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The pioneering of San Bruno
January 20, 2014, 05:00 AM By Darold Fredricks

Fred Beltramo
Fourteen-hundred citizens lived in the San Bruno area’s two miles at the incorporation celebration of 1914.

Every town has its unique history and San Bruno is no exception. The Spanish/Mexicans used the area of San Bruno for grazing cattle and horses from the mid-1700s until the Mission period in the mid-1800s.

Its unique geology with the hills to the west between the Pacific Ocean and the flat terrain along the San Francisco Bay made it a natural corral in which to let the cattle wander, eat and reproduce to produce more cattle. Jose Antonio Sanchez’s Mexican grant of Rancho Buri Buri in the 1830s defined the area a little more, but his attempt to put the Rancho on a sound economic base was cut short by his death in 1843. His heirs thought differently about raising cattle and proceeded to sell the land to speculators and the rising class of European-Americans who settle here. The geography of San Bruno 14 miles to the south of San Francisco’s Mission Dolores and 40 miles north of the Mission by San Jose did not encourage many settlers to stop and build homes until the American period in the 1840s. Only then was a roadhouse, the 14-Mile House (later named Uncle Tom’s Cabin) constructed along a deep creek that was a huge obstacle to travel. In the early 1860s, another roadhouse developed, the San Bruno House, along the San Bruno Toll Road (San Mateo Avenue) that was built in 1859. Richard Cunningham, the owner, also anticipated the construction of the latest form of rapid transit that was to be built down the Peninsula — the railroad. The San Bruno House attracted many sportsmen and visitors for weekend trap-shooting, horse races and relaxation, but the visitors did not stay to develop a community. By the end of the 1880s, another restaurant/hotel facility was erected — August Jenevein’s Junction House. Ten years later, the Tanforan race track was built north of these roadhouses. The founder of the Bank of California, Darius Ogden Mills, had by now acquired thousands of acres of the Rancho Buri Buri land and he built a great estate in the now Millbrae/Burlingame area. He developed a dairy farm (east of Mills-Peninsula Medica Center) and later rented land for the construction of San Francisco Internatioanl Airport. To the north of “San Bruno” land was utilized by the Sneath family and C. Silva for cattle and horse raising. A “core” area of San Bruno was yet to be developed.

The state of California didn’t have the money to build the roads in the 1800s so they issued permits for individuals to build roads and charge tolls for people to use them. The San Bruno Toll Road, which was later named the San Mateo Road, was one of these business enterprises built by businessmen of Redwood City. San Mateo Avenue became the second business avenue in the city, but it attracted few buildings until the 1920s.

San Bruno is a bedroom community. Businesses are essentially service businesses — grocery stores, drug stores, etc. that are small, personal and run by people who like small communities. The main story of the area as it is told through history deals with the people who settled here and the small businesses that developed to service this unique community.

El Camino Real bisected the terrain between the western hills and the water of the Bay, but this path played an important part in the development of the Peninsula. The Spanish and later the Mexicans used this dirt path exclusively for travel between San Francisco and San Jose, but after California’s admission to the Union in 1850, commercial interests and structures were attracted to it. By the early 1900s, when real estate developers began platting land into 25-foot lots for housing sites, San Bruno began developing as a rural community accessible to surrounding communities by El Camino Real, the railroad , the #40 Trolley Line, and the new machine on the scene, the automobile. The community’s response to the automobile was slow, only a few auto shops and gas stations, but eventually the businesses realized it was here to stay and began exploiting its appeal and usefulness. Spurred on by the Earthquake of 1906, more than 1,400 people moved onto the vacant landscape and, by 1914, the city was incorporated.



Tags: bruno, later, cattle, built, developed, community,

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