Another year, the Niners are losing and Stanford is headed for a Rose Bowl
game. The last time I could say these two things together was in the late 70s
or early 80s. Anyway I think it was about 35 years ago and Art Bayce was on
the board of the Barron Park Association dealing with issues on traffic and
keeping an eye on the City and the County of Santa Clara since we were not
yet annexed to the City of Palo Alto at that time (prior to 1975).
Most recently Art has been the point man for the Emergency Preparedness Committee,
co-chaired the Neighborhood Safety Committee with Gwen Luce, and helped organize
the recent flood evacuation drill. After all these years of service Art has
decided to leave the Board so he can spend more time teaching seniors how to
use computers among other things.
Also leaving the Board this year, having served for 13 years, is Inge Harding-Barlow
who has kept the donkeys a very important part of the community, and helped
to improve the appearance of Bol park and the bike path through her work on
the Habitat and Parks Committees. Many don't know that Inge's first role with
the board dealt with toxic issues related to pollution caused by companies
in the Stanford Research Park. The clean up is now nearly complete but it took
years of Inge's skill watching out for Barron Park¹s interests and making sure
the community was well informed about contaminant locations and the clean up
process details. As a member of the Emergency Preparedness Committee, Inge
was coordinator and played a vital role in the evacuation drills in the Spring
of 1987 and the Fall of 1999.
In addition to these, Katie Edwards left this year. Our first Seniors Committee
Chair person. Katie worked closely with Art and Inge on Emergency Preparedness
issues including the long process of creating the book Living With Our Faults,
which is now distributed city wide to all residents. Three very important people
to the community will be leaving and will be missed. Two short-term Board members
(Dorothy Bender & Ed Jones) have also left the Board. Their efforts are greatly
The board has two new members this year (Maryanne Welton and Mark Kriss) and
we expect to add two more members before June. Maryanne is currently the Zoning
and Land Use (ZALU), chairperson and has been doing a wonderful job tracking
developments and keeping our residents informed of issues on El Camino Real.
Mark has only been with us a month but has interests in Community Safety and
ZALU. It takes a lot of energy and the ability to work well with others.
I recently heard a comment that comes up from time to time about the BPA not
representing all of the community. Over the years the mix of the board has
been one of different interests and from different areas of Barron Park but
when there is a localized issue we try to get the residents most affected to
get involved. In this way we can act as a conduit for communication and help
by acting as a reference for historical and political information relating
to these issues. We depend on many of our residents to keep us properly informed
and hope that you will continue to contact us with any comments, questions
A year ago I believe I wrote about the many changes that we expected to see
on El Camino Real during the next year. Many of our vacant lots now have new
developments. Some of the biggest eye sores are now history. There are still
three undeveloped lots, but I expect that all three could have completed projects
on them by the end of next year. By the time you receive this, the City's new
shuttle system will have started. It is a small start but could be a benefit
to some Barron Park residents. The City Circulator will go from the downtown
CalTrain station to the Community Center and Library up to Charleston and Middlefield
during non-peak hours of the day. At first the buses will operate on diesel,
but the plan is to replace these in a few months with electric buses. The VTA
also plans to change the route of the 88 on the first and last run by running
it through Barron Park. This is designed to take school children from Barron
Park in the morning to JL Stanford prior to the start of school. If the city
is able to get more funding for the City Shuttle we expect an expansion which
will include regular service in the Barron Park area. Y2K is now just around
the corner. I hope all of you have a good holiday season and I wish you all
a happy new millennium. - Will
by Art Bayce, Safety Comm. Chair
A Personal Note
I am leaving the Board of the Barron Park Association, effective January
1, 2000. I joined the BPA Board a few months after moving to Barron Park over
35 years ago, and have had a busy time ever since. I am leaving to pursue new
areas which involve teaching, writing and doing some other endeavors which
I had planned to do when I retired. I offer my best wishes to my colleagues
on the Board and all my friends in Barron Park. I may have more time now to
meet with them personally. I will still live in Barron Park and participate
in our events whenever possible. And I will still speak up for our neighborhood.
Emergency Preparedness Committee
The Emergency Preparedness Committee became part of the BPA Board in the
early 80's, and one of its major tasks was to work with the Palo Alto Fire
Department creating the first edition of the earthquake preparedness booklet,
"Living with our Faults," distributed in 1985. The working group included Katie
Edwards, Verna Graham, Barbara Brown, and myself, working with a Fire Department
representative. Because of funding problems this booklet had a limited distribution.
