Camp Fremont

Post image for How Camp Fremont and World War I impacted the Menlo Park Fire District

The Menlo Park Fire District’s first Fire Station was built in 1919 and paid for by the War Department that supported Camp Fremont, which was training Army soldiers for World War I. At one point the Camp supported 28,000 soldiers, thousands of horses and mules, and 1,125 mostly temporary (flammable), wood buildings.

A fire at the Camp Hospital and impacts to the Southern Pacific Railroad and Bear Gulch Water Company along with businesses like saloons, casinos, and theaters that rushed to build venues for the soldiers to enjoy — and the owners to profit from — overwhelmed the quiet little 2,000-person “village” of Menlo Park and its new Fire District.

While  Armistice was declared on November 11, 1918 — 100 years ago today — the activities at the Camp didn’t fully wind down until 1920. The creation of the hospital campus, returning war injured, TB, an influenza epidemic, and eventually World War II changed the community forever.

The Fire District first struggled with being told by Southern Pacific Railroad to move its 1899 Carriage House, which housed its horse-drawn hose wagon, both of which still exist today. The District’s First Fire Station is among one of the communities 18 oldest buildings that were all constructed in the 1800’s.

By November 1917, the Fire Commissioners were directly in communication with  the War Department headquartered in San Francisco for the use of the Fire District’s new Fire Apparatus.

On September 16, 1918 the Fire Commissioners worked with the County Board of Supervisors to pass a resolution that said “this Board does hearby find, ascertain and determine that the building and erection of permanent quarters for the housing of the equipment of said fire district is a matter of urgency and necessity”. This resolution was sent to the War Industries Board and State Counsel for Defense with a budget request for $10,000 dollars.

The new Fire Station was completed on May 17, 1919, at a cost of $9,128.00. It was located at 1077 Merrill Street and built on the former site of Menlo Park’s first business — Louis Golder’s two-story hotel and saloon called Menlo Park House that had been built in 1867.

The building served as the community’s main fire station until the Fire District moved its headquarters to 300 Middlefield Road. The building was torn down in the 1980’s to make way for Menlo Center, the home of Kepler’s Book Store and Café Borrone.

Photos courtesy of Menlo Fire

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100th anniversary of Armistice Day to be celebrated at Fremont Park

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Beginning at 10:30 am on Sunday, November 11, the Menlo Park Historical Association (MPHA) will host an event at Fremont Park in downtown Menlo Park celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 1918 Armistice that ended the Great War, now known as the World War I. The celebration will also include the 80th anniversary of the […]

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More on The Oasis from author of the book on Camp Fremont

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The building that houses The Oasis, which will close on March 7, has a history that predates its 60 years as a beer garden. Emails Barbara Wilcox, who wrote a book about Camp Fremont during World War I: “[The building] was one of several Camp Fremont YMCAs during the war. Every unit had its own YMCA. […]

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Spotted: Gathering to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Camp Fremont

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Menlo Park Mayor Kirsten Keith (right) was joined by author Barbara Wilcox (left) and Tom Fitzgerald (middle), Director of  VA Hospital, Menlo Park,  along with Bo Crane from the Menlo Park Historical Association to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the opening of a Base Hospital on what is now the VA campus. The Base Hospital was built for Camp […]

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Spotted: Camp Fremont exhibit at Menlo Park Library

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Emails Menlo Park Historical Association board member Jim Lewis: “Long before Menlo Park became a city, the United States Government created Camp Fremont, increasing the area’s population from about 3,000 persons to over 40,000. Some of what was built then still exists today, per records from the Menlo Park Historical Association. You can learn more […]

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Camp Fremont Centennial Committee formed to plan events and celebrations

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Ninety-nine years ago today (April 6, 1917) the U.S. entered the European war. At the time, Menlo Park was a relatively sleepy country community consisting of a couple hotels, a few businesses (including several bars) and perhaps 2,000 residents clustered around a Southern Pacific train station. As Barbara Wilcox details in her new book, World […]

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Barbara Wilcox writes a book about Army training in Menlo Park at Camp Fremont

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Hidden World War I tunnels on the Stanford campus? Author Barbara Wilcox first heard about them from a geophysicist colleague when she was working at the USGS in Menlo Park. She later learned that as America entered World War I in 1917, Stanford University leased three-fourths of its Palo Alto land to allow the creation of an Army […]

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In praise of one of Menlo’s magnificent heritage oaks

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When we moved to Menlo Park in 1973, we wanted a house with something natural to look at besides a neighbor’s back fence.  However, we never dreamed that we’d find one of the largest oaks in Menlo, with a creek behind it as well.  We were so awestruck by the tree that we probably would […]

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One building – and a web of tunnels – is all that remains of Menlo’s military past, Camp Fremont

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Only one building – which now houses the Oasis Beer Garden and Menlo Atherton Glass – remains from a brief two-year period in Menlo Park’s history that turned the town into a training ground for troops earmarked for the battlefields of World War I. Camp Fremont became home to over tens of thousands of troops, […]

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