August 15, 2016

Palo Alto History

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For well over a century, astonishing people in Palo Alto have created innovations that affect the lives of millions of people around the globe. Palo Alto is uniquely positioned at the intersection of intellectual, technological, financial, and green-energy trends. In many ways, Palo Alto is among the most influential communities in the world – rich with heritage and pride.

NEW: Learn about our city’s 125-year history here and see Palo Alto Online’s new interactive timeline here.

Featured Stories

Arnautoff Murals

A valued treasure of the Roth Building are the building’s murals; completed by Victor Arnautoff.

Victor Arnautoff, 1896-1979, was a Russian-American artist and professor of art at Stanford University. Following earlier work as an assistant to Mexican muralist, Diego Rivera, Arnautoff settled in the Bay Area. The Roth Building murals, located in the entry area of the building, represent aspects of medical care, the profession to which building was dedicated. Completed in 1932, they are among Arnautoff’s earliest works in this country, and they were quickly followed by the well-known Coit Tower murals.

The artwork represented shows two of four medical procedure murals, one of the lower classical themed murals and two of the four portrait medallions from medical history.

Stanford University

Former California Governor Leland Stanford purchased 650 acres of Rancho San Francisquito in 1876, which began the development of his famous Palo Alto Stock Farm; and later Stanford University.

Leland Stanford was a wealthy lawyer who moved West after the gold rush and made his fortune in the railroads. He was a leader of the Republican Party, governor of California, and at one time a United States Senator. He and his wife, Jane had one child, Leland Jr. Sadly, their son died of typhoid fever in 1884 at age 15. Weeks of their son’s death, the Stanfords decided they would help the children of California, since they could not help their own boy.

Leland and Jane traveled the East coast visiting Harvard, MIT, and other universities, to gain knowledge about schools. They decided to build a university and a museum in their son’s memory. Stanford University was to be a university much different than other universities of the time, as it opened as a coed school, with no religious associations. Most universities were all male and religious.

On October 1, 1891, Stanford University opened its doors after six years of planning and building.The university was built by Frederick Law Olmsted, the famed landscape architect who also created New York’s Central Park. The first student body consisted of 555 men and women, with 15 faculty members the first year and 49 for the second year. The university’s first president was David Starr Jordan, a graduate of Cornell, who left his post as president of Indiana University to join Stanford University.

Today, the university is still expanding and continuing to be a ground breaking place for education, athletics, and research.

Juana Briones Wall

Juana Briones was born near Santa Cruz, California. She was of Spanish, Native American and African descent. In 1820 Juana married a soldier, Apolinario Miranda, and they had eight children. They also adopted an orphaned Indian girl; making it nine children to take care of. Together Juana and her husband built a farm near the Presidio of San Francisco. She was a natural entrepreneur; she marketed her dairy cow’s milk and farm produce to the sailors from whaling ships or those who arrived in to the San Francisco Ports. Briones also built a reputation for hospitality, skills in herbal medicine, and midwifery.

In 1844 Juana received a separation from her abusive, alcoholic husband. She purchased from two Native Californians the 4,400-acre Rancho La Purísima Concepción; an area overlapping present-day Palo Alto and Los Altos Hills. A portion of her ranch home remained until 2011 in the foothills above Palo Alto, California at 4155 Old Adobe Road. Two walls in the oldest corner of the home still exhibited the original rancho home’s construction. These walls were historically significant, as they preserved a rare construction method: infilling a crib of horizontal redwood boards with adobe. The significance of this technique was that is had the strong insulating characteristics of adobe, but also protected again destruction by earthquake, which is something traditional adobe construction did not protect against.

Many preservationists fought to protect the house, but alas, the house was demolished in June 2011. A section of the original wall was restored and moved. The Palo Alto History Museum has received the remaining wall and will prominently display it upon opening the museum.

Hewlett-Packard’s “The Garage”

This famous garage is the birthplace of Silicon Valley and where Hewlett-Packard was created. “The Garage” at 367 Addison Avenue, Palo Alto is also a designated California Historical Landmark.

In 1937, David Packard and William Hewlett had their first business meeting in Palo Alto. One year later, newly married Dave and Lucile Packard moved into 367 Addison Ave. The three-room apartment was shared with Bill Hewlett sleeping in the shed. Hewlett and Packard began to use the one-car garage, with $538 in capital to start their business.

In 1939, Hewlett and Packard formed their partnership, with a coin toss creating the name Hewlett-Packard. Hewlett-Packard’s first product, built in the garage, was an audio oscillator, the HP200A. Walt Disney Studios purchased eight of these oscillators to test sound systems in theaters,  that ran the first major film released in stereophonic sound, Fantasia.

Prominent Palo Altans

Read about just a few of the notable Palo Altans who inspired the future.

Lucie Stern

Known as “Palo Alto’s Fairy Godmother”, Lucie Stern (1871–1946) grew up in San Francisco and later joined one of the wealthiest families when she married Louis Stern in 1899. She settled in Palo Alto, where her generosity was widely known.

Roy Clay Sr.

1975 Roy Clay Sr. Roy Clay Sr., a Silicon Valley technology pioneer, was a key figure in the development of Hewlett-Packard’s computer division. In the 1970’s he served on the City Council; two of the years as vice mayor.

Alice Park

Palo Alto’s Alice Park was one of the fundamental suffragists who campaigned for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. She also wrote the law guaranteeing women equal rights of guardianship of their own children.

Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg, founded Facebook in Palo Alto; a company that has changed the world.

Lee de Forest

1873-1961 Lee de Forest invented the three-element vacuum tube which became the basis of all electronic devices, including the radio.

Jerry Garcia

Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia formed his band in this small town.

Frederick Terman

1900-1982 Frederick Terman Known as the “father of Silicon Valley, Frederick Terman was an academic and a former dean of the Stanford Engineering School.

Steve Jobs

Palo Alto’s Steve Jobs was an inventor, who is best known for being Apple’s CEO and the founder of Pixar.