Gryphon Gazette

Redwood City Through the Ages

After attending a conference held by the Redwood City 150th Committee and an interview with Ms. Sjolund, who knows quite a bit about our town's history, I learned a lot about how a town filled with hopeful settlers became the Redwood City we know today.

Meera, School News Editor

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It’s hard to believe, but Redwood City started out as a ranchero with a few young hopefuls squatting on the land hoping to make some money.

The land from Palo Alto to Belmont and all the way up to Alameda de Las Pulgas was a ranchero owned by the Arguello family in the 1850s. People began to squat on the land because of the plentiful lumber in Redwood City. “Our gold was in a different form, it was in the form of a Redwood tree” says Ms. Sjouland. And it was true. San Francisco needed lumber to build more homes, and Redwood City was had much to spare, and it provided a lot of money for these young pioneers. Senor Arguello was not to happy with all the Americans squatting on his land, but since he could not speak English, he hired a man named Simon Mezes to win his case and get his land back. Simon Mezes won the case and in return, he gained land from the Arguellos. “They gave him all the land the Americans were squatting on”, says Ms. Sjouland.

Simon Mezes had a vision for his new land. He would make it a thriving city. He had mapped up what the Downtown would look like, and even the streets, and he had the perfect name. Mezesville. Well, as you might think, the name did not go over well. Instead, the town became known as Redwood City.

Soon Redwood City started to become a real town. In 1870 Edgewood Park opened. A community called Wellesley park sprung up, and the gateway is where Stacks and the 76er gas station is now. Some of the homes that existed in Wellesley park can still be found there, and the two lions that are at Wellesley Park were built just for that community gateway. The Dingee family owned a home and estate on the property that Sequoia stands on now. In 1895 Sequoia High school opened up, and was built so that it would feed into Stanford University. Even though the 1906 Earthquake put some of the downtown structures to ruins, it also brought more people to Redwood City who wanted to move from San Francisco to Redwood City, and now was the perfect time since their homes were in ruins. In the Emerald Hills, flyers advertising the new homes in the hills marketed them as “The Pasadena of the North”. In the 1920s, Emerald Lake started its country club, with just a few houses in the distance, and a bunch of barren rolling hills behind it, but it wasn’t.

Over the years, Redwood City transformed into the lively city that we see today; but it didn’t come without a cost. From the shacks of the first squatters, the Redwood City community grew and grew and grew. By the mid-1900s, the town was in full stride. And in the 1980s and 1990s, Redwood City was fairly large, but downtown Redwood City wasn’t a place that anyone wanted to go to. Ms. Sjouland said that “25 to 30 years ago, people were avoiding downtown Redwood City. There was no reason for them to go down there”. People didn’t have much to do downtown, and it just “wasn’t a neat place” she said. But soon the city commision realized that they had to do something. Where the movie house and Cost Plus are now, a bunch of small shops in a little shopping center were located there. Ms. Sjouland said “JC Penney used to be downtown, it was this whole block full of little tiny shops… they tore all of it down”. Even though it was a big change that definitely shook some people, she thinks it helped make downtown Redwood City a more popular place. She says that “The city planning commission has done a great job”. And it’s true. Now downtown Redwood City is a destination for many people, young and old.

But what will happen to Redwood City in the future? With all this development, will Redwood City become a city that mirrors San Francisco? Will the heart of Redwood City leave? Ms Sjouland says “I am sure that they are going to tear down more buildings”, and that’s almost a sure thing, “I hope we never have skyscrapers” she told me. Even though she doesn’t think Redwood City will ever look like San Francisco, she does think that “Redwood City is going to become a much bigger port”. Eventually, she thinks that Redwood City will be “A major, major contributor to Silicon Valley”.

Redwood city is an amazing place. The buildings haven’t been the same, but the wonderful atmosphere has been the same for years. When I asked Ms. Sjouland what her favorite part about Redwood City’s community was, she said “the people”. It’s not just our attitudes and our amazing community, she says “Even though there’s a lot of people that come from around the world, there’s also people that have been here for a number of years”. Our diversity in Redwood City is hard to find anywhere else, but somehow, we form a great community together. “It’s just a cool place” she says.

Ms. Sjouland’s family could very well be one of the oldest dating families to live in Redwood City. Her family came over here to Redwood City in the 1800’s. She said that her “Mother’s father’s side came and stayed in 1886”, and her “Mother’s mother’s side… back in the 1860’s”. In a 1924 slogan contest, Mr. Doxie, a Redwood City resident, found a 1912 German Government test that stated that Redwood City had one of the best climates in the world, and he won the slogan contest, and ‘Climate Best by Government Test’ became Redwood City’s slogan. Mr. Doxie “lived across the street from my Great Grandparents” she told me. Why would anyone want to live in the same place so long? When I asked her that, she had an immediate answer. “With all the different people, the different cultures, why would you want to live anywhere else?”.

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