After the Loma Prieta Earthquake in 1989, we felt an updated edition was necessary.
With the assistance of Katie Edwards, again, and Inge Harding-Barlow, along
with the Fire Department, we revised the booklet and made sure that every residence
in Palo Alto received a copy in 1995. I wish to thank Katie, Inge, Barbara
and Verna for their contributions and participation in Emergency Preparedness
for Barron Park and all of Palo Alto.
Neighborhood Safety Committee
The Neighborhood Safety Committee is a combination of the old Community
Safety Committee and the Neighborhood Watch Committee. We meet regularly, usually
monthly, with the Palo Alto Police Department to discuss Barron Park concerns
about neighborhood problems. Recently, the Palo Alto Fire Department has joined
these meetings so that we can now discuss those areas of interest. I wish to
thank my Co-Chair of the Neighborhood Safety Committee, Gwen Luce, for her
valuable contributions toward the smooth operation of the combined Committee.
Thanks also go to Trish Corl for taking care of the minutes of the Committee
meetings with the Police and Fire Departments.
Emergency Evacuation Drill
The big event for Emergency Preparedness and Neighborhood Safety was the
Emergency Evacuation Drill held in Barron Park on October 23, 1999 with residents
of Barron Park in conjunction with various City Departments, including Fire,
Police and Public Works, the Palo Alto Unified School District and the Red
Cross. Thanks to all of those who helped in the Drill. In particular, I wish
to thank Inge Harding-Barlow for the superior job she did as the Evacuation
Drill Coordinator. Her dedication, excellent detailed planning and getting
information out to individuals within the evacuation area and to all participants
and assistants in the drill, including those from within and outside Barron
Park, were beyond the call of duty and deserve the highest praise. The Drill
was a success and achieved its major objectives. The details have been summarized
in Inge's e-mail reports of October 26, 1999. The main problem was in communications
during the drill, including the telephone alert system and between agencies.
This problem is being reviewed and remedies are being sought. Summation The
BPA Board needs new members. Particularly the Emergency Preparedness Committee,
which needs a new chair. A final thank you to all Board members and Committee
members and Barron Park residents for giving me a rewarding experience and
many friendships. See you all in the Barron Park neighborhood!
Bol Park Replanting (Help Needed)
by Jill Beckett, co-chair
The BPA "HABITAT COMMITTEE" is planting more native plants on the Santa Clara
Water District bypass areas along the bike/walk path at Bol Park . Anyone interested
in joining us for a lovely day at the park and contributing to the NATURAL
beauty there is welcome! The planned dates are on two Sunday afternoons, January
16 and 23. Any of these days that may get rained out, the alternative day for
them is Jan. 30, also a Sunday. We will begin work at 1:30 p.m. and continue
until 4 p.m. Our work will entail planting the natives in already-dug holes,
mulching, fertilizing and watering to finish. We will put in as many as we
can and then stop promptly at 4pm. The reason why we need to do the plantings
at this time of year is because the plants will have a better chance of survival,
getting established in the cool and rainy weather that will come later, before
summer's heat. Hope to see you there and if you have any questions or ideas,
please call Jill Beckett at 494-6922. Thank you!
Zoning & Land Use (ZALU)
by Maryanne Welton, ZALU Chair
Many of the proposed projects along El Camino have been in a holding pattern
since the fall newsletter. Here's a summary of what's happening:
Willow Street Cafe Awnings:
The bright yellow awnings on the Willow Street Cafe were installed without
proper City approvals. After drawings were submitted to the Architectural Review
Board, planning department staff recommended that the awnings be removed. The
cafe owners are now in the process of resubmitting new plans for a more subdued
The 16-acre Watkins-Johnson property on Hillview (which abuts the back
of residences at the top of Matadero and Roble Ridge) is being redeveloped
by Stanford Management Company for Tibco, a software company. The existing
buildings would be demolished and four new two-story buildings constructed,
for a total of 284,000 s.f. Stanford staff and designers have met several times
with the ZALU committee and neighbors to discuss the project. After the neighbors
voiced concerns about privacy, views, noise and lights, Stanford came back
with plans that addressed these issues. They also constructed "story poles"
that showed the approximate location of building corners and heights. The two-story
portion of the building closest to the residences blocked some neighbors' views
of the foothills. Stanford then revised the plans so that only a one-story
portion of the building is adjacent to neighbors. New story poles were put
in place and the neighbors were generally pleased with Stanford's responsiveness
to their concerns. The plans will need to get Architectural Review Board approval
and construction is scheduled to begin next year.
