History of Holbrook-Palmer Park

Charles Holbrook of San Francisco established what we now know as Holbrook-Palmer Park, as a summer residence and farm at the turn of the 20th century. In 1926, Charles Holbrook’s daughter Olive Holbrook-Palmer inherited the open tree-covered 22 acre property, then named Elmwood, and continued to use the residence as a summer home with her husband, Silas Palmer.

Olive Holbrook-Palmer died in 1958 and had willed the property to the Town of Atherton to be used as a recreational park. When the land was bequeathed to the town in 1959, farming operations had all but ceased. Much of the space was open fields bounded by elm trees along Watkins Avenue. Olive’s husband Silas had life tenancy and upon his death the land reverted to the Town of Atherton in 1964. The town accepted the gift under the provision that the park be funded entirely by donations.

Please note: There is no sound on the video.

The original Victorian summer manor house burned down in 1963 and was replaced by what is now called the Main House. Today two historic structures built by the Holbrooks still stand at the Park. The 132 year old Water Tower and the 123 year old “Gen Merrill” Carriage House – the only remaining remnants of the original farm.

With donations and much volunteer effort the park has enjoyed extensive change since those early times to become the jewel it is today. However the Carriage House has become significantly run down and forgotten over the decades. There is now a need to preserve and restore the Carriage House because it is one of the few historic buildings in Atherton that is still available to the public. In its current state the Carriage House raises serious health and safety concerns as its infrastructure has not been maintained or brought into compliance with current building regulations.


Historical information about the Town of Atherton is available from the Town of Atherton Web site and on Wikipedia.

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