Feature: Historical Buildings in Menlo Park
Many know Menlo Park as one of the more affluent towns in the country, with its high percentage of wealthy neighborhoods, high-budget buildings and downtown areas, and an abundance of expensive cars. The town began to grow in 1867 as a popular destination for wealthy businessmen and their families, and it gradually transformed into the quaint suburb it is today. Over the course of this transformation, several buildings fundamental in the community have been constructed, many of which are still around today:
The Gatehouse: Surprisingly enough, this building that people frequently pass everyday driving down Ravenswood Avenue is actually the oldest structure in Menlo Park. While it has served many purposes throughout the year, it is currently home to the Junior League of Palo Alto – Mid Penninsula. This group researched and chronicled the long history of the building: “The Gatehouse was built in 1864 by William Eustace Barron who was a leading capitalist during California’s formative days. It was the entrance to a 280 acre estate that extended from the Caltrain railroad tracks to Middlefield Road and from Ravenswood Avenue to the San Francisquito Creek. There were several outbuildings on the estate that supported a 40 room mansion.” After its creation, the building housed many people and performed a variety of functions. One of the most interesting details of the property is the fountain kept in the backyard. According to the Junior League’s write-up of the building’s past, the fountain was originally developed by a California politician named “Milton Slocum Latham, [who] purchased the estate in 1871 for $75,000 and named it Thurlow Lodge. Latham turned the property into the most elaborate estate in California. He spent most of the Civil War in France and brought back many fine outdoor fountains that he placed around the property, including the one that still stands near the Gatehouse.” The fountain is ornate and fits in well with the surrounding area of Burgess Park. There is also a large and well-kept garden out front as well as an iconic white gate facing Ringwood Avenue and several American flags on the roof. Keep an eye out for the Gatehouse the next time you are passing by the Menlo Park library.
The Bright Eagle: Another building not far from the Gatehouse is also amongst the oldest structures in Menlo Park. A San Francisco businessman built it as a summer home in 1869, and like the Gatehouse it has played a number of roles since. Today, the building is home to various businesses. It’s easy to tell how old the building really is, from the antique lighting to the creaky floorboards. Additionally, the building is both quite large and very hidden. On a mainly residential street, one would rarely think to look for such a place. Those who do, however, are rewarded with the sight of a house that has seen many years and aged beautifully.
Menlo Park Train Station: Another structure that has been standing since 1867 is the Menlo Park Train Station, which is located exactly where the Caltrain station is now. The San Francisco and San Jose railroad company built the station as a means for businessmen in San Francisco to commute from their jobs in the city back to home. Stanford students and storekeepers looking to open shop also frequented the station, making it the most important aspect of the town–the source of the population growth.
Menlo Park Presbyterian Church (MPPC): While the original location of the church building has changed since, the congregation first formed in 1873, and it is the oldest church in Menlo Park. The first church building was located in what is now the heart of downtown Menlo Park, right along Santa Cruz Avenue. This building survived until 1950, when it was torn down and relocated further south on Santa Cruz, where it has remained to this day.
Round Table Pizza: The original Round Table Pizza on El Camino Real next to downtown Menlo Park is hardly the oldest building in the city. It is, however, the oldest pizza restaurant in Menlo Park as well as the original location of the entire chain. The store was first opened by William R. Larson in 1959 and has continued selling pizzas ever since.