Menlo Park history
In 1854, Menlo Park received its official name when two Irishmen, Dennis J. Oliver and D. C. McGlynn, purchased 1,700 acres (some sources say it was 640 acres) bordering County Road, now El Camino Real, and built two houses with a common entrance. Across the driveway they erected a huge wooden gate with tall arches on which the name of their estate was printed in foot-high letters: “MENLO PARK,” with the date, August 1854.
The men named their new home after their old, in Menlough on Lough Corib, County Galway, Ireland. No one knows whether they abbreviated the name to "Menlo" because the space on the arch precluded the longer version, because it was their way of Americanizing the name or because they just couldn't spell. When the railroad came through in 1863, the station had no name, it was just the end of the line, but it needed a designation. A railroad official looked over at the gates and decided that “MENLO PARK” would be appropriate, and so the name was officially adopted. This station is now California State Landmark No. 955, the oldest California station in continuous operation.
The Menlo Park gates stood on the west side of El Camino Real, about 500 feet from Santa Cruz Avenue, until they were destroyed by a motorist in 1922.
For people to the north and south of San Francisquito Creek, May 1861 was a landmark – groundbreaking for the railroad. On October 18, 1863, the first train traveled from San Francisco to Mayfield along the San Francisco and San Jose Railway. The line was bought by the Southern Pacific in 1868.
The railroad provided wealthy San Francisco barons faster transportation to their country homes – a round-trip ticket from Menlo Park to San Francisco cost $2.50 and a one-way ride took 80 minutes, compared to the stagecoach, which took four hours from Redwood City to San Francisco.
In 2019, a reproduction of the historic Menlo Park gates was rebuilt near the library facing the intersection of Ravenswood Avenue and Alma Street. Fittingly, the dedication occurred on March 17 to celebrate Menlo Park's Irish roots.