The City of Burlingame - It's Early History

Once part of a Spanish land grant given by Governor Pio Rico to his secretary, Cayetano Arena; then the location of a San Francisco banker's vision of a "sacrosanct colony"; and later, the site of the first country club in California... this is the distinctive heritage of Burlingame, California.

During the 1860's, William C. Ralston, prominent banker and partner in development of the Comstock Lode, admiring the Peninsula's warm, tranquil setting of oak-clad, rolling hills nestled between San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Coastal Range, purchased vast acreage for a grand estate. One of first of many famous guests on the estate was the United States Minister to China, recently appointed by President Lincoln, the Honorable Anson Burlingame. Ralston showed his guest a portion of the estate set aside for the summer homes of his wealthy friends. So impressed was Anson Burlingame with the locale, he chose a villa site for himself of 1100 acres to be used after his retirement from the China mission. His host, in honor of the occasion, named the new town site Burlingame and presented the handsome diplomat with the choice holding he had selected.

Anson Burlingame Photo
Anson Burlingame, for whom The City of Burlingame was named.

The genial banker's vision of an exclusive suburban colony remained little more than a dream until the founding of the Burlingame Country Club in 1893. The exclusive country club built its own railroad station in 1894. With the advent of the streetcar service from San Francisco to San Mateo, the town began to spread out from the railway station. Following the construction of this streetcar line at the turn of the century, the present town of Burlingame was surveyed. In 1901, the first two stores opened for business on Burlingame Square.

The town grew slowly, however, until 1906 when the San Francisco earthquake and fire sent hundreds of people in search of a safe residential area. Burlingame was the choice of many. The town site which Ralston had laid out in 1868 was so excellent that it was incorporated in June 6, 1908. The year before incorporation the first volunteer fire department was established and was followed in 1909 by the establishment of the first library.

After more than 85 years, Burlingame retains the very qualities that impressed and attracted its first residents.


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