two houses with a common entrance. Across the drive, they erected a huge wooden gate with tall arches on which the name of their estate was printed in foot-high letters: “MENLO PARK”, with the date, August 1854. The men named their new homes after their old, in Menlough on Lough Corrib, County Galway, Ireland. No one knows whether they abbreviated the name to "Menlo" because the space on the arch precluded the longer version, because it was their way of Americanizing the name or because they just couldn't spell. When the railroad came through in 1863, the station had no name, it was just the end of the line, but it needed a designation. A railroad official looked over at the gates and decided that “MENLO PARK” would be appropriate, and so the name was officially adopted. This station is now California State Landmark No. 955, the oldest California station in continuous operation. (from city website)
The gates stood on the west side of El Camino Real, about 500 feet from Santa Cruz Avenue until they were destroyed by a motorist in 1922.
From 1924-1950, one PTA served the district of Menlo Park. We recently found a treasure trove of documents from the 20's, 30's and 40's from the inception of the Menlo Park PTA to its disbandment when it separated into site specific organizations. Click on the links below to explore articles and fun facts about MPCSD's early years.
Our community was originally made up of some very large family estates. San Mateo County became independent of San Francisco in 1856. A county road had been laid for horse and carriages, wagons and stagecoaches to Belmont and soon was extended to San Jose. This opened the Peninsula to the residents of San Francisco who wished to establish summer residences in the country. Among the first to buy large tracts of land and build their mansions were the Athertons, Hopkinses, Floods, Millses, Donohoes and Feltons. The great estates were largely self-sufficient and most of the workers lived on the premises. The Hopkins estate had its own boarding house for single men, complete with its own barber shop. It manufactured gas for its own heating and lighting use and sold some to neighbors. The service part of old Menlo consisted mostly of two general merchandise stores, two or three blacksmith shops, a couple of livery stables, six or eight saloons, about three working-man type hotels. Click on the links below to learn more!