San Francisquito

San Francisquito

The coming of the Stanford family in the 1880s brought a new culture to the creek and its adjoining floodplain lands. Anarchy, rapacity and confusion gave way to an era of stablitiy and control. Stanford, perseverant and disciplined, working through trusted associates like Timothy Hopkins, managed toassemble from a confused patchwork of titles a large tract of land which could be "managed" in the centralized fashion of emerging industrial America. In that spirit the senator set out at once to tame the wilderness with surveys and studies. These activities were undertaken in the efficient spirit of the time; saloons were closed, and the ungoverned, including men, women, and children, were placed under firm, rational, and beneficent control.

Remnants of the era of anarchy --the "bleak stretch of swamp" taht was the baylands, the encampment of Chinese labor at Mayfield (a "blight upon the town the extent of which cannot be reckoned") much of the saloon-ridden town of Mayfield a scene of "neglect and ruin" were transformed into an orderly city, part New England, part west, part created memory of the Spanish era, that it remains even today. Under the sober methodical direction of the the Senator and his strong-willed the Palo Alto area was reclaimed from anarchy and wildness, transformed into a great centrally managed garden estate where horses and cattle and grapes were produced under the guiding and beneficent hand of man. The creek was surveyed and dammed, to be put to work rather than wasting itself in unfettered floods and droughts. As was the case with other 19th century entrepreneurs the stanfords age and personal tradegy with the death of their only son prompeted the Stanfords to turn over their acquired fiefdom to charitable efforts an instituion that exemplified their values taht they had intended to pass on to their son.

By 1890 as Stanford University's opening day approached Hopkins had assembled a neat little town, selling off lots at $122 to 287 each, an investment that would increase in value at a rate of eight percent a year for the next century. A downtown grew, little monopolylike 2 and 3 story houses looking much like today's architecture, plumbing a dngasfitting shops and leveries The early years were times of immigration, development of a city infrastrucure libraries water supply clever hands and minds of the stanfrod preofessors like Charles "Daddy" Marx...In 1907 Hopkins gave a strip of land along the creek to that city for use as a park.

Having been rescued from the wilderness San Francisquito Creek was now, in the early years of the 20th century, revisualized as a resource that could be put to more beneficent uses. A watershed that had once delivered 81.6 kilograms of hornsnails and oysters to a population of roughly 30 natives, was now seen as an unemployed source of energy that could be captured and harnessed for more productive and economic ends. Of the various surveys and computations arrived at for domesticating the streams flashy behavior, the most lasting was the current scheme of irrigation of summer-browned Stanford landscape into an oasis of neo-Romanesque civility and learning. As if in response to the benign hand of order and civility, San Francisco Creek itself abandoned its erratic behavior and entered a period of hydrologic calm that persisted with few exceptions until the 1980s.

It may be only an odd coincidence that the unruly floods and droughts of the 19th century, great floods and droughts, gace way with the last great flood of 1895, to an era of hydrologic calm. The dam at redirected "wasted waters to Lake Lagunita and provided a year round water supply taht kept lush pastures and later, the growing botanical acres that were integrated into the development jof the campus

The west had been truly tamed and it now became the task of the talented settlers with their idyllic New England or Midwestern families, to maintain the dreamy civility that the land promised. The growth of Palo Alto into a center of educated prosperity, a center of mastery over the invisible dominions of real agricultural commodities, electricity (and eventually, Japanese capital management) took place during this period of benign stability. The 1930s. Hoover moved back here and went for walks up the creek, walking of the nagginfg depression of his loss. The city proudly advertised that it was a restricted residential district The city became the heart of almost every progressive movement from Thorsten Veblen to Ken Kesey, and with the midcentury rise of the environmental movement, rude attempts to reintroduce development were brushed off with brainpower by the alignment of scientist/engineers and enviromentalism of the 1970s and after. Meanwhile, the creek ran wild, flooding the baylands in ______________ and ____________. There were those who said that it had been even greater in the 1950s when a few days before Christmas 1955, a day of heavy rain (2 inches in Palo Alto) caused the stream to spill its banks flooding much of Palo Alto, east of Greer Street. The famous Christmas flood in 1955 caused no loss of life in Palo Alto, though the flooding of several hundred $10,000 homes raised enough questions about future floods to lead to the current unpopular program of flood insurance that affects much of the city.

Floods in 1941
1/21/43 2.78 inches in 2 days

There were exceptions. One afternoon I went to the library and poked through pikes of black and white photos of the kind my father and I used to make in our basement darkroom, submerged 1941 Desotos glittering eys of excited rescue workers, 1.57 inches of rain fell in 12 hours 40 minutes, streets cold and lonely and wind whipped like a wet acre in Manteca valley towns; downtoen, the wealthy area doctors and dark wet trees of the best neighborhood , the imperious doctor, of a small prvincial town, lonely and sad. Farther to the south toward the bay the strees and little houses scattered over the wet plain like Ensenada Mexico

rlm / dak