4131 El Camino:
New plans were submitted to ARB for a mixed-use, three-story building containing
ground floor retail, offices and 8 rental apartments. The plans were favorably
reviewed and will be finalized for resubmittal next year. Pottery Business
near Barron Avenue: A vacant lot suddenly turned into a pottery business. Unfortunately,
the required permits and approvals were not obtained. The City Code Compliance
officer was dispatched to inform the owners about the proper City procedures,
and approval (or denial) is currently underway. Creekside Inn Expansion: The
plans for the proposed expansion of the Creekside Inn are being revised to
incorporate comments from the Architectural Review Board. The hotel would demolish
or renovate several of the existing buildings and construct a new four-story
building along El Camino. The number of rooms would increase from the current
137 to 180. The plans for the four-story building would include new spaces
for the Willow Street Cafe and Driftwood Market.
El Camino Corridor Study:
There has been no action on this planning study which would include new
design guidelines for proposed renovation and new development along El Camino.
BPA sent a letter to the City requesting that a BPA board member be involved
during the planning process. Barron Park Elementary School: The new classroom
wing and library are taking shape and scheduled for completion in the spring.
The remainder of the building will be renovated in phases during the next year.
If you are interested in being involved with the Zoning and Land Use committee,
please contact me by email or at 493-3035.
by Mary Jane Leon
Getting to know our neighbors Barron Park is an old neighborhood, and many
of the residents have been here a long time. They have lived through times
that are already becoming our "history." Over the coming months, we will use
the Senior Update column to introduce some of the people who have participated
in Barron Park's growing up years.
Mary Henshel Mary Henshel is probably older than most of our Senior Citizens,
and has undoubtedly had a larger stake in Barron Park's development than many
neighbors. She celebrated her 98th birthday in October, and she was a realtor
in Barron Park for more than 50 years. Mary was born Mary Elsie McNeil in Colorado,
into a family of three brothers and one sister. She was a tomboy growing up,
loved horses, and was very independent. Her horse during those years was named
Jeff. She broke her arm one time when she fell off Jeff, and was so embarrassed
about falling that she never told a soul about her broken arm until years later.
She attended school and college in Colorado, and then taught for a while. However,
she had a bit of wanderlust in her, and when some neighbors decided to visit
California in 1924, she came along for a vacation. Her sister Lucille was already
here, working at the Barron Park Military Academy. Lucille and Mary went to
a party at the Academy one evening, where Mary met her future Husband Clarence
Henshel. She never went back to Colorado.
Mary and Clarence were married in 1925 and moved into a house on Florence Lane
in Menlo Park. Their son Bob was born there in 1926. The years were hard then,
and people worked where they could. Mary worked at the cannery where Fry's
is now. Canneries were big business in this area. The work, though seasonal,
kept food on the table for many families during those years. For a while, Mary
and Clarence lived in Eureka, where Clarence had a distributorship for Wonder
Bread. In 1937 or '38, they moved to the house Mary lives in now on La Selva.
There were a lot of summer cottages in the area, as well as year-round homes,
many of them built by Mary's father-in-law. As WWII approached, when most of
the able-bodied men were going into the armed services, Mary took the training
and passed the tests to become a certified welder. She worked in the ship yards
in San Francisco, and she loved that job. She was a fine welder-her son Bob
says "I have seen some of her work from that period. It's beautiful."
After the war, the women who had filled important jobs so ably were expected
to become full-time homemakers. Mary had other ideas, though, and she became
the first woman realtor in the area. She began selling real estate out of her
home. It was a boom time for housing, and she was successful enough that her
husband quit his job and came to join her in the real estate business. They
opened an office in the little building at the corner of Barron Ave and El
Camino Real. They were involved in the sale of many properties, not only in
Barron Park, but throughout south Palo Alto, even north Palo Alto and Menlo
Park. For more than 30 years, Mary and Clarence worked together during the
big-time growth years in Palo Alto. They had the pleasure of bringing their
son Bob into the business in 1965.
