Palo Alto (; Spanish: palo: literally "stick", colloquial: "tree" and alto: "tall"; meaning: "tall tree") is a charter city located in the northwest corner of Santa Clara County, California, in the San Francisco Bay Area of the United States. The city shares its borders with East Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Stanford, Portola Valley, and Menlo Park. It is named after a coast redwood tree called El Palo Alto.
Palo Alto was established by Leland Stanford Sr. when he founded Stanford University, following the death of his son, Leland Stanford Jr. The city includes portions of Stanford and is headquarters to a number of high-technology companies, including Hewlett-Packard (HP), VMware, Tesla Motors, PARC, Ning, IDEO, Skype, and Palantir Technologies. It has also served as an incubator to several other high-technology companies such as Google, Facebook, Logitech, Intuit, Pinterest, and PayPal.
As of the 2010 census, the city's total resident population is 64,403. Palo Alto is one of the most expensive cities in the United States and its residents are among the most educated in the country.
Fire and Police History: 1960-present
Palo Alto's earliest recorded history dates from 1769, when Gaspar de Portolà noted an Ohlone settlement. This remains an area of known Indian mounds. A plaque at Middlefield Road and Embarcadero Road commemorates the area.
The city got its name from the tall landmark Redwood tree, El Palo Alto, which still grows on the east bank of San Francisquito Creek across from Menlo Park. One trunk of the twin-trunked tree can still be found by the railroad trestle near Alma Street in El Palo Alto Park. The other trunk was destroyed during a storm in the late 20th century. A plaque there recounts the story of the Portolà expedition, a 63-man, 200-horse expedition from San Diego to Monterey from November 7–11, 1769. The group overshot Monterey in the fog and when they reached modern-day Pacifica, they ascended Sweeney Ridge and saw the San Francisco Bay. Portolà descended from Sweeney Ridge southeast down San Andreas Creek to Laguna Creek (now Crystal Springs Reservoirs and the Filoli estate, and thence to the San Francisquito Creek watershed, ultimately camping at El Palo Alto from November 6–11, 1769. Thinking the bay was too wide to cross, the group retraced their journey to Monterey, never becoming aware of the Golden Gate entrance to the Bay.
About 1827, Rafael Soto, the tenth child and a son of De Anza Expedition settler Ygnacio Soto and María Bárbara Espinosa de Lugo of Alta, California, came to stay with Máximo Martínez at his Rancho Corte de Madera for seven years. Located south of the San Francisquito Creek, west of today's I-280, Rancho Corte de Madera covered most of Portola Valley to Skyline Boulevard extending south to about Foothill College. In 1835, Rafael Soto and family settled near the San Francisquito Creek near Newell and Middlefield, selling goods to travelers. Rafael Soto died in 1839, but his wife, Maria Antonia Mesa, was granted Rancho Rinconada del Arroyo de San Francisquito in 1841.
In 1839, their daughter María Luisa Soto married John Coppinger, who was the grantee of Rancho Cañada de Raymundo. Rancho Cañada de Raymundo was West of San Francisquito Creek, and began at Alambique Creek, the north border of Rancho Corte de Madera, and extended north, including present day Woodside. Bear Gulch Creek (Bear Creek) flowed on his land in Portola Valley. The rancho also abutted Buelna's grant near Skyline Boulevard and Matadero Creek. Upon Coppinger's death, Maria inherited it and later married a visiting boat captain, John Greer. Greer owned a home on the site that is now Town & Country Village on Embarcadero and El Camino Real. Greer Avenue and Court are named for him. To the west of Rafael Soto, near El Camino and following the Creek, was Rancho San Francisquito granted in 1839 to Antonio Buelna and wife Maria Concepcion.
