4 things you didn’t know about Atherton

It’s not uncommon to live in a city for years and not be aware of it’s interesting trivia.  How many of these four things about Atherton did you know.

1. Population growths & declines

Atherton’s highest population year was 1970, when 8,085 residents lived here.  It had been a boom until then from the time the town was incorporated in 1928.  Since 1970, there has been a decline in population.

The first recorded census, in 1930, found 1,324 residents in Atherton.  In 1940, that number jumped 44.1% to 1,908.  A larger increase came with the 1950 census, when the population rose to 3,630 – 90.3% higher than a decade before.  The last and biggest hurrah of growth happened between 1950 and 1960, with a dramatic increase of 112.6% to 7,717 residents.

In the five census decades following, the greatest population increase – just 4.8% -  came in 1970.  Since then, three census decades showed population decreases of 3.6%, 3.9% and 8.1%.  Atherton’s population at the 2010 census was 6,814, a drop from its 8,085 peak in 1970.

2. Neighbors past & present

Many well-knowns live or have lived in Atherton.  How many did you know about?

  • Lindsey Buckingham, Fleetwood Mac
  • Ty Cobb, former major league baseball player
  • Drew Fuller, actor
  • Guy Kawasaki, venture capitalist
  • Willie Mays, former major league baseball player
  • Farzad Nazem, former Yahoo! chief technology officer
  • Jerry Rice, former NFL player
  • Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google
  • Shirley Temple, child movie star
  • Meg Whitman, president and CEO of Hewlett-Packard, formerly of eBay

3. Faxon Atherton

Atherton was named for Faxon Dean Atherton, a landowner and businessman who lived from 1815 to 1877.  He was born and educated in Massachusetts then at 15 went into the shipping business.  That’s how he wound up in California.

Wealthy from his import and export successes, Atherton bought 640 acres in Fair Oaks, on the San Francisco Peninsula.  After that, he began buying up land all over the area.  When Fair Oaks first attempted to incorporate in 1923 (after Atherton’s passing), records showed the name already in use, so the name was changed to Atherton.  Today, town streets such as Isabella, Alejandra and Elena are named for Atherton’s children.

4. Pony play becomes a social event

The Menlo Circus Club today is posh and modern by anyone’s standards, a great place to enjoy equine activities and board horses.  Ninety-four years ago, it was just a group of young girls who liked to hang out on an estate in Atherton and play and ride their ponies.

Pretty soon, a club was formed and a “circus” staged for family and friends.  One of the girls’ mothers suggested that proceeds from the event be donated to Stanford Convalescent Home, which today is Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital.  Young people performed on ponies, and others brought “trained” dogs, cats and goats to do tricks, resulting in a $500 profit.

The club expanded fast, becoming a social event for people from San Francisco to San Jose.  Having outgrown their two fields, the club bought land in 1922 and began calling itself the Menlo Circus Club.

If you know of other interesting Atherton trivia, please tell us about it in the comments section.

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