Midtown Walking Tour

 

view the full tour here

This tour is 3.9 miles long and includes 5 stops. It begins at John Lucas Greer Park and ends at Sarah Wallis Park.

You can take the tour in order, or click on any address below to see directions from wherever you are. If you take a detour to grab a snack, you can return to any stop on the tour!

 

 

Captain John Greer. Photo courtesy of PAHA.

Captain John Lucas Greer, 1808-1885

Captain John Lucas Greer, an Irish seafarer, was born in 1808. He explored the coasts of South Africa for 20 years before sailing into San Francisco Bay in 1849. While his men rushed off to the gold fields, he boarded a small skiff to explore the southern part of the bay. He sailed up San Francisquito Creek, decided to settle in the area, and leased an acreage for farming. 

He met Maria Luisa Soto Coppinger, widow of British naval lieutenant John Coppinger. For his help in a revolt against the Mexican authorities in Monterey, Coppinger had been given Rancho Cañada de Raymundo (now the town of Woodside).

Greer and Soto married in 1850 and moved to an adobe on Rancho Cañada de Raymundo. They had five children, whose names reflected their Spanish and English heritage. The family made a living with lumber and tallow; their family cattle brand is the oldest recorded in California. 

In the early 1850s, John and Maria Luisa had difficulty securing confirmation of her mother’s land grant for Rancho Rinconada del Arroyo de San Francisquito. The 2,200-acre property had been verbally granted by the Mexican governor a decade earlier to her mother on behalf of her deceased husband, Rafael Soto. After being denied by the Public Land Commission on the grounds that there was no description of the granted land in the grant itself, Greer hired Thomas and Henry Seale in 1861. The Seale brothers were San Francisco contractors originally from Ireland, and they offered to appeal the case for a fee of half the land. 

In 1865, based on testimony by U.S. Deputy Surveyor Aaron van Dorn, the District Court confirmed the 1841 grant, and the Seales were deeded approximately 1,400 acres by the Greers as their fee.

That same year, Greer built a 22-room, two-story house on what he believed was his land, on Churchill Avenue. The Seales said that land was theirs; Greer moved the house to Embarcadero Road. The family lived there until it was torn down in 1954 to make way for Town and Country Village shopping center. 

The main thoroughfare running through the Rinconada Rancho property was called Greer Road, now Channing Avenue in the east-west direction. Where Channing turns south is still called Greer Road. 

In the 1880s, Leland Stanford encouraged his protégé Timothy Hopkins to buy 697 acres of Seale property plus 40 acres of Greer property to develop into a university town. The land was purchased; two years later the subdivision map was recorded and lots were sold. This was the genesis of the town of Palo Alto.

Post a photo of yourself at Greer Park to Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #PaloAltoWelcomeWeek!


 
 
Audrey Li meeting with a U.S. veteran.

Audrey Li meeting with a U.S. veteran.

Audrey Li

senior at gunn high school

I moved to America from China in seventh grade. Neither of my parents spoke English, so I managed everything for my family, and I improved my English in the process. In eighth grade, I joined the Palo Alto Family Y’s Model United Nations and the Palo Alto Family Y’s Youth Development Committee. In my freshman year of high school, I was selected as one of 15 students for the Palo Alto Youth Council.

Noticing that many Palo Alto students have to drive to other cities to find internships and jobs, I worked with Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce to host the first Palo Alto Youth Job Fair. Fifteen companies and more than 100 students participated. I was also selected as one of 50 student representatives from 129 high schools in the 18th Congressional District, and I was elected Vice Chair out of the 50 student representatives. 

I have noticed that teens’ low stress-resilience is a significant problem across the nation, and that there is a large cultural divide between students and veterans. Hoping to solve both of the problems, I founded the nonprofit Students Partner with Veterans (SPV). We help students learn from veterans’ perseverance, responsibility, and courage; increase students' resilience; and preserve veterans’ living history. We encourage students to volunteer at VA hospitals and host events with veteran organizations. Over three years, SPV attracted over 500 students in the nation. We now have 18 chapters internationally. The Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, invited my mentor and me to attend the Memorial Day Observance at Arlington National Cemetery. 

