History of Atherton, California
From: The Story of San Mateo County, California
By: Roy W. Cloud
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company.
Chicago, Ill 1928


Atherton, which is situated just between Redwood City and Menlo Park, began its agitation for incorporation about mid year in 1923. Menlo Park at that time was contemplating incorporation and a number of prominent citizens who did not wish to be included in Menlo or who doubted the possibility of an incorporation in that city presented a petition to the supervisors of San Mateo County on August 6, 1923, asking that they be allowed to vote on the proposition of incorporation. Mr. Arthur H. Redington, city attorney of Hillsborough, appeared for the petitioners and succeeded despite the activity of the proponents of the incorporation of Menlo Park, in having the territory excluded from the proposed city of Menlo Park. The date of the election was set for September 7, 1923, and at the closing of the polls it was found that there were 114 votes for and 16 votes against incorporation. The findings were presented to the board of supervisors of San Mateo County and September 11, 1923, the city of Atherton became a regular municipality in the county of San Mateo. The first officers of this city were: M. A. Harris, Eli Wiell, Cutler Bonesteel, F. H. Crosby, and E. L. Eyre, city trustees; E. L. Eyre being the first mayor of the city; Clarence Walter, clerk; Dr. E. W. Westphal, chief of police; Arthur H. Redington, city attorney; G. Elmer Jennings, recorder; J. W. Sellars and J. B. Feliz, traffic officers.

As originally plotted the city of Atherton covered practically all of the old home sites of Faxon D. Atherton, T. H. Selby, P. A. Barney and E. L. Eyre west of the Highway; the old M. S. Hobart, Hecht, and Col. Eyre properties and Fair Oaks addition between the Highway and the track; the Butterfield, Dowd, Hobart, Pryor, Barney, Perry Eyre, O'Connor, Grant, Holbrook and Felton properties on the east side of the track. Later the boundaries were extended to take in as far south as Valparaiso Avenue between the railroad and Middlefield Road and the Flood, Doyle, Nickel, and Donahoe properties east of the Middlefield Road. The corporate life of the city of Atherton has been uneventful and it is chiefly known at the present time because of the activity of its traffic policeman who is stationed at the corner of Atherton Avenue and the Highway. This gentleman rigidly enforces the law and passing motorists have a strict regard for speed limits when passing through the city of Atherton. Atherton takes its name from Mr. Faxon D. Atherton, who settled on his farm in this county at an early date. Mr. Atherton was a very prominent man in the affairs of California. One daughter was Mrs. E. A. Macondray, who after the death of Mr. Macondrav became the wife of P. W. Selby. She was the mother of a number of children, only two of them, Mrs. Perry Eyre and Mrs. Ines Macondray Moore, being residents of this section. Another of Mr. Atherton's daughters is Mrs. Florence Atherton Eyre, who has lived in San Mateo County practically all of her life. She is the wife of Mr. Edward L. Eyre, a prominent business man of San Francisco and one of the city trustees of Atherton. She has two sons, Edward, Jr., who is married and lives in Menlo Park, and Atherton, who resides at the home of his parents. Both of the sons are engaged in business in San Francisco. Faxon Atherton, Jr., passed away some years ago and his son, Faxon Atherton, is now an architect of San Francisco. Mrs. Gertrude Atherton, the widow of George Atherton, is one of the foremost literary women of the United States; her publications have run into the hundreds of thousands, and are books that will long continue to be read. Mr. Edward L. Eyre, the first mayor of Atherton, is a son of Col. E. E. Eyre, an officer of the Civil war, who early located in Atherton at the corner of Atherton Avenue and the state highway. Matthew A. Harris, the present mayor of the city, lives in a beautiful home on Selby Lane and is engaged in the lumber business in San Francisco, being president of the Harris Van Arsdale Lumber Company. Mr. Harris has not only been active in San Francisco's public affairs, but has also taken an active interest in the happenings of Redwood City and as president of the Masonic Hall Association, helped to secure for Redwood City Lodge of Masons one of the finest temples in the jurisdiction of California. Mr. Charles H. Merrill, another resident of Atherton who is a member of the firm of Holbrook, Merrill & Stetson, and engaged in the wholesale hardware business in San Francisco, has been particularly active in Redwood City affairs and is a past master of Redwood City Lodge of Masons and also a member of the Hall Association. Mr. R. F. Chilcott, who for years was active in the abstract business in Redwood City, but now connected with a statewide title organization is another resident of Atherton, his home being on the Middlefield Road just opposite the beautiful home place of R. E. Miller, the guiding genius who while operating a drug store conceived the idea of starting the chain of Owl Drug Stores which are now located over the Pacific Coast. One of the early residents of the section was Mrs. Sarah Winchester, whose property was just opposite the old Percy Selby home. Mrs. Winchester was the widow of the man who became famous through his manufacture of Winchester rifles and other arms. Mrs. Winchester had the idea that if she ever stopped building she would die and so carpenters were constantly at work upon her premises building and tearing down and rebuilding portions of the home. She also located at Burlingame, where she continued the same practice, but before her death Mrs. Winchester moved to Santa Clara County. Percy W. Selby, who passed away this year, 1927, was for many years the occupant of part of the old home tract. His wife was Elena Atherton, widow of F. W. Macondray. Her daughters by the second marriage were Carmen, now Mrs. Frank Johnson of Los Angeles and Jane, wife of Harry Hunt, a prominent club and business man of San Francisco. They now make their home at Moss Beach, near Monterey. Other families who resided in this section were the R. G. Stevensons, Howard Stevensons, F. W. Eatons - Mr. Eaton was treasurer of the Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Company - Ira G. Hoyt, who for some time, formerly, was state superintendent of public instruction, and who had a school for boys on part of the old Atherton property; Mr. Perry Eyre, whose home is on the corner of Middlefield Road and Fair Oaks Lane; Mrs. Col. Barney, and Mrs. Col. Stanley, mother and daughter, who occupied the old Barney property until very recently; the Adamses, the Pryors, the Jennings family, the Coryells and the Hechts, a prominent San Francisco family.

The Menlo Park Golf and Country Club had its beginning on part of the old Selby property and for years the course and clubhouse were among the popular meeting places for wealthy residents of San Francisco and vicinity; some twelve years ago, however, the club became so large that it was necessary to seek larger quarters, so the present course and beautiful clubhouse on Woodside Road were secured and this is now the home of the exclusive Menlo Park Country Club.

Atherton maintains all of the rustic charm of a rural village and might well be compared with the beautiful estates of England. There are no sidewalks in the town and the lanes leading from place to place wind in and out between the great live oaks, and the whole place has an air of quiet dignity and beauty. The business section is restricted to two blocks on the highway and it is the desire of the founders of the municipality that no other sections shall ever be opened to business pursuits as it is their wish that the place will be entirely a section for homes.

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