Historical storyboard takes its place by Menlo Gates on St. Patricks Day 2021

by Linda Hubbard on March 17, 2021

It was two years ago today that a reproduction of the historical Menlo Gates near the library was officially dedicated, recalling Menlo Park’s Irish roots. The construction of the Gates was a project of the Menlo Park Historical Association (MPHA) in cooperation with the City of Menlo Park.

Today a Menlo Gates storyboard debuted just inside the Gates, telling the story of the original gates along with how its replica came to be.

“Special thanks go to Jym Clendenin and Bo Crane for helping  design the storyboard and to MPHA president Tim Johnston for his part in working with the city,” says MPHA member Jim Lewis.

If you’re unfamiliar with Menlo’s Irish roots, here’s a little background discovered in a book by Stanley Pierce published in 1974:

“Up to the coming of the railroad the little town [Menlo Park] had grown hardly at all since 1851 when a pair of Irishmen invested one dollar an acre to launch a 1,700-acre farming project to the north of San Francisquito Creek which they named ‘Menlough’ in sentimental remembrance of their birthplace [in County Galway]. A few years later they erected a high wooden gateway at the entrance to their farm, and it was the existence of this structure that prompted the San Francisco & San Jose Railway Company to make Menlo Park a station stop when the line came through, and to build the station four years later.

“The ‘Menlo Park Gate,’ almost as conspicuous a landmark as the the towering redwood tree, ‘Palo Alto,’ a couple of miles to the south, was an elaborate wooden structure with a wide center arch through which any conveyance could pass, and with smaller arches over footpaths at each side. Around the topmost center arch in foot-high letters were the words ‘Menlo Park’ and in the centered keystone was inscribed, ‘August 1854.’ Above the arches were the names, ‘D.J. Oliver’ and ‘D.C. McGlynn.’

“In seeking to immortalize themselves, the sentimental designers of the ornate gateway had intended that ‘Menlough’ (a Gaelic word meaning ‘Lakeside’) would go on one side of the keystone and ‘Park’ on the other. However the itinerant sign painter engaged to do the lettering immediately demonstrated the lopsided appearance that would result, and Oliver and McGlynn were faced with making a decision. The keystone was already in place; moreover, it set the whole thing off, and certainly the date was essential. They finally were driven to sacrifice the spelling of their beloved home town in Country Galway for the phonetic spelling, ‘Menlo.’”

For a fun and informative read, here’s local resident Patrick Killelea’s account of visiting Menlough in Ireland in 2011.

Top photo by Robb Most (c) 2019; Menlo Gate storyboard by Jim Lewis (c) 2021

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