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


San Bruno is one of the very old settlements of San Mateo County, and it was here that Francisco Sanchez and his little band of compatriots held Washington Bartlett, the alcalde of San Francisco, and other Americans of San Francisco prisoners during the troublous times forming California's transfer from Mexican to American rule. In the days before the Gringo came this seat of population of the Buri Buri rancho was the scene of many a rodeo and of the gathering of the Spanish American people of the region. With the coming of the white man a few scattered families settled in the section and later a number of road houses were opened to take care of the sporting element of San Francisco which drove down the peninsula with the fast teams for which San Francisco was noted and also it provided entertainment and night lodging for the drivers and cattlemen who took their cattle and sheep to the San Francisco market.

During the '80s a company of San Francisco capitalists looking for a place where horse racing might be carried on advantageously located in what is now San Bruno. The sport of kings was indulged in here for years at the Tanforan track and the most famous men, women, and horses of the racing world were regularly on view and here thousands of dollars annually changed hands on the bets and tips of the admirers of the game. Here racing was carried on at its best, or worst, until the law of California made betting a crime, and as soon as the anti betting law went into effect Tanforan became a thing of the past until 1923 when the title to the place was purchased by San Francisco interests, the grandstands were rebuilt, and for a short time horse racing again became popular, but this was only for a time because without betting the sport was too tame and the use of Tanforan has again been discontinued. It was in this famous inclosure that Jean Poulhan, the famous French aviator, who was the first man to fly in California, gave his exhibition flights late in 1913 and at that time thousands upon thousands of people from all over this section of the state came and stood in the rain hours at a time until the brave little Frenchman would arrive on the scene, run his little airship out of its hangar, and go aloft several hundred feet and fly about for two or three minutes while the assembled multitude gasped its wonder at the daring of this man who was beating the birds in their flight.

In 1903 Hensley, Greene & Company took over the interests of Greene's uncle and made what was known as subdivision number one of San Bruno Park. A short time after this the Belle Air subdivision, named after the Belle Air Island which was in the tract of land, was opened by Alfred Wiehe & Company, and the rapidity with which these two tracts were sold prompted the pioneer firm, which was made up of George A. Hensley and A. H. Greene, to open other tracts of land, and so in a very short time the homes became so numerous that the people of the district asked for the formation of a school district. The application to the county superintendent of schools, who is the author of this history, set forth the fact that Messrs. Hensley and Greene would give a school site on the El Camino Real and that the people of the district would themselves construct the school which would take care of the needs of the district. The application for a district was recognized and the people, under the direction of A. A. LaReaux, August Genevin, John Kirk, George Hughes, August Lund and other residents of the section, built the little red schoolhouse which is now used as the city hall of the community. It was completed and dedicated on the 22nd of February, 1907. The first teacher in the school was Mrs. Ella Lommis, and for many years Mrs. Lommis continued her work. The present superintendent of schools is Mr. H. C. Hall, who has two schools under his supervision.

On the 5th of October, 1914, a petition was filed with the supervisors of San Mateo County asking for the formation of a city of the sixth class. The right of the petitioners was recognized by the board of supervisors and the election for incorporation was held on the 18th of December, when the vote stood 296 for incorporation, and 158 against incorporation. The officers since incorporation have been:

At Incorporation - Trustees: Louis H. Traeger, Geo. W. Edwards, Fred C. Russell, J. J. Hearne, Emil Gibouret. Clerk, Horace A. Bewley. Treasurer, Herman Matthiesen.

April 10, 1916 - Trustees: Louis H. Traeger, J. J. Hearne, Wm. N. Holliday, Patrick Kane, Fred C. Russell. Clerk, Horace A. Bewley. Treasurer, Herman Matthiesen. Bewley resigned October 1, 1917, and Nettie A. Willits was appointed.

April 8, 1918 - Trustees: Harry Palmer, Edgar D. Christy, Patrick Kane. Clerk, Nettie A. Willits. Treasurer, Herman Matthiesen. Christy resigned April 24, 1918, and Thos. McConnell was appointed May 8, 1918.

April 19, 1920 - Trustees: A. S. W. Grundy, John T. O'Connor, Dr. F. H. Smith. Clerk, Nettie A. Willits. Treasurer, Jos. Cunningham.

April 17, 1922 - Trustees: Geo. W. Edwards, Emil Halter, Dr. F. H. Smith.

April 21, 1924 - Trustees: J. T. O'Connor, Louis Henry Traeger. Clerk, Nettie A. Willits. Treasurer, Jos. Cunningham. Geo. G. Hughes is postmaster.

The State Highway at San Bruno was the most heavily traveled road in California during the month of July, 1927, according to the records of the State Highway Commission.

A count taken by the commission July 17 showed 29,338 automobiles and trucks traveled over the road during the day. Indiana Street, Los Angeles, was second with 22,385.

The most important event to have taken place since the incorporation of the city is the purchase of a water system, and a short time after this a bond issue of $220,000 was passed for the improvement of the water system, thus giving to the city of San Bruno one of the best water distributing systems of any of the towns of this section. Early in its incorporation the city council passed an ordinance making it necessary to improve all of the streets of the city, and practically all of the thoroughfares are now paved. San Bruno in 1922 purchased from the school district the old highway school property and located thereon its city hall. One of the fine lots on San Bruno Drive was purchased and a fire house built thereon, and an adequate fire apparatus was obtained. Shortly after this the city authorities ordered the planting of trees throughout the city, and now the section is becoming beautiful because of that fact. A recreational park has been purchased and at some future date will be available. Before the city authorities of many of the other towns had done so the trustees of San Bruno passed the zoning ordinance which sharply defines business and residential sections. San Bruno has a Catholic and a Methodist church and a number of fraternal organizations.

San Bruno is located on the State Highway and San Bruno Road and is served by the Southern Pacific Railroad, the United Railroads and the Peninsula Rapid Transit Company. In this community is situated Uncle Tom's Cabin, which was for many years the most famous road house of the peninsula section of California, and here Boniface Andrew Buerck dispensed his wares with a lavish hand. Just across the street from Uncle Tom's Cabin, August Genevin, in his Junction House, also entertained the people royally and well. Just south of San Bruno is located Lomita Park, which is a thriving little community and is really a part of San Bruno.


Lomita Park was opened for settlement in 1904 by the Selby Rogers Company on land belonging to Ansel L. Easton. Here almost immediately a choice subdivision and a number of beautiful homes sprang up and it is today one of the thriving home communities of the peninsula. It is twelve miles from Third and Townsend streets on the Southern Pacific Railroad, and it has a population of about 500, while the estimated population of San Bruno is about 3,000.

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