Then and Now

Post image for A visit to The Hawthorns, a bit of history hiding in plain sight in Portola Valley

We were in good and knowledgeable hands during a walking tour of The Hawthorns in Portola Valley, thanks to Alex Von Feldt (left in photo above), who is both a town resident as well as Director of Grass Roots Ecology, formerly known as the Acterra Stewardship Program. An engineer by education with a professional background in high tech, Alex views her role as land conservationist.

The 79-acre Hawthorns property is tucked between Alpine and Los Trancos roads and is officially part of the Windy Hill Open Space Preserve. According to the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, which manages Hawthorns, the residential and agricultural complex was developed in the late 19th and early 20th century by the Allen and Woods families.

The Hawthorns house

At one end of the property sits Hawthorns House, which was constructed in 1887. While long abandoned, there is discussion about restoring the 9,000 square foot structure for reuse. A number of other buildings also remain as well as an overgrown olive grove. A residence built in 1952 will soon house one of MidPen’s rangers and family.

Unlike its much larger neighbor, Windy Hill, Hawthorns is closed to the public. “But we have volunteer workdays and once a year lead a public hike,” Alex explained.

Added tour co-leader Kristin Williams (right in top photo), project manager at Hawthorns: “And we always like to include an educational component while we work.”

 

Volunteers removing French broom_Freyburg

One major focus of their conservation efforts is habitat restoration, which includes keeping invasive plants in check. “At Hawthorns, our focus is the removal of French broom on the property,” said Alex. [Note: according to the California Invasive Plant Council, infestations of broom degrade the quality of habitat for wildlife by displacing native forage species and changing microclimate conditions at soil levels].

Our tour leaders told us that getting youth involved is a speciality of their organization. “About 75% of our volunteers are teens and young adults,” Kristin said. Information about Grassroots Ecology volunteer opportunities is available online.

In October 2013, the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District released a lengthy report titled Hawthorns Historic Structures “to assess the potential historic and cultural significance of the property by applying the National Register of Historic Places criteria of evaluation, determining contributing and non-contributing historic features and elements, assessing the property’s integrity, and providing guiding information for both the conditions assessment and re-use feasibility study.” That may sound dry, but for local  history buffs, the resulting document is an interesting read.

Top two photos by Linda Hubbard (c) 2016; photo of volunteers from Woodside Priory removing French broom by Frances Freyberg (c) 2016

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Then and now: El Camino Real moves west in Menlo Park

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The photo above showing the western side of El Camino Real between Santa Cruz and Oak Grove avenues in Menlo Park dates from about 1937. Menlo Grocery at 1101 El Camino was the successor to the venerable Duff & Doyle’s General Store, which was liquidated in the early 1920s. The second floor had long been […]

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Then and now: The changing face of downtown Menlo Park

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You can’t deny that there has been a dramatic change in the appearance of downtown Menlo Park over the past 65 years. The black and white photo (above) is from about 1950, taken near the corner of Santa Cruz Avenue and Doyle Street. Bank of America came to Menlo Park in 1937. Its first location was […]

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Then and now: The evolution of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District

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As the 20th century began, the informal village that had grown up around the Menlo Park train depot had an organized group of volunteer firemen who operated a horse drawn hose wagon that was kept in a small wooden structure at the end of Santa Cruz Avenue. Continued growth in the area led to the establishment […]

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Then and now: Alice MacCorkle and Greg Burns, still laughing after all these years

Thumbnail image for Then and now: Alice MacCorkle and Greg Burns, still laughing after all these years

When Alice MacCorkle (Carrott) and Greg Burns graduated from Menlo-Atherton High School, they were voted as having the best laughs. What exactly that meant is unclear these “just-a-few” decades later. The good news is that they are still laughing — and recently got together over brunch in Menlo Park with some mutual friends. Greg was an […]

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Then and now: John Flegel “on the couch” at Flegel’s furniture store in Menlo Park

Thumbnail image for Then and now: John Flegel “on the couch” at Flegel’s furniture store in Menlo Park

Our post on Remembering downtown Menlo Park “back in the day” brought not only some great additional memories, but the idea of  publishing some “then and now” photos, which we kick off with Menlo Park native and local attorney, John Flegel. The Menlo-Atherton High School Class of 1966 yearbook was a bit of a soothsayer […]

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