That comfortable time ended suddenly in 1977 when Clarence died of a heart
attack. Mary and Bob carried on with the business for many years. Bob eventually
retired-even before his mother was ready to throw in the towel. The office
had been moved some time back to the building that now houses the Driftwood
Deli, in front of Creekside Inn on El Camino Real, where Mary continued to
work until sometime in 1993 or '94. She came down with pneumonia, and was very
close to death. Her strong constitution pulled her through, however, and she
moved back home to resume her life. She did at that time give up driving, and
also closed the office. She lives now with her helpers Carmelita and Nio de
Jesus in the same house she moved into in 1938. She is still a fiercely independent
woman, walks by herself, and carries a magnifying glass in her pocket so that
her failing eyesight never causes her to miss out on something she wants to
see. Mary's son and daughter-in-law, Bob and Gale Henshel; Carmelita de Jesus;
and Mary's long-time friend Lori Berry contributed to this story. And of course,
Mary herself. Many thanks to you all.
Help Us Find People to Profile
We would like to hear from you about any of your neighbors who are long-time
residents. Every one has interesting stories to tell about his or her own life.
Perhaps you yourself or your spouse have some stories you would like to share.
Phone or e-mail. We'll be delighted to hear from you.
Next issue we will look at some special services that are available to
local seniors. Until then, enjoy the mid-winter season. Mary Jane Leon can
be reached at (650) 493-5248. Email
Barron Park History
by Douglas Graham -- Barron Park Historian
Lost Neighborhoods: Maybelle of Memory
There once was a neighborhood in Barron Park, a pleasant place of apricot
orchards crowding up to Arastradero Road and El Camino Real. It was known as
the Maybelle Tract and was occupied, in the mid-1920s, by about 24 families.
They lived in "orchard houses", ranging in size from cottages to
impressively substantial two-story homes. Usually there were several outbuildings
on each lot, and, in at least one case, several small cottages built to house
One of these workers' cottages, somewhat modernized, could still be seen in
back of its orchard house at 530 Maybell Avenue until the construction of the
new subdivision at Pena Court in 1993. Jose Pena Pena Court was named for Jose
Pena (pronounced PAIN-yah). Pena was the original grantee of the Rancho Rincon
de San Francisquito. Pena, a soldier from the Presidio of San Francisco, first
received permission from the Mission of Santa Clara in 1822 to occupy 4,400
acres of its pasture land, about half of the eventual rancho. He was formally
granted the 8,400 acre rancho, covering nearly all of today¹s South Palo Alto
and Barron Park areas, by Governor Alvarado on March 29, 1841. He was then
teaching at Santa Clara and was 64 years old.
The Robles Family
The next important name in the history of our land is that of th Robles
family - Maria Antonia Garcia Robles and her husband Secundino Robles. The
Robleses, along with Secundino¹s brother Teodoro, bought the rancho from Jose
Pena in September, 1847. They purchased it with about $3,500 obtained from
selling shares of the New Almaden mercury mine, south of San Jose. The Robleses
built a substantial ranch house near today¹s intersection of Alma and San Antonio
Expressways, and raised a large family (Maria Antonia bore 29 children). Clark's
Property In 1853, Elisha O. Crosby (Crosby Court is named for him), an attorney
and participant in the California Constitutional Convention of 1849, bought
250 acres from the Robleses for $2,000. He built a large farmhouse and named
the property Mayfield Farm. The name was picked up by the new settlement of
Mayfield and the property went on to become the core of today's Barron Park
Next door to that property, also in 1853, was a large tract, possibly extending
as far as Adobe Creek, purchased by Clarke and Beckh. This almost certainly
included the land that eventually became the Maybelle Tract. A Stanford land
survey done between 1883 and 1892 shows the land between Arastradero Road and
Mayfield Farm as belonging to Mrs C. Clark. The 1890 County map shows the Distel
subdivision already made, as well as the one that later became the property
of Watkins (see below).
