A peek at Atherton Library’s past

Police Chief Leroy Hubbard (back center) works alongside Librarian Hazel Farrell (second from left) in the town hall space the library and police department. The photo is from the 1940s. (Photo courtesy of Atherton Heritage Association)

As the Atherton Library is demolished to make room for a new $22.8 million library, The Almanac took a look back at the library’s history.

The town began taking down the structure of the permanent library at 2 Dinkelspiel Station Lane on Nov. 20, several weeks after the library moved to a temporary location on the same lot.

The library moved into what was until October its permanent space in 1968 when Atherton Police Chief Leroy Hubbard, who lived in the building, retired, according to “Under the Oaks: Two Hundred Years in Atherton.” The 2009 book by local historians Pamela Gullard and Nancy Lund chronicles the history of Atherton.

In 1968, town officials and San Mateo County supervisors agreed to lease Hubbard’s house, next to the town hall (now the city council chambers), to the county to house a library.

Before that, a branch of the San Mateo County library was located in a small space in the police headquarters in town hall, shortly after it was inaugurated in 1929, according to the book.

The Atherton Heritage Association now occupies this space, which houses documents on the town’s history, its residents and buildings. The association will move to the Main House of Holbrook-Palmer Park in January 2019 if the town goes forward with plans to revamp its civic center.

Architect John White designed the 2 Dinkelspiel Station Lane building and the Minton Company constructed it. Hubbard made the space his residence when he became police chief in 1929. The department operated out of town hall starting in 1928.

When the library occupied the police headquarters, it was open two afternoons a week. The “book custodian” received the “astounding” salary of $10 per month, according to the book.

“With his office just steps away, Hubbard was able to preside over the sleepy little town,”

“Under the Oaks” states. “Little did he know that he lived in what would become the town library.”

Joan Sanders, who has lived in Atherton since 1970, said that because the library was a home, it was like being in a home.

“As a small, cozy home-type library, we hope some of that feeling can be retained in the new library,” said Sanders, who is active in Friends of the Atherton Community Library. The group supports the programs, services and projects that enrich the library.

Still, the library is “bigger than the building it’s in” and is just changing buildings, she said.

The excitement of knowing the new library will one day occupy the same location tempers the loss, wrote Sandy Crittenden, president of Friends of the Atherton Community Library, in an email.

“I will always remember the old library as a quaint, warm, and charming place,” he wrote.

“The back portion of the library was once the home of the Chief of Police, Leroy Hubbard. A trip up to the second floor showed it was original, even with a dumbwaiter (a small freight elevator). Losing this part is a loss of some of our history.”

The new library is part of a civic center construction project; early next year the town will go out to bid for specific elements of the project. The library already has a substantial

amount of money in its building fund, but the San Mateo County Libraries Joint Powers Authority agreed in September to advance the town approximately $10 million in property tax revenue to help with building costs.


Sign up for Almanac Express to get news updates. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Or show your support for local journalism by subscribing.

What is community worth to you?
Support local journalism.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Su Hong Palo Alto's last day of business will be Sept. 29
By Elena Kadvany | 15 comments | 4,751 views

Natural Wines?
By Laura Stec | 2 comments | 1,086 views

Premarital, Women Over 50 Do Get Married
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,048 views

Electric Buses: A case study
By Sherry Listgarten | 1 comment | 671 views

Stay a part of their day
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 502 views


Register now!

On Friday, October 11, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

More Info