Thursday, July 22, 2010

#955 Menlo Park Railroad Station

Visit Date: July 5, 2010

The great railroad stations of the gilded age celebrate arrival and departure with grand architecture and massive open spaces. Therefore, we thought it a good idea to start our journey with a visit to a railroad station, even if it is not particularly grand. More practically, we also already knew where this marker was, as I had once commuted to and from this station for an entire summer. I am sure that we will get lost looking for a marker at some point during this experience, but we wanted to start out with a sure thing.
Menlo Park Railroad Station circa 1918.

The Historical Marker
Located at 1100 Merrill Street, the Menlo Park Railroad Station is the oldest passenger station in California. Today it remains in use as a stop on the Caltrain commuter railroad between San Jose and San Francisco. The building, which now houses the Menlo Park Chamber of Commerce, is in good condition and retains its Victorian architecture. We have embedded a slideshow of some pictures below and will try to do this for all markers that we visit.

Getting there
I am a huge fan of public transportation and we had thought about taking Caltrain to the station, but it was a holiday which meant that Caltrain was running a frustratingly intermittent weekend service. We drove.

In the neighborhood

The Menlo Park Railroad Station is in a great neighborhood not too far from Stanford University. Immediately next to the station is Kepler's Books, a nice independent bookstore where I picked up a book on California history, and Cafe Borrone, a popular local coffee spot.

The Marker

This building, constructed in 1867 by the San Francisco and San Jose Railroad Company, is the oldest railroad passenger station in California. The victorian ornamentation was added in the 1890's when the station was remodelled to serve the newly-opened Stanford University. The extension on the northwest was added to accommodate increased traffic generated by the establishment of Camp Fremont nearby during World War I.
California Registered Historical Landmark No. 955
Plaque placed by the State Department of Parks and Recreation in cooperation with the City of Menlo Park, July 4, 1983.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Starting Post

Where did General Vallejo sleep?

Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo

If you have ever traveled to the east coast, you may have encountered a plaque advertising the fact that "George Washington slept here." George Washington did not sleep anywhere in California, but General Vallejo sure did and there are plenty of California Historical Landmark markers to show you where.

I am a history junkie and my wife, Alisa, cannot turn down an opportunity to read didactic text (she works for a museum after all). Whenever we see a historical marker, we want to read it and learn why this spot is important. That is why we are starting this blog as we visit every California Historical Landmark.

Isn't that obsessive?
It could be, but our goal is not really to check off all of the landmarks. The golden state is a great state with a history and culture as rich and varied as its geography and ballot propositions. We enjoy being tourists in our own state, hiking in the state parks, and sampling some of the best food and wine in the world. This project merely puts a framework around what we love to do already. Looking through the list of over 1000 landmarks, we were surprised at how many we had already seen (and will now revisit).

What do we want to get out of this?
Alisa grew up in California, so she had a solid California history education: camping in the Sierras; learning about earthquakes, fires, and water conservation; and, of course, visiting a mission. I, on the other hand, grew up in Wisconsin (state motto "Forward!"), home of the Iron Brigade, Fighting Bob La Follette, Harry Houdini, Senator Joseph McCarthy (unfortunately), Laura Ingalls Wilder (briefly), the Green Bay Packers, and cows. California is now my home and I want to know it better. While exploring California's past, we both look forward to enjoying the California of today and sharing this experience with friends and family, both through this blog and by dragging them along with us to a historical marker now and then.