The Maybelle Tract
The Maybelle tract was laid out in 1905, with a primary subdivision of
the area into orchard tracts, mostly of three to five acres each. This was
probably when Mrs. Clarke (or her estate?) sold the property. The name was
perhaps chosen to complement the original name of the Barron Tract, Mayfield
Farm. The tract of about 140 acres ran from the County Road (El Camino Real)
southwest to the Stanford lands, where Gunn High School stands today. From
Arastradero Road it extended to the Barron Tract, a property line that is difficult
to perceive today without a map. The line runs between the properties on the
northwest side of the 500 block of Georgia Avenue and those on the southeast
side of the 700 block of Florales. It can most easily be seen as the northwest
boundary of Juana Briones School, the site of which is part of the Maybelle
At the southwest end of the tract, three lots totalling 10.3 acres were owned
by Arthur Watkins. This is the land along Hubbardt Drive, the 600 and 4100
blocks of Georgia Avenue and Crosby and Wallis Courts that later made up the
1972 L¹Hermitte subdivision which was the last remaining sizable orchard
in the Barron Park area to be developed. Northeast of the Watkins properties
were 12 lots, a total of 24.35 acres owned by L. Distel. This land later became
Greenacres Two. Maybelle Avenue Maybelle Avenue was laid out in 1905 to run
through the Distel orchard to the Watkins property near where Hubbart and Georgia
intersect today. This southwest end of Maybell was sacrificed to the curving
streets of the huge Greenacres Two development in 1952, when Donald, Willmar
and Georgia were laid out.
The original Maybelle Avenue (the final "e" in the spelling was apparently
dropped some time between 1926 and 1932) was drawn parallel to Arastradero
Road, almost exactly down the middle of the tract. It was a graded dirt farm
lane for many years, difficult or impassable in severely wet weather. I do
not know when the street was paved, but it may not have been until after World
War II when the George Reed tract was developed (Abel, Baker and Georgia Avenues).
Maybelle Avenue was originally connected to Arastradero only by Park Avenue,
which apparently was part of the 1905 plat. Coulombe Avenue made a second connection
in 1951, and Park Avenue was eventually closed to through traffic some time
after the development of Juana Briones Park.
The Irven Subdivision
In 1926, three properties totalling a little over 9 acres near the northeast
corner of the tract were subdivided into small residential lots. Two of the
properties belonged to Minnie N. Irven, and this became the Irven Tract. This
subdivision, on Alta Mesa Avenue and Irven Court, may not have been financially
successful, as the record shows the first house wasn¹t built until 1935 and
several lots were still vacant in the 1960s. It was the second residential
tract in the Barron Park area (the first had been the original Barron Park
subdivision, on Barron, La Selva and Military in 1925).
Apricots or Seeds and Flowers?
According to information I have received from long-term residents of the
area, the George Reed and Maybell Gardens (Amaranta Avenue and Court area)
tracts were planted to apricot orchards. This is corroborated by the 1941 aerial
photograph showing solid orchards through most of the tract (there is no way
to determine the type of fruit tree from the photograph). Abel Street was laid
out in apricot orchards, probably planted in the 1920s. According to one longtime
resident interviewed in 1988, the house at 4150 Abel was the "orchard
house" and the smaller houses at 4136, 4138 and 4140 Abel were built as
"picker houses" for migrant fruit pickers. According to city records,
the big house was built in 1925 and the smaller ones in 1928. However, the
Palo Alto Historical Association¹s Streets of Palo Alto says "In early
days the area was used by a co-operative devoted to growing seeds and flowers".
This may refer to the deep lots fronting on the State Highway that eventually
became part of the Barron Square condominium development. I have no evidence
of this. Do any readers of this article have any information?
The State "Borrow Pit"
Even though the Maybelle Tract was still primarily agricultural in the
1920s and 30s, the owners soon found that they had to associate together, like
today¹s suburbanites do, to prevent unwanted development. In October, 1932,
the state was busy constructing the new Bayshore Highway, a bypass highway
project, which would re-route US 101 and take the through traffic off of El
Camino Real for the length of the peninsula. This was meant to be a straight,
safe, high-speed highway and was the precursor to the Bayshore Freeway. To
fill in the seasonal wetlands along the edge of the bay, the state needed lots
of good fill material. Two four-acre sites were identified and approved in
the Maybelle Tract, to be excavated to the depth of eight to twenty feet. Strong
protests against this plan were lodged by a delegation of 25 Maybelle property
owners at a hearing held by the Palo Alto Planning Commission. The residents
asserted that the project would damage their properties. The PAPC, anticipating
annexation of the area within a few years, joined the county planning commission
in a protest to the state.
