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Palo Alto's history is not a story about buildings or streetcars. It's about people. It's the story of a host of individuals who have contributed to the evolution of a city that, after 100 years, is widely respected for its sense of community.

This is also a story about children. Beginning with the construction of Palo Alto's first schoolhouse--a two-room shack built quickly on Bryant Street in 1893--the city has maintained a keen interest in its youth and their future. This continued over the years with the creation of Palo Alto's playgrounds, libraries, and such community institutions as the Children's Theatre, the Junior Museum and, of course, the May Fete celebration, with its humble beginnings as a pet parade in 1921.

History Bites

El Palo Alto, circa 1910

El Palo Alto is a coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) tree located in El Palo Alto Park on the banks of San Francisquito Creek in Palo Alto. El Palo Alto, roughly translated, means the tall tree in Spanish.

The tree is California Historical Landmark No. 2. It is recognized by the National Arborist Association and International Society of Arboriculture for its historical significance as "a campsite for the Portola Expedition Party of 1769"; being frequented by the Costanoan/Ohlone Indians; and for its use as a sighting tree by surveyors plotting out El Camino Real. The tree is depicted on the city of Palo Alto's official seal and on the seal of Stanford University. It is presumably the origin of the city's name. (more...)

Recently featured: Toonerville TrolleyAnna P. Zschokke


Early 1900s
1920s · 1930s
1940s · 1950s
1960s · 1970s
1980s · 1990s

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