In the mid-1800s, The Howard, Mills and Easton families purchased vast tracts of windswept, barren land on the mid-Peninsula where they built huge country homes.  The Howard estate was 6,500 acres—six times the size of Golden Gate Park.  Each of these three families came from the East Coast, but they made their fortunes in Gold Rush California.  Along the way, they suffered early deaths from disease and murder and endured fire, earthquakes and shipwrecks.  Little wonder, then, that they sought a quiet refuge in the country 15 miles south of San Francisco.

St. Matthew's Church at Dusk with a Full Moon

St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in San Mateo, CA is part of the Howard family legacy on the mid-Peninsula.
Image courtesy: © 2006 Steve Whittaker

Business interests linked their lives in San Francisco.  In the country, the social institutions formed the glue. In particular, social life centered around St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church and later, the Burlingame Country Club.  The County Road, also called El Camino Real, was the link between the estates. Filled with horses and buggies, the road was the way to San Francisco as well.

In the 1870s, the families engaged in a joint project to ensure that this County Road was handsomely lined with shady elm and eucalyptus.  Well over two hundred of the majestic trees planted by the founding families still tower over El Camino Real today, providing the Burlingame-Hillsborough stretch of the road with a unique and distinctive look.  In March 2012, following the nomination submitted by the Burlingame Historical Society, the grove was accepted for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

El Camino Real

El Camino Real linked the great estates of the mid-Peninsula.

Brief introductions to each family and their legacies are found in this exhibit by clicking on the family name.  Then specific family members are presented in chronological order.  (The Poetts and The Redingtons were related by marriage to the Howards.  Because they also played an important role in the development of the mid-Peninsula, they have been given their own section.)

In addition to sharing the stories of the three founding families, this site contains a Virtual Museum.  By clicking on the Virtual Museum tab, the reader has the choice of viewing additional photographs, letters, family trees and maps.  The Virtual Museum allows the reader to view a portion of the archives of the Burlingame Historical Society, which has been collecting Burlingame and Hillsborough history since 1975.

Start reading the Founding Families story–>