On October 24, 1932, a delegation met with Governor Rolph in Sacramento to
present their protest against the state highway commission¹s plans for removing
earth for building materials from the Maybelle tract. The property owners were
represented by G.H. Gibbons, W.H. Sloan, and L. J. Traynor. Two planning commissioners
from each commission also attended, as well as the deputy city attorney. Immediately
after the meeting, it was announced that the state would probably not dig borrow
pits on Arastradero Road. The Governor "expressed himself as being against
doing anything which would damage property". The Director of the state
Public Works Department "promised to take no actionwithout first notifying
the local group and giving time for the filing of an injunction." Be that
as it may, the fact remains that a gigantic pit was dug, encompassing an entire
5-acre parcel that adjoined Maybell Avenue and including the area now occupied
by Maybell Way and the cul-de-sac from 634 to 639 Georgia (McLaughlin Glen
and McLaughlin Glen #2 tracts, platted in 1958 and 1959 respectively). The
pit was opposite the cul-de-sacs at the ends of Laguna Way and Manzana Lane,
and shows clearly (through shadowing) on the 1948 aerial photo. It appears
less clearly on the 1941 photo, when it may have been only partially excavated.
This protest by the Maybelle property owners has traditionally been considered
to be the beginnings of concerted community action in our neighborhood, with
the group being the direct ancestor of the Barron Park - Maybelle Improvement
The Barron Park - Maybelle Improvement Association
According to an article on Jack (John L.) Silvey, the "Unofficial
Mayor of Barron Park" that appeared in the Palo Alto Times in January,
1959, he had founded the Barron Park - Maybelle Improvement and Taxpayer¹s
Association eight years before. This would indicate a founding date in 1950
or early 1951. A newspaper article in November, 1954 refers to the "Maybelle
Avenue Improvement Association". By September, 1956, this apparently had
become "The Maybelle Improvement and Taxpayers Association". I have
membership records of the Barron Park - Maybell Improvement Association dating
from 1956 through 1968. Jack Silvey was re-elected President of the association
(by whatever name) each year through at least 1959, when he was 75 years old.
Dues are recorded against his name through 1965. Silvey lived at 528 Maybell
Avenue, an address that no longer exists it was replaced by the new houses
on Pena Court.
Loma Vista Lest We Forget
Another "lost" neighborhood in Barron Park is the Loma Vista
area, named after Loma Vista Elementary School which served as its neighborhood
center from 1952 until it was merged with Creekside (Barron Park) School and
re-named Jauna Briones in 1982. The story of Loma Vista School is an interesting
one. To start with, it was the only school in Palo Alto, to my knowledge, that
was named by students. The story, as told by Loma Vista¹s first Principal,
Louis W, Parente, was published in the Palo Alto Times, May 27, 1952: ³Students
Choose Own Name for School on Maybell Avenue A group of Sixth grade students
have inadvertently named the elementary school of Maybell Avenue. By their
suggestion and a confirming act of the school board, it will henceforth be
known as Loma Vista School. The board unanimously adopted the name last night
after Louis W. Parente, sixth grade teacher of Barron Park School, told the
story of his efforts to name the new school. Parente, who had unsuccessfully
sifted several names himself, finally presented the problem to his class. "Why
not call it Hillview?" they urged. After some consideration, Parente explained
that ³Hillviews² were too much in abundance. But that didn¹t stop his students.
"What's the Spanish for Hillview?" they asked. Parente found that
Hillview, roughly translated into Spanish, would come out Loma Vista. Loma
Vista, more specifically, means "a view of rolling hills". The school
on Maybell Avenue offers a picturesque view of the nearby hills. The board
liked it. The board could not know that it was inadvertently naming a neighborhood
of Palo Alto.
The school opened in the fall of 1952, just as the neighborhood around its
site was tipping over from apricot orchards to tract homes. Greenacres Two,
of course, was by far the largest one. Clearing of most of the orchard trees
from that 24-acre area must have been a major factor in providing the "picturesque
views" of the hills they certainly are not very evident from the Juana
Briones School of today. Maybell Gardens was laid out that summer. "Tract
1003", the Coloumbe Avenue block was laid out the same year by a developer
who clearly did not have a romantic outlook when it came to naming the tract.
Across Arastradero, both Greenacres One (Los Palos, Pomona, Fairmede and Glenbrook)
and Palo Alto Orchards (Suzanne, Kelly, McKellar) were only two years old.
