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By Elena Kadvany
Special to the Almanac
Menlo Park celebrated local history at the 25th anniversary of the city's clock tower on Tuesday (June 19), 25 years ago to the day that the construction on this landmark was completed.
The event was hosted and sponsored by the Menlo Park Historical Association. Jim Lewis, event coordinator for the association, opened the program by explaining the history of the clock tower.
On Jan. 20, 1987, then city manager of Menlo Park Michael Bedwell wrote a letter to local businessman Tom Ford, confirming their plan to construct a clock tower next to the train station in downtown Menlo Park, according to Mr. Lewis.
Mr. Ford, also known for developing the venture-capital hub 3000 Sand Hill Road, donated 100 percent of the funds needed to build the tower.
The tower is the product of collaboration between Ford Land Company and two other Menlo Park organizations -- architecture firm Hoover and Associates and Vance Brown Builders.
Gary Wimmer, who took over the Ford Land Company after Mr. Ford's death in 1998, reflected on the tower.
"It stands as a symbol for many things to many people," said Mr. Wimmer. He described relationships built through the tower and the people involved in the construction, many of which continue today as Mr. Ford's youngest son, Tommy Ford, listened in the audience.
Richard Campbell and Paul Bunton represented Hoover and Associates, the architecture firm that designed the tower.
Mr. Bunton explained that he designed the tower with the city's historical, Victorian-style train station in mind. "(The clock tower) is a contemporary interpretation of Victorian style," he said. "The four-sided clock tower can relate to all sides of the plaza."
Loren and Allan Brown of Vance Brown Builders reflected on the Menlo Park of 1987. At that time, Peg Gunn was the mayor. Her daughter, Margaret Gunn, who attended the original celebration of the tower's opening that year, was in the audience again, 25 years later.
The program also included performances by 5-year-old singer and Menlo Park resident Sophie Cheung as well as Gail Dobson singing with Martan Mann accompanying on the keyboard.
Vice Mayor Peter Ohtaki spoke of the clock tower as "a wonderful gathering place." He also commented on the future of Menlo Park.
"One element of the specific plan is creating a vibrant, new gathering place at this end of Santa Cruz Avenue, and the clock tower is really the anchor for that," he said. "It's the anchor for the next 25 years of evolution downtown."
Jim Lewis provided this link to a video of the occasion.