I enjoy supporting my community, through the Y, SPV, and my school’s clubs. In the future, I hope to become a community leader and entrepreneur. I will continue to lead and expand SPV in college to benefit more students and veterans across the nation.

— Audrey Li

Post a photo of yourself at the Y to Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #PaloAltoWelcomeWeek!


 
 
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Don Jesus Ramos, 1829-1912
Don Secundino Robles, 1830-1890

Don Jesus Ramos

Don Jesus Ramos, a native of Mexico who came to California in search of gold, arrived in Mayfield in 1851—a year after California became a state. He worked as foreman for Secundino Robles.

At age 48, he married 16-year-old Julia Gallegos, who had migrated from Spain in 1865 with her family. They raised four children and lived in Mayfield, farming vegetables. In 1883, Ramos built a house on two acres at 727 Page Mill Road. He lived there with his family until his death in 1912. 

Don Secundino Robles

Robles was born in 1830 in today’s Santa Cruz and died in 1890. 

In 1847, Don Secundino Robles and his brother Teodoro bought the 8,418-acre Rancho Rincon de San Francisquito (today, south Palo Alto and Barron Park) from a retired Presidio soldier. Robles and his wife Maria Antonia Garcia built a hacienda that became a lively social center for the surrounding area. In the mid-1850s, Robles began to sell his land to pay off debts. Twenty years later, his ranch was half its original size. 

The Robles’ hacienda, 3.5 miles south of Mayfield across the railroad track at the end of San Antonio Road, stood until 1906 when it collapsed in the earthquake. A plaque at Alma Street and Ferne Avenue notes the hacienda’s former site.

Ramos and Robles each have a park named after them. Don Jesus Ramos Park (where you are today) opened in 1958. Robles Park, at 4116 Park Boulevard, was first called Mayfield Park; the name was changed in 1968.

Post a photo of yourself at Ramos Park to Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #PaloAltoWelcomeWeek!


 
 

Lambert Dornberger. Photo courtesy of Palo Alto Historical Association.

 

Lambert Dornberger, 1828-1909
Anna Kleinclaus Dornberger, 1837-1901

Lambert Dornberger, a German dairy farmer from Alsace, left home at an early age and applied himself to the shoemaker's trade for a year or two before sailing to America in 1850. After two years in New York City, he booked passage to San Francisco in 1852.

In 1854 he purchased land near Mayfield (now part of Palo Alto) but lost title to it in a dispute. He then acquired a squatter’s claim to 1,200 acres of government land on Skyline Ridge, where he built a dairy and wheat ranch.

Lambert married Anna Marie Kleinclaus, also from Alsace, in 1861. Seven years later, they moved back to his fifty-acre ranch in Mayfield near Third Street and Page Mill Road, which stayed in the family until the 1930s. Lambert worked the ranch and also operated a lumber yard.

Lambert and Anna raised seven children. Their youngest son Ed was a member of Paly High’s first class of 1887. Ed played second base at Dornberger’s Grove, the park his family owned at Page Mill Road & Park Blvd. He attended Stanford, became a dentist in San Diego, married and had three children, one of whom he named Lambert after his father.

The family is remembered today in place names: Lambert Trail follows the drainage of Lambert Creek, a tributary of Peters Creek.

— Descendants of Juana Briones and the soto/Greer family played which sport in Dornberger's Grove?

 
 

Take a photo of yourself here, where Dornberger’s Grove used to be, and post it to Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #PaloAltoWelcomeWeek!


 
Sarah Wallis cottage at First (now Ash) and Grant streets, Mayfield. Today, it is site of Sarah Wallis Park. Courtesy of PAHA.

Sarah Wallis cottage at First (now Ash) and Grant streets, Mayfield. Today, it is site of Sarah Wallis Park. Courtesy of PAHA.

