Monday, September 13, 2010

History of Menlo-Atherton High School
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Peninsula readers' letters: Sept. 11

From Daily News Group readers

Posted: 09/11/2010
History of Menlo-Atherton High School


There was a great deal of debate about the location and cost analysis for Menlo-Atherton High School. Several possible sites for the school, including Dibble Hospital and the Doyle estate, were deemed unsuitable or too expensive. The school board chose the magnificent parcel of land located on the northeast corner of Middlefield Road and Ringwood Avenue belonging to the five heirs of Joseph Donohoe, a pioneer banker in California, as the ideal setting. The property was at one time a portion of the enormous Pulgas Ranch controlled by the Arguello family.

In the 1860s, Joseph A. Donohoe purchased the tract of land and in 1868 built the home known as Holm Grove. The estate was occupied by five generations of the Donohoe family, including the first mayor of Atherton. The district sought to acquire the entire 40.9-acre tract for Menlo-Atherton High School.

In May of 1949, the local voters, in the largest voter turnout to date, overwhelmingly supported a $2,150,000 bond issue. The final vote tally was 6,339 in favor to 1,604 opposed. What is not known is that Stanford University had housing for graduate school across the street from the land and was allowed the vote in this measure. That's why the vote in favor was so high. The district paid the Donohoe family $141,105 (or approximately $3,450 per acre) for the land. General contractor Peter Sorensen collaborated with architects William Daseking and Arthur Janssen to develop a state-of-the-art school. The campus eventually covered 37 acres and contained 12 buildings. It consisted of 35 classrooms and accommodated a total enrollment of 1,015 students, almost all of whom came from Sequoia High School. Construction began on May 8, 1950, and the first day of classes was Sept. 24, 1951. The final cost of construction was approximately $1.5 million.

Ted Rudow III,MA
Class of 1970

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