At the southwest boundary of the schoolyard, "The Pit" may have still
gaped open to the sky, but certainly someone had filled it in by 1958 when
McLaughlin Glen was laid out. I can only surmise who might have done that,
and at what cost. The Korean War Interferes The school almost wasn¹t built
in time for its scheduled opening in September, 1952 that is the other interesting
story involved in its founding. The Korean War was in full swing, and there
was a national steel shortage. In October, 1951, the board sent Superintendant
Henry M. Gunn flying to Washington D.C. to lobby the federal government for
an allocation of steel sufficient to build new elementary schools at Jordan
Junior High and on Maybelle Avenue. Both schools were desperately needed to
alleviate gross overcrowding at the older schools - in our case, Barron Park
School. In 1951, children living southeast of Florales Avenue (Maybelle Tract
and Arastradero neighborhoods) were being bussed to Fairmeadow School. The
National Production Administration (a World War Two holdover) and Senators
Richard M. Nixon and William F. Knowland were lobbied by the board and Dr.
Gunn. Congressional resolutions were passed by the Senate and House while Gunn
was in Washington. To speed NPA approval, the board agreed to build the Maybell
Avenue school to the exact plans of Green Gables School, which had already
passed muster by the Federal bureaucrats.
It is interesting to note that the seven-acre Loma Vista site had not been
acquired until it was needed in early 1951, for $27,000. The 14-room school
was built early in 1952 at a cost of $280,000. The figure surprised school
officials as it was $25,000 below the cost of the identical Green Gables School
built the year before. The Multi-Purpose room was built in 1953 for an additional
cost of $23,486. The Loma Vista Neighborhood Over the next seven years the
area immediately around the school passed directly from orchards to houses.
The orchardists sold out and moved on, and their houses were demolished to
be replaced with cookie-cutter early 1950s "ranch style" homes and
Eichler moderns. These new houses were priced higher than many Barron Park
homes, and attracted young professionals. Most of the new residents had young
children, and the school provided an important community focus for the brand-new
Besides the social differences, the lack of collector streets to connect with
the older part of the neighborhood (Amaranta is still the only connection)
made the two areas seem greatly distinct from each other. Then a bold annexation
action both exacerbated and confused the separatist tendencies. The Foothills
Two Annexation In 1959, the City of Palo Alto proposed to annex nearly half
of Barron Park, including all the streets southeast of Amaranta and northeast
of Maybell except for the Irven Tract. Palo Alto¹s Foothills Number Two annexation,
as it was known, also included all the neighborhoods over to the boundary with
Los Altos at Adobe Creek and south into the foothills. The annexation was bitterly
opposed by Jack Silvey and the Barron Park Maybelle Association; Silvey ³declared
war² on the annexation. He said to the Palo Alto Times that he had been told
that the annexation would include only the Greenacres residential subdivision.
"They want to take in people in the Barron Park Maybell Improvement
and Taxpayers Association", said Silvey, "and they can't do that
to my people".
Jack Silvey Silvey is an interesting character in our history. He apparently
ran the association in a highly paternalistic fashion - note how he referred
to his neighbors as "my people". He insisted that each meeting begin
with the pledge of allegiance to the flag. Some of his political views seem
bizarre from our vantage point at the close of the century and may have seemed
fairly extreme even then. During the 1959 annexation fight, he circulated a
wordy document entitled "The Battle Cry of Freedom", insinuating
that the City of Palo Alto was part of the worldwide communist conspiracy to
enslave America. On the other hand, Silvey had been clearly effective at leading
the community to obtain street lighting and other services in the early 1950s.
He went on to be involved in organizing community support for the first flood
control project, the underground culverts on Barron Creek in the early 1960s.
However, by 1967, he was no longer active in the association, which was then
headed by Richard Placone under its current name, the Barron Park Association.
If any reader can tell us more about Jack Silvey or the association he headed,
please let me know. The Voters Opt for Annexation To Silvey¹s dismay, and probably
unfortunately for the neighborhoods involved, the annexation measure passed.
Suddenly, on June 24, 1959, nearly half of the area historically considered
to be Barron Park was inside the City, looking out at the rest of us. This
both ratified and exacerbated the differences between the two parts of the
neighborhood, particularly in the sixteen years to come before the "core"
of Barron Park was finally annexed in 1975. During those sixteen years, the
residents of Amaranta, Orme, Laguna Way, Manzana, El Cerrito and upper Los
Robles found it necessary to band together to work on common issues.