 

Sarah Wallis, 1825-1905

Sarah Armstrong Montgomery Green Wallis was one of the area's earliest residents when she settled in what is now Palo Alto in 1856. Sarah’s life reflected the pioneer spirit of America in the 1800s. She traveled across the plains by wagon, lived in Mexican California, and saw the state grow from just a few thousand inhabitants. She lived for four decades on the Peninsula, fighting for suffrage and supporting women's educational rights.

Born in Ohio in 1825, she moved westward with her family, crossing the Mississippi in 1839 and settling in western Missouri three years later.

At age 18, she married Allen Montgomery and traveled across the plains with the Stephens-Murphy Party, which arrived in California in 1844. The party experienced difficulties with early snows in the Sierra mountains but managed to survive, unlike the Donner Party that followed the same route two years later.

For several years, Sarah and Allen lived in a cabin near Sutter's Fort, close to the site of James Marshall's future gold discovery on the American River. Allen, a skilled gunsmith, participated in the Bear Flag Revolt, the insurrection in 1846 by American immigrants seeking independence from Mexico. After that adventure, the Montgomerys moved to the new community of San Francisco, where Sarah took in boarders to supplement the couple's income.

In 1847, Allen Montgomery again responded to the call of adventure and sailed to Hawaii, leaving Sarah in San Francisco. After arriving safely in the islands, he disappeared. Many believed he died in Hawaii, but there are indications that he may have returned to California after the discovery of gold. Either way, Sarah and her community considered her marriage to be terminated.

In 1849, Sarah married Talbot Green, a prosperous businessman in the booming gold rush town of San Francisco. In the absence of an official notification of death, Sarah was still legally married to Montgomery. Green's status was even more murky; in April 1851, a San Francisco newspaper reported that Talbot Green was in fact Paul Geddes, a Philadelphia businessman facing fraud charges in Pennsylvania who had fled to California, leaving a wife and children at home. Insisting on his innocence, Green went back east, claiming he would return with proof to clear his name.

Sarah was pregnant with her first child when Green left San Francisco. Having some financial resources, he made provisions for her support before departing. She did not hear from him until 1854. Sarah began the legal procedure to divorce Green when it became apparent that he would not return to California. As a final settlement in hopes of doing right by his wife and son, Green sent proceeds from a legal dispute to Sarah.

Now a woman of some means, Sarah married for a third time. Joseph Wallis and Sarah married in July 1854, and Wallis adopted Sarah's son. In 1856, Sarah acquired title to Mayfield Farm, the area now known as Barron Park, from its previous owner, Elisha Crosby. The Wallis family built a large home on the farm and raised four more children.

Sarah and Joseph Wallis actively participated in the Peninsula's development. She was an investor in the San Francisco and San Jose Railroad, persuading management to move the local station from the Churchill Avenue crossing to the new town of Mayfield (now California Avenue). Joseph Wallis was the local justice of the peace for several years and served as a state senator in the 1860s. 

While the wealth in the family came from Sarah, the property initially was in her husband's name, due to legal restrictions on a married woman's right to control her property. Sarah and Joseph became strong supporters of women's equality, active in local, state, and national affairs. When Elizabeth Stanton toured the West promoting women's suffrage, she spoke at a meeting held at Sarah's Mayfield Farm.

Sarah Wallis served as president of the California State Woman Suffrage Education Association, incorporated in 1873. She lobbied successfully for passage of a bill allowing women to practice law in the California court system and providing that no person could be denied admission to a California state college on the basis of gender.

The economic depression of 1875 destroyed Sarah's wealth, and she was forced to sell Mayfield Farm, relocating to a smaller house in Mayfield, where she continued to work in the local women's movement. Sadly, Sarah would not live to see the success of the women's suffrage movement. She continued to have financial problems and was evicted from her Mayfield home after Joseph's death in 1898. She lived at her eldest son’s home in Los Gatos until her death in 1905.

Post a photo of yourself at Sarah Wallis Park to Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #PaloAltoWelcomeWeek!