Ansel M. Easton, son of Ansel I. and Adeline Easton

Ansel M. Easton on his porch

Ansel M. Easton, left, on the porch of his Burlingame home.

The Eastons’ son Ansel Mills Easton married Louise Adams, the daughter of a prominent Menlo Park businessman.  Louise had a quick wit and named her horses “Gossip” and “Scandal” because they traveled so fast.1

After the turn of the twentieth century, Ansel M. Easton established the Town of Easton, when he began to subdivide his parents’ Black Hawk Ranch.  The Town of Easton was annexed by the City of Burlingame in 1910.

Train Station Built by Ansel M. Easton

Ansel M. Easton erected a train station (near present day Broadway) to serve the Town of Easton that he created when he began to subdivide his parents’ Black Hawk ranch.

During the next decade, Easton attempted to sell lots in the area west of the County Road, known as the Easton Addition.  At first, those lots did not sell well.  Before the 1920s, very few people had cars and most people still commuted to work in San Francisco on the train.  Easton had a small train station built at what would come to be known as Broadway, but his subdivision lots that adjoined Hillside Drive were too far away from the station for commuters to walk there easily.  To remedy this situation, Easton applied to the city for a franchise to run a railway line from the Easton train station (later called the Broadway train station) to Alvarado and Hillside Drive.

From 1913 to 1918, a battery-operated car ran from the Easton station west on Carmelita to Cabrillo, north on Cabrillo to Hillside and then west up Hillside to Alvarado Avenue. The car was the only streetcar of its kind in the West—which, in retrospect, was probably a good thing. It was severely underpowered for the climb up the hill. On rainy days it was reported that the “13-ton car would frequently stop in the middle of Hillside Drive . . . [and] the conductor would have to get out and pour sand on the rails up ahead. Sometimes this worked. Usually it didn’t.”

Hillside Drive trolley

In a time before cars, Ansel M. Easton’s hoped his battery-operated Hillside Drive trolley would boost land sales in the hills west of El Camino Real, which were too far from the Easton station for commuters to walk there easily.

Each night the 119 batteries that powered the car needed a seven-hour charge, and even then they would need another charge of almost four hours during the day.  A rumor circulated that the idea of the trolley had come from “the late Thomas Edison’s book of magic.”  The car was built to carry up to 26 passengers, but rarely did because lots were slow in selling.  Finally, after running the trolley at a financial loss for approximately five years, Mr. Easton applied to the city to abandon the line and replace it with a 15-passenger Studebaker bus.  The Easton Addition lots sold briskly once the automobile became popular and affordable in the 1920s.2

Ansel and Louise Easton had two children, Louise and Laurence.  After the death of his mother Adeline, Ansel purchased 1,250 acres of land near Mount Diablo in the East Bay and named it Blackhawk Ranch.  Ansel and Louise, as well as their daughter Louise and her husband, William A. Ward, settled on the East Bay Blackhawk Ranch.  They built a fifteen-room house, designed by Bernard Maybeck, that had eight bathrooms.  It also included a large servants’ wing for the cook, butler, maids, chauffeur and gardeners.3

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1 Stanger, “Burlingame was . . . something special,” La Peninsula 9, no. 5 (1958): 14.
2 One illustration of the effect that the automobile, and the postwar booming economy, had on lot sales comes from the neighborhood west of El Camino to Vancouver between Hillside and Adeline Drives.  In that area there are 240 lots.  Between 1907 and 1920, 37 lots sold.  Between 1920 and 1930, 154  lots (or four times as many)  sold.
3 Jones, Historical Persons & Places, 132.