Menlo Park Historical Assoc.

The Menlo Gates project, long in the planning and fund raising, has finally begun construction, though funding is remains short $15,000 of the final goal.

Construction is proceeding. The steel cross beams have been placed and the redwood covering comes next, weather and holiday permitting. By the end of the month, some or all of the wood should be in place. The final items, such as placing the plaque, landscaping, etc. may take a few weeks longer to wrap up.

Here is the story behind the re-construction of San Mateo County’s oldest civic landmark.

On September 9, 1850, when California became the 31st state, the southern boundary of San Francisco County was established at a narrow and deep channel of San Francisquito Creek that cut across the Peninsula flats about 30 miles from the city’s busy downtown. That creek channel had been site of camps when the Portola and Anza expeditions explored the area when the region was New Spain, still owned by the king in Madrid.

The land became Mexico’s through it’s independence from Spain and then part of the United States in 1848 following it’s war with Mexico. The discovery of gold that year became the rush of 1849 and brought the world to San Francisco Bay.

One such adventurer was Denis James Oliver, an Irish immigrant and a recent paint merchant from New York City. He arrived with his business partner, John McGlynn, having married John’s slightly younger sister, Bridget, both Irish immigrants who had immigrated as family members earlier. Within a couple years, Denis and John were joined in San Francisco by Bridget and her younger brother, Daniel.

Around 1853, Denis Oliver and Daniel McGlynn journeyed south of the city to a desolate oak-studded plain, seeking ranchland opportunities. Almost to the creek, they acquired available property along the main road. A railway had been surveyed to run parallel on the other side of the lightly traveled road. To celebrate their new ranch, they two had a gateway constructed with a redwood archway on which Denis had painted MENLO PARK, in honor of a delightful village near his hometown of Galway, Ireland.

The railroad didn’t happen as fast as many had hoped. Only stagecoach lines traveled the bumpy route to San Jose. The partnership ended, and the two went their separate ways. The railroad finally arrived in 1863. While the bridge was being built over San Francisquito Creek, railroad men noticed the still visible, decade-old MENLO PARK across the roadway facing the tracks. The name was chosen for the depot and later the town.

San Mateo County was carved out in 1856. The county’s main lumber shipping port became Redwood City and the county seat. Spanning each entrance of Broadway in the town are arches that famously read “Government Best by Climate Test.” Palo Alto has the tall, millennium-old redwood at old creekside camp, so recognizable from a distance that it’s Spanish name, el palo alto, became the town’s name.

But as for Menlo Park’s redwood archway, in 1922 it was struck by a reckless motorist late at night, collapsing the 70-year-old structure into a splintered heap. That leaves Menlo Park without it’s own iconic landmark.

Accordingly, a few years ago, individual members of the Menlo Park Historical Association (MPHA) formed a Menlo Gates Committee to faithfully reconstruct the Menlo Park Gate, called “Gates” because the tall, wagon-entry gate is flanked by two pedestrian gates, one for each partner. The Committee began raising funds, interested in getting as much individual and business support so that all would share in funding the building of the full-size replica Gates.

The original Gates were alongside the former County Road, just east of today’s Menlo Avenue, where Menlo Clock Works is located (961 El Camino Real). The new Gates will be at the corner of Ravenswood Avenue and Alma Street, spanning a walkway adjacent to the Menlo Park Library.

Donations for “Menlo Gates Project” can be mailed directly to MPHA, 800 Alma Street, Menlo Park, CA, 94025. MPHA would love to have as many community members and history buffs as possible participate in funding the project.

Photos by Robb Most (c) 2018

{ 1 comment }

Donation drive to construct new Menlo Gates continues

The several year effort to collect funds to reproduce the Menlo Gates (originally constructed 1852-4) that gave Menlo Park its name is rapidly coming to a conclusion. The Menlo Park Historical Association  now has an agreement with the City of Menlo Park to donate $43,000 in a matching fund a contract with Sinnott & Co. […]

Click to read more →

Menlo Park Historical Association commemorates end of World War I and the beginning of Fremont Park

Locals, including veterans (pictured top), gathered at Fremont Park today to commemorate the end of World War I 100 years ago today — and the 80th anniversary of the Park itself. At the event, organized by the Menlo Park Historical Association, Bo Crane (pictured right) talked about how 20 years after the Armistice on Nov. 11, […]

Click to read more →

Menlo Park Historical Association walking tour takes you back 100 years

On August 4, 2018, the Menlo Park Historical Association is conducting its annual Victorian Days Walking Tour, sponsored by the San Mateo County Historical Association. The Menlo Park tour is free, as are other tours, and no reservation is required — you just show up at MacArthur Park, 27 University Avenue, Palo Alto, near the […]

Click to read more →

Learn how local streets got their names on July 2

Join Bo Crane, author of the book The Streets of Menlo Park, as he shares information about the origins and namesakes of our local streets.  Discover the fascinating stories and biographies associated with the names — how the streets were named, and who lived on them. Bo’s talk takes place on July 2 at 7:00 […]

Click to read more →

Bo Crane leads MPHA tour of Holy Cross Cemetery on Saturday, May 19

This year the Menlo Park Historical Association (MPHA) annually sponsored tour of Holy Cross Cemetery will be led by MPHA secretary, Bo Crane, on Saturday, May 19 from 2:00 to 4:00 pm. The Cemetery is at 1100 Santa Cruz Avenue in Menlo Park, located at the street’s bend. Parking for this event is not allowed […]

Click to read more →

Bo Crane authors a book, The Streets of Menlo Park, in time for the city’s 90th anniversary

Take a quick glance at the photo to the right, taken in Menlo Park. Now answer: Where exactly? Is there a street in Menlo called Fourth Street? Of course there is, or it wouldn’t be in the new Menlo Park Historical Association book written by Bo Crane called the The Streets of Menlo Park. Bo explained […]

Click to read more →

Spotted: Camp Fremont exhibit at Menlo Park Library

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 […]

Click to read more →

The former Roger Reynolds Nursery set to meet the wrecking ball

Menlo Park Historical Association member Jim Lewis emailed: “The guillotine is falling. It’s the end of the road for the endeared local historical property formerly known as the Roger Reynolds Nursery, along with its iconic Carriage House [shown with adjacent dumpster]. “You may wish to take your own photos, documenting one piece of Menlo Park’s […]

Click to read more →

Great estates of the Peninsula is topic of recent talk sponsored by the Menlo Park Historical Association

Earlier this fall, Carmen J. Blair, Deputy Director of the San Mateo County Historical Association, gave a talk at the Menlo Park Library entitled The Great Estates of the Peninsula. Carmen was invited by the Menlo Park Historical Association, and her talk was part of that organization’s annual meeting. Carmen’s talk explored the Mid-Peninsula lifestyle during the late […]

Click to read more →

Menlo Park gates to live again – if enough money can be raised

“Portals of Early Days’ at Menlo Park Laid Low; Landmark of 1854 Falls.” Thus headlined an article in the July 7, 1922, Palo Alto Times. “The landmark…was struck early this morning by two automobiles, filled with singing passengers, which careened down the highway and crashed into the old arch…” The wood “…was rotted and scarcely […]

Click to read more →