To serve this need, the Loma Vista Association (LVA) was born, and the area
around the school in the Maybelle Tract was included in its scope. However,
it was difficult to create a new sense of neighborhood identity, and the association
never jelled in the sense that the Barron Park Association did. After the 1975
annexation, Sam Sparck led a remnant of the LVA in a voluntary merger with
the Barron Park Association. The neighborhoods to the southwest of the school
have, for the most part, folded right back into their identity with the rest
of Barron Park. However, the residents of the southwest end of the Maybelle
Tract (Greenacres Two and contiguous tracts) had never felt strong ties and
most of them now feel that their neighborhood is quite distinct from Barron
Park. Juana Briones Park Juana Briones Park was acquired and developed by the
city in late 1967and dedicated in 1969 as a neighborhood park. In the park
next to the fire station is displayed the old fire bell from the town of Mayfield
(now the California Avenue business district).
The park was named for Juana Briones, one of the most fascinating women in
Palo Alto history. The bronze plaque set in the granite boulder on the Maybell
Avenue side of the park tells the story; "Rancho La Purisima Concepcion
was granted to a former Santa Clara Mission Indian, Jose Gorgonio, by Governor
Alvarado on June 30, 1840. In 1844 Gorgonio and another Indian, Jose Ramon,
sold the grant to Dona Juana Briones de Miranda, who lived with her seven children
in an adobe house on the top of a hill nearby, at Fremont Avenue and Arastradero
Road. Ox-drawn carretta, drying hides, bull and bear fights, vaqueros herding
cattle, and family barbeque festivities were familiar sights on the rancho."
Juana Briones was definitely one of the most interesting characters in the
history of southwest Palo Alto. She was a self-made woman of independent character
who made a good life for herself and her family after leaving her abusive her
husband. Her ability to manage on her own was a rarity in her day and culture.
She was the first resident of the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco
indeed, the area was called "La Playa de Juana Briones". She became
known as a midwife and herbal healer and for providing sanctuary to runaway
sailors from the whaling, sealing and trading ships that visited Yerba Buena
After her husband died in 1844, she moved to her hilltop adobe that still exists
on Old Trace Road just off Arastradero across from the Roche pharmaceutical
plant. Juana Briones School As most of the readers of this article surely know,
the ³Maybelle Avenue school² that began existence as Loma Vista is now known
as Juana Briones School. This name change was a result of the demographic collapse
that occurred in the Palo Alto Unified School District during the late 1970s
and 1980s. This happened because of the aging of Palo Alto families and a tremendous
rise in housing values, which for a time blocked what otherwise would have
been the normal turnover to younger families. Enrollment in some school attendance
areas fell to half of what it had been during the booming 1950s and 1960s.
Serious school district budgetary problems developed in the wake of the State
Supreme Court Serrano Decision and the passage of Proposition 13. In the light
of these two detrimental trends, the board felt obligated to close and merge
schools and sell off school properties. In the Barron Park area, this led to
the closing of Ventura School in 1978 and merger with Barron Park School which
became Creekside School. Creekside only lasted until 1982, when collapsing
enrollments forced other school closings in Palo Alto. The ³basic three Rs²
alternative school, Hoover, was moved onto the old Barron Park site. The Creekside
kids went to Loma Vista, which was then renamed Juana Briones School. These
renamings were carried out so that the school populations that had to be moved
would not feel unequal to those who stayed in their same school.
The idea was to create new schools with new identities. This concept entirely
ignored the traditional bonds between elementary schools and their neighborhoods,
and it was opposed by the BPA and by residents who felt strongly about their
neighborhood history. In the final outcome, after two neighborhood schools
were reestablished in our community in 1998, Barron Park School¹s traditional
name was restored and Juana Briones continued with its new name. Lest we forgetfor
a short while in our past, there was a Loma Vista neighborhood. I hope you
have enjoyed this brief glimpse of part of our rich past. If any of you have
stories to tell about the Maybelle or Loma Vista neighborhoods, or photographs
that I could have copied, please contact me at my current job in Pennsylvania
or at my permanent home at 984 Ilima Way. Mail can be sent to me at PO Box
98, Tannersville PA 18372, or e-mail to email@example.com.
While you are dividing perennials this winter or spring, or removing plants
that have multiplied beyond their space, please pot, hold, and donate to our
plant sale effort on Sunday, May 7 in conjunction with the House & Garden Tour.
Only plants in pots will be accepted, and no privet plants please. Direct any
inquiries about plant sales to Mardell Ward at 493-8051