The Student News Site of Menlo School

The Coat of Arms

The Student News Site of Menlo School

The Coat of Arms

The Student News Site of Menlo School

The Coat of Arms

Atherton Celebrates 100 Years

Volunteers run a booth about the history of Lindenwood, one of Atherton’s neighborhoods. Staff photo: Amelie Giomi

100 years ago, the State of California officially incorporated several communities to create the Town of Atherton. Residents of Atherton gathered at the Town Center for the city’s Centennial Celebration on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023, to honor the history of the town and its community. 

The event consisted of booths featuring different aspects of the town’s history, such as its neighborhoods, library, train and incorporation. One table displayed a historic map of the streets and homes in Lindenwood, one of Atherton’s neighborhoods, in 1899. Another booth, a collage of photos of Lloyden Park, featured the neighborhood’s beginnings, its traditional Fourth of July parties and the Atherton train clock built in 1993. 

The first 100 Atherton households to receive stamps from each of the history booths and present them to the Tree Committee received a free 15-gallon oak tree to plant in their backyard. Sally Bentz-Dalton, who works for the town of Atherton, led the Atherton tree giveaway booth. “One of our residents came up with this idea to give away 100 oaks, which is great because [Atherton] lost a lot of oak trees to the storms in the Winter,” Bentz-Dalton said.

Atherton residents gathered in The Bob & Connie Lurie Café Terrace in the Town Center, and Mademoiselle Colette served an assortment of pastries and sorbet. The Menlo-Atherton High School jazz band also performed for the residents. 

Towards the end of the event, Atherton Mayor Bill Widmer, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, and state Senator Josh Becker, among others, spoke about the city’s history and accomplishments. Eshoo also presented three awards of recognition to Widmer and gifted the town an American flag that had been flown at the United States Capitol. 

Eshoo has a personal connection to the event: having lived in Atherton for 40 years,she said she appreciates the history of the town and its traditions. “This is where I raised my children, […] launched my campaign for the Board of Supervisors in San Mateo County [and] launched my congressional bid. These are all chapters of my life, living here,” Eshoo said in an interview with the Coat of Arms. “At least some of the history is family history to me. So, it’s very, very special, and I’m very proud, obviously, to represent it.”

Eshoo said that the community of Atherton cares deeply about their history and both preserving and building on traditions. In 1923, residents advocated against the commercialization of Atherton because they wanted it to remain a residential town. Residents of Atherton gave up their private land to create parks like Holbrook Palmer Park, as well as other public spaces that have become important to the town today, such as the Circus Club. 

After the establishment of the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1863, wealthy San Francisco merchants bought second houses in Fair Oaks, present-day Atherton. When Menlo Park tried to incorporate Fair Oaks into the town, Fair Oaks property owners rushed to Sacramento to maintain their town as strictly residential and incorporated independently on Sept. 12, 1923. Members of the Fair Oaks committee named the town after Faxon Dean Atherton, one of the first property owners in the South Peninsula. 

Atherton Mayor Bill Widmer feels that the event serves to both honor the history of Atherton but also to encourage Atherton residents to involve themselves in the community. “It’s a time for us to look backward as well as look forward,” Widmer said. “We have a lot of great people here shaping this town and making this town what it is today and we have to be grateful for that.” 

For Council Member Rick DeGolia, maintaining the town of Atherton serves as an accomplishment in itself. “To survive as a city for 100 years is a challenge and should be celebrated because it requires a lot of work from a lot of people, and Atherton has grown and improved over this time,” DeGolia said. “Here we are in Atherton’s town center, which is supporting this town and its residents. It took an enormous amount of work to design and build this town center, and it’s great to see this many people come and enjoy it.”

While residents of Atherton tend to live largely private lives, DeGolia said that the Atherton Police Department and building and planning departments support the residents. “Not every police department has that level of community connection that you find in Atherton,” DeGolia said. “To build a city where there’s a good community connection between the residents and the operational departments is important and a lot of work. It takes a focus, and I think we’ve done that.”

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About the Contributor
Amelie Giomi, Staff Writer

Number of years in The Coat of Arms: 2

Favorite aspect of journalism: interviewing different types of people and bringing unique stories to light

Interests outside of school: soccer, baking, spending time with my two dogs and friends
Class of 2025

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