To the south of the Sotos, the brothers Secundino and Teodoro Robles in 1849 bought Rancho Rincon de San Francisquito from José Peña, the 1841 grantee. The grant extended from San Francisquito Creek, Alpine Road and Bishop Lane behind Stanford Shopping Center and golf course, then south along the Santa Cruz Foothills between Junipero Serra & Hwy 280 to the intersection of Matadero Creek/ Hillview /Miranda & then SW near the intersection of Page Mill and Arastradero Rd. where the Joness house was, then east down Arastradero Rd. to the north property line of Alta Mesa Memorial Park and Terman Park. Follow the trail of what was once the old stage road over Adobe Creek (then Yeguas Creek) to El Camino Real & then east on San Antonio Rd. to the Bay marshes passing over the RR and what was once the Jeffry's House & Stables.
The property then went along the bay to the Embarcadero, a major boundary in the day, then up to the Stanford University gates, up Galvez and along Campus way to the hills near the golf course. The grant was bounded on the south by Mariano Castro's Rancho Pastoria de las Borregas grant across San Antonio Road. That's the Robles Rancho, about 80% of Palo Alto and Stanford University. It was whittled down by 1863 through courts to . Stories say their grand hacienda was built on the former meager adobe of José Peña near Ferne off San Antonio Road, midway between Middlefield and Alma Street. Their hacienda hosted fiestas and bull fights. It was ruined in the 1906 earthquake and its lumber was used to build a large barn nearby which it is said lingered until the early 1950s. In 1853, they sold , comprising the present day Barron Park, Matadero Creek and Stanford Business Park, to Elisha Oscar Crosby, who coined Mayfield as she called her new property Mayfield Farm. In 1880, Secundino Robles, father to twenty-nine children, still lived near the present-day Sears store.
Many of the Spanish names in the Palo Alto area represent the local heritage, descriptive terms and former residents. Pena Court, Miranda Avenue, which was essentially Foothill Expwy, was the married name of Juana Briones and the name occurs in Courts and Avenues and other street names in Palo Alto and Mountain View in the quadrant where she owned vast areas between Stanford University, Grant Road in Mountain View and west of El Camino. Yerba Buena was to her credit. Rinconada was the major Mexican land grant name.
The township of Mayfield was formed in 1855, in what is now southern Palo Alto. In 1875, French financier Jean Baptiste Paulin Caperon, better known as Peter Coutts, purchased land in Mayfield and four other parcels around three sides of today's College Terrace – more than a thousand acres extending from today's Page Mill Road to Serra Street and from El Camino Real to the foothills. Coutts named his property Ayrshire Farm. His fanciful brick 50-foot-tall brick tower near Matadero Creek likely marked the south corner of his property. Leland Stanford started buying land in the area in 1876 for a horse farm, called the Palo Alto Stock Farm. Stanford bought Ayrshire Farm in 1882. Jane and Leland Stanford, Sr. founded Stanford University in 1891, dedicated to his son who died of typhoid fever at age 15 in 1884. In 1886, Stanford came to Mayfield, interested in founding his university there. He had a train stop created near his school on Mayfield's downtown street, Lincoln Street (now named California Avenue). However, he had one condition: alcohol had to be banned from the town. Known for its 13 rowdy saloons, Mayfield rejected his requests for reform. This led him to drive the formation of Palo Alto as a Temperance Town in 1894 with the help of his friend Timothy Hopkins of the Southern Pacific Railroad who bought of private land in 1887 for the new townsite. The Hopkins Tract, bounded by El Camino Real, San Francisquito Creek, Boyce, Channing, Melville, and Hopkins Avenues, and Embarcadero Road, was proclaimed a local Heritage District during Palo's Alto Centennial in 1994. Stanford set up his university, Stanford University, and a train stop (on University Avenue) by his new town. With Stanford's support, saloon days faded and Palo Alto grew to the size of Mayfield. On July 2, 1925, Palo Alto voters approved the annexation of Mayfield and the two communities were officially consolidated on July 6, 1925. This saga explains why Palo Alto has two downtown areas: one along University Avenue and one along California Avenue.
The Mayfield News wrote its own obituary four days later: