The Stanford Arboretum

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The Stanford Arboretum 

by Donald Price 



The future of the Stanford Arboretum is very much uncertain as we enter the new 



Fifty years ago I could look out of my Encina East Wing dorm room  and see 

uninterrupted hayfields stretching from under my window all the way to College Terrace. 

There was no Eating Club Building, no Escondido Village, no Campus Drive, and Serra 

Street ended by the Encina tennis courts.  On the north side of the campus, fields and 

truck gardens reached all the way to San Francisquito Creek.  There was no medical 

center, no shopping center and no Sand Hill Road.  With all the open land available, there 

apparently were no demands being made upon the open space between the Quadrangle 

and El Camino. The Planning Office map of land use for the 1954 Master Plan designated 

this entire area as “Arboretum”. (See Map 1) 


Today, the only sizable expanse of undeveloped land in the University “flatlands” is the 

arboretum area. As the University’s needs for new facilities, new housing and new 

parking areas have grown, the pressure to develop arboretum lands has intensified and 

will continue to intensify.  


Before attempting to delimit the ever-changing boundaries and status of the University 

“Arboretum”, I must acknowledge the grant made by the Stanford Historical Society to 

the University Archives.  This grant enabled the Archives to assemble the maps and 

documents relating to the arboretum which I have used to research this article. 


The Early Days 


From the perspective of the members of the Historical Society, the most important part of 

the history of the arboretum should be the plans and actions of the University founders. 

An article by John Rogers in the Stanford Illustrated Review of December, 1928 provides 

a history of the arboretum when memories were still fresh. For a beginning we can take 

Mr. Rogers’ words.  “The Stanford Arboretum was planned by the Stanfords long before 

they had any idea of founding the University.  One of Senator Stanford’s hobbies was the 

collection of many varieties of trees to plant on his estate.  He had intended to have his 

home in the midst of this great garden, A visitor will find that all the roads – some of 

them now merely avenues of trees through the park – radiate from that central place. 

After the death of Leland, Jr. in 1884, the Stanfords changed the plans for their estate and 

built the mausoleum on the proposed site of the house.”  One can conjecture that one 

reason for the siting of the original quadrangle rather far from the railroad line may have 

been to provide some distance between the campus buildings and the mausoleum and 

adjacent gardens. Also it should be noted that the road then known as Pine Avenue which 

led to the southeast from the mausoleum became Campus Drive. After the recent 

realignment of Campus Drive east of Palm Drive, the Planning Office  enjoyed pointing 

out that when driving on the eastbound side of the road, the mausoleum could be seen in 

the rearview mirror. 


In 1885 Leland Stanford contracted with Frederick Law Olmsted & Co., Consulting 

Landscape Architects, to plan the University grounds. William R. Dudley, Professor of 

Botany,  in a 1914 article called this firm the best park and lands architects in America. 


Stanford’s early collection of trees not withstanding, the first plan worked out with this 

firm placed the arboretum in the hills south of the Quadrangle along with a  forest 

plantation farther up in the foothills. (See Map 2). The Olmsteds’ study of the General 

Plan of 1888 notes the sites for the University Arboretum and the University Forest 

(School of Arboriculture). The sketch further describes “a direct Avenue between the 

central quadrangle and proposed station of the Southern Pacific Railroad, with bordering 

groves and promenades.  Space is allowed in the wheel way for a double track street 

railway.” Additional notes speak to the area shown in the sketch as existing woods – 

“Park; (most of the trees already well grown) and Site of University Burial Ground”. 


F.L. Olmsted wrote a memorandum on December 4, 1888 which was signed by Leland 

Stanford.  This memorandum stated the desire “to establish at Palo Alto an Arboretum on 

a much larger scale than has been contemplated in the plans heretofore prepared”.  The 

memo further says that the University Forest and the Arboretum are to be combined.  The 

purposes of the arboretum are stated including  “In this enlarged Arboretum it is desired 

that there shall be exhibited to advantage all the trees and wood plants of the world that 

may be expected to grow to mature natural forms under the climatic and other conditions 

of the locality”.  The trees are to be so planted so as to make the “locality agreeable and 

interesting as a resort for healthful recreation”. It proposes that “roads are to be laid out 

through it from which not only the trees are to be seen to advantage but by which visitors 

will be led by convenient routes to eminences from which the best distant views will be 

commanded and kept open”. Up to this time the arboretum site remained in the foothills 

while efforts were being made to locate seedlings of desired species and nurture them in 

nursery gardens.  It should be noted that also in 1885 Stanford contracted with R. 

Douglas & Sons, a local gardening firm  to do this work. 


By mid-1889 Leland Stanford had decided to move the site of the arboretum to its present 

area.  The vexation this caused his landscape architect and his gardener can be found in 

two letters. On May 23, 1889 Frederick Law Olmsted wrote to Thomas H. Douglas -  

“Two projects for the Arboretum and the planting of the hills have been vetoed and I am 

at a loss what to prepare next.  But I feel that the data for a good plan are so obscure, 

inexact and untrustworthy that more opportunity for deliberation is not to be objected to.”  

On June 10, 1889 Mr. Douglas wrote Mr. Olmsted  “…I am informed by Governor 

Stanford that the plans for the Arboretum did not suit him and he also said he was not 

going to have the hills covered with trees…” This letter also wrote of his pride in his 

nursery and lath house and says “I have over 200 kinds of seedlings growing there and 

have already transplanted over 25000 from it to the open ground”.  



A map of the University dated 1891, (See Map 3) shows a large area east of the 

mausoleum identified as “Park”. In a letter to Robert R. Douglas dated May 11, 1892, J. 

C. Olmsted writes “It is a curious thing that for the past three years no one has written us 

any account of what was going on there that would compare for fullness with what you 

now say. … We cannot imagine why the Senator will not allow the Arboretum to go on, 

and it would seem that a large amount of nursery stock bought for the purpose will be 

wasted if it is not set out shortly.” We do know, however, that plantings did continue. In 

an article in the Stanford Illustrated Review of April, 1927 by George Culver, Dean of 

Men.  In speaking of the trees across from the Museum in the “southernmost extremity of 

the arboretum on both sides of Palm Drive”, he writes “ Here too are numerous live-oak 

trees of vigorous growth and uniform size.” These “were planted in March, 1891, under 

supervision of … Douglas. For a period of three years from 1889 to 1891 he had an 

important part in beautifying the University grounds”. 


We do know that the financial difficulties following the death of Leland Stanford in 1893 

caused the arboretum to be neglected. The Archives reveal no further documentation 

concerning the arboretum until the turn of the new century. 


A sketch from the Block Book for the years 1901-1903, labels a large area stretching 

from the Mausoleum down to El Camino Real “Arboritum”. The area is vaguely bordered 

on the east side by a path which roughly follows the bicycle path from the intersection of 

the present Galvez St. and El Camino to Lasuen St. 


In the Stanford Alumnus of December, 1906, William R. .Dudley, Professor of Botany,  

commented on the work of F.L.Olmsted mentioning “… the great variety of trees and 

shrubs which still exists in the old Arboretum.  Unfortunately, his work ceased in 1890 or 

1891, and since then it as been a pathetic struggle for existence among them all, and not 

always a successful one.” 


On August 24, 1910 Timothy Hopkins, a member of the Board, wrote his fellow trustees 

as follows: “Senator Stanford started an Arboretum at the entrance to the University in 

which he intended there should ultimately be a collection of trees and shrubs that would 

serve both to instruct the students of the University and be an object lesson of what could 

be grown in the climate of California. There are some things growing there that are 

interesting, but the great majority of the trees are common blue gums and Monterey 

cypress – plants of quick growth and undoubtedly intended to be replaced later by a great 

variety of trees of higher value as an educational factor.  The trustees have been too busy 

with other matters to pay much attention to an Arboretum…” 


Both Jane Lathrop Stanford and David Starr Jordan, Stanford’s first president provide 

information about the arboretum during this period. The first document I found 

associating Jane Lathrop Stanford with the Arboretum was her address to the Board of 

Trustees on October 3, 1902. She said “No additional interments shall be made or 

permitted in the cemetery adjacent to the mausoleum, and the requirement that a 

cemetery be maintained upon the Palo Alto Farm is hereby withdrawn.” In her address to 

the Board on July 6, 1903, she said “No electric road constructed by any outside 

corporation or interest should ever be allowed to be built or operated on the University 

grounds.  If ever an electric road becomes necessary in the future, it should be governed 

by the Trustees of the University and should not be allowed to run upon the main 

University Avenue (Palm Drive).  That should ever be kept free for carriages, pedestrians 

and bicycles.” 


Later when the streetcar line was built it came down Galvez past Encina Hall, crossed 

Pine Avenue (now Campus Drive) and cut across the arboretum to University Avenue.  

When automobiles came along a separate fenced-off automobile road was built as an 

extension of  Lasuen St. down to El Camino. 


Jane Stanford’s address of 1903 continues – “No buildings of any kind should ever be 

erected within the grounds of the original Arboretum. It should always be retained in its 

present condition as a Park for drives and walks so long as the University exists.  This 

Park was a favorite project of my husband and carried into effect twenty-eight years ago 

(1885).  There are many miles of drives within, or connected by shaded avenues with this 

beautiful park. The choicest trees are there planted from all parts of the world and as the 

years roll on and this most beautiful valley of Santa Clara becomes, as I no doubt it will, 

the educational center of our State and thickly settled with beautiful homes, this park will 

be unique and of itself memorable and monumental.  It should, accordingly, always be 

sacredly preserved from mutilation.  The foregoing does not refer to sites of the museum 

or new gymnasium or to the proposed athletic field (now Angell Field).” This shows the 

unshakable faith of Jane Stanford  in the future of the University, and is remarkably 

prescient in predicting the stature of the University, and the area’s development. 


The address continues “I have always regretted that I allowed the professors to build a 

club-house within the boundary line of this Park, and in the very near future it should be 

removed to another location and thus obliterate the precedent that I established of 

occupying these grounds for any use save as above mentioned.” It is unfortunate that the 

limits of the Park were not defined in this address or in other documents. The Faculty 

Clubhouse was located across Pine Avenue from the gymnasium site  


In Days of a Man published in 1922, Jordan’s autobiography, he writes a paragraph 

subtitled “The Arboretum”.  “The University’s main avenue of approach, a mile long, 

passes through the Arboretum, an interesting and delightful feature of the Campus.  This 

occupies a generous tract of level ground between the Quadrangle and the state highway 

following the old ‘Camino Real,’…In addition to many fine native live oaks, the 

Arboretum contains a choice collection of trees, mostly evergreen, from all parts of the 

world….Through this woodland several pleasant winding ways radiate from the Stanford 

mausoleum …  Near by is a curious cactus garden exhibiting interesting species from the 

Yuma deserts. ….”  


Another description of the arboretum is contained in a petition regarding a bike path 

through the arboretum.  It  was submitted by thirteen faculty to the Board in April of 

1907.  “We … petition your honorable body to order the preservation of the wheel and 

pedestrian path through the Arboretum from the corner of the Embarcadero and the 

county (El Camino)  roads to University Avenue (Palm Drive) and that an opening be 

made through the Automobile road fence at the point of crossing of said path …” Further 

it states “The path follows one of the beautiful drives of the Arboretum, laid out under the 

direction of Senator and Mrs. Stanford, and offers the pleasantest route for pedestrians 

and wheelmen to the University”.  The petition says “Furthermore  from the corner of the 

Arboretum near the Gymnasium site the Automobile road itself must be used  with great 

discomfort and some danger from the carriages, omnibusses and automobiles which often 

throng it”. There must have been another road of some sort from the El Camino corner to 

the campus but I can’t locate it on the maps.  It is described in the petition as “The 

alternative road, now used by the working teams, is narrow and dusty and cannot be 

traversed by ladies save with great discomfort”. 


With the documents I have I will try to define the limits of the arboretum as they existed 

in the first decade of the century.  The arboretum for this purpose can be divided into two 

sections. The upper portion stretches from the Quadrangle to Pine Avenue (now Campus 

Drive) and is enclosed east and west by Lasuen St. and Lomita Drive which flank the 

main quadrangle. Although there is no doubt that this area was considered to be open 

space in all sketches and maps that exist up to this period,  its designation as arboretum 

up to this period is conjectural. Dr. Jordan’s book cited above refers to the entire area 

between the Quadrangle and El Camino as  “arboretum”; however his book was not 

written until the early 1920’s. As also cited above, an 1892 letter referred to the 

arboretum in a broad sense as being the areas to be planted north of the quadrangle.  As 

interest in the arboretum revived in the next decade as discussed below, a Map of the 

Arboretum dated March, 1916 included this entire area and assigned numbers to the 

various sections excepting the oval and the “ears”. 


This area was always limited on the east and west as evidenced by the early construction 

of the ill-fated Gymnasium and Library on the East, and the Museum and Chemistry 

Buildings on the west. These buildings were designed to face the park which included the 

oval, or as the Olmsted Bros. called it in 1914, the “egg-shaped central plot”. It was also 

referred to as a tear-shaped sunken lawn.  It is unfortunate that whoever replaced these 

designations with the word “oval” did not find equally felicitous terms for the “ears” and 

“lobes” of the oval. The former gymnasium site is the very large open field at the 

southeast corner of Lasuen and Campus Drive which has never been considered a part of 

the arboretum. The gymnasium foundations are still clearly visible at the site.. 


The southern and northern limits of the lower part of the arboretum are clearly Pine 

Avenue (Campus Drive) on the south and the County Road (El Camino Real) on the 

north.  Pine Avenue, however, ended at the Mausoleum so that the boundary west of 

Palm Drive is unclear. The cactus garden was surely included in the arboretum, so that it 

is probable that west Campus Drive between the museum and anatomy buildings, and the 

grove of trees south of the cactus garden approximates the early southern limits of the 

lower arboretum. 


The limits of the arboretum on the east are difficult to determine. According to Jane 

Stanford’s 1903 address as cited above, the faculty club was in the “park” and its site was 

east of the bike path and drainage ditch linking Embarcadero and Lasuen. Incidentally 

that building became an ROTC building which mysteriously burned down in 1970 thus 

finally fulfilling Jane’s wish for its removal, In those days Galvez Ave. did not exist 

north of Pine Avenue so that road could not have been the limit. We find many massive 

eucalypti today not only west of Galvez, as at the northwest corner of Galvez and 

Campus Drive  but also east of Galvez. Two trees remain in the Angell Field parking lot, 

and several remain in the parking lot south of the Stadium. I imagine that the plantings of 

which these trees are survivors were made among the native oaks and that the Stanfords 

envisioned this whole area to be a part of the campus they called a park. The map of the 

University made in 1891 (See Map # 3) places the word “Park” just about where the 

Stadium is now located.  


 The west border of the lower part of the arboretum is still obvious today for the section 

from the intersection of Campus Drive and Quarry Road to the present Arboretum Way 

in that there is a straight line of demarcation where the park ends behind the cactus 

garden and mausoleum. The line continues behind the Psychiatry Building at the south 

east corner of Quarry Road and Arboretum Way where there are three massive eucalypti. 

The 1891 map shows the area north of the park as “nursery” and “Vineyard”. Vineyards 

at that time surrounded the winery which is now known as “the Old Barn”. The border of 

the arboretum between Arboretum Way and El Camino Road cannot be seen today, 

however there must have been one between the vineyards and fields to the west, and the 

park to the east.  The forested greenbelt by the highway reaches today all the way to 

Quarry Road.  


The Revival 


Around 1910 interest in the arboretum revived. The first impetus was an effort to grow 

trees for profit, eucalyptus in particular, both on the campus and on the Vina estate in the 

Sacramento Valley. On August 26, 1910 the Board appointed a committee to look into 

this possibility. There was a flurry of correspondence between Board members, 

professors of Botany and nurserymen discussing various species of eucalyptus for this 

purpose.  The last letter in the Archives on this subject was in  May, 1911. It seems the 

whole idea was dropped. Maybe the reason was the extended drought which was 

mentioned in a letter of October, 1913  from the Department of Botany to Douglas H. 

Campbell, Professor of Botany,. This letter discussed replanting of parts of the arboretum 

injured by the drought. The proper selection of plants “would make the arboretum of 

great scientific value as well as maintain its beauty”.  This letter was accompanied by a 

listing of trees. 


On May 8, 1914 the Olmsted Brothers reported to the Board on a visit by a member of 

their firm.  In reference to the arboretum, the report states “The so-called ‘Arboretum’ 

extends on either side of the main approach from the County Road.  At present the name 

Arboretum is a misnomer as the name implies that a great variety of trees in botanical 

order are to be found there.  It consists, as a matter of fact, mostly of a thick plantation of 

Blue Gums and Monterey Cypress.” 


On February 19, 1916 Ray Lyman Wilbur, University President, wrote the Board 

requesting money for new plants and plant labeling. In his request he wrote “We cannot 

undo the past but we can centralize the responsibility for the future development of the 

Arboretum”. Subsequently the Department of Botany was given supervisory control of 

the arboretum in order to utilize it more fully for scientific purposes. 


In 1916 and 1917 thought was given to obtaining Federal support in view of the 

Government’s need for an arboretum designed for Western climatic conditions. On 

January 12, 1917 David Fairchild of the United States Department of Agriculture, Bureau 

of Plant Industry wrote Leroy Abrams, Professor of Botany “I think we made it plain to 

Vandelyn Stow (Business Manager of the University) that we were very interested in the 

possibilities of some permanent arrangement by which there could be developed at 

Leland Stanford a collection of such plant material as would grow there.” and “The fact 

which impressed favorably … was the probable permanency of such an arrangement, 

provided the Board of Trustees were willing to sign some agreement with the Department 

of Agriculture which would make it difficult to utilize any of a certain area of land set 

aside for arboretum purposes for any other use.” A letter later in 1917 from David 

Fairchild said they could not make any plans because of the war outlook. After the war 

there are no letters or references to this Government collaboration.  It is likely that the 

Trustees decided against a permanent restriction of use which the Government needed to 



In 1920 John McLaren, Superintndent of Golden Gate Park was brought in as consulting 

landscape architect. With John McLaren’s assistance, the scope for the replanting efforts 

seems to have expanded to include the whole campus.  An interesting unsigned letter 

dated November 3, 1920 from a Stanford person to C.S.Sargent of the Arnold Arboretum 

in Massachusetts states “You will be interested to know that Mr. McLaren is helping us 

prepare plans covering our entire 9000 acres.  In this way we will be able to use for 

arboretum purposes many of the cañons, hillsides and streambanks”. This is in line with 

thinking that the whole campus could be developed in some sort as a botanic garden, and 

in fact today much of the campus fits this description as a result of many decades of 

careful selection of plants, perhaps initiated in this work with McLaren after World War 



This idea was continued in an article in the Stanford Illustrated Review in December, 

1926 in which John B. Rogers wrote “The present area of the Arboretum is about 400 

acres around the University buildings and between the Quad and the state highway at 

Palo Alto.  There are almost 9000 acres in the Stanford Campus and it is the plan to 

include all those that are not covered by buildings and homes in the future Arboretum. … 

Plans for the future include a series of parks along San Francisquito Creek and the 

adjoining hills from Palo Alto to Searsville Lake…” 


As a further example of the grand ideas of the roaring twenties, I quote from an article in 

the Palo Alto Time of March 23, 1927: “The consent of the Board of Trustees of Stanford 

University having been obtained to appropriate 1000 acres of campus territory for the 

development of the greatest botanical gardens in the world whenever sufficient funds are 

within reach for assuring the success of the project …” 


The Depression soon put an end to these grand ideas.  It should also be noted that Galvez 

St. was extended from Pine Avenue to El Camino, at Embarcadero Road in about 1921 

when the stadium was built. Later maps show Galvez St. as the eastern border of the 



The Palo Alto Hospital (now Hoover Pavilion) 


At a special meeting of the Board of Trustees on September 25, 1928, the minutes state 

“It is resolved that the University lease to the City of Palo Alto not to exceed 10 acres as 

a site for a hospital to be built by the City of Palo Alto at an estimated cost of  $ 350,000 

…”. Some financial matters were included.  Then “The site for the building and the terms 

of the lease to be determined at a later date”.  


At the Board meeting of July 23, 1929, the Grounds Committee recommended “that the 

site for the location of the new Palo Alto Hospital at a point on the southerly line of 

Quarry Road approximately  1,000 feet south and west of the State Highway be 

approved”. This was then unanimously approved. 


I found no further documentation that revealed any objection to using an arboretum site 

for this building. In later Stanford maps, the site is excluded from the arboretum. It is 

interesting to note that at that time the City of Palo Alto had ample open land that could 

have served as a site. It should also be noted  that President Ray Lyman Wilbur had been 

a practicing physician in the Stanford area and was dean of the Medical School at the 

time of his appointment to the Presidency.  The relationship of the University and Palo 

Alto in respect to medical matters at the time of this site choice is a matter beyond this 

report. The site may have been chosen just because it was mid-way between the campus 

and the town. 


The Tresidder Period (1942-1947) 


In late 1946 Lewis Mumford, a noted architecture critic and planning advocate was asked 

by Donald Tresidder, University President,  to take a look at the campus and make 

recommendations for its future growth.  Mumford visited the Campus early in 1947 and 

wrote two memoranda about his visit. The report devotes one section to green belts and 

open space. “Whenever University land abuts on other property a green belt should be 

established to preserve the quality of the University’s land.  Even in developing a new 

residential quarter adjacent to College Terrace, a green strip should set off the University 

property from that of the individual owners.  The present green belt between Pine Avenue 

(Campus Drive) and the State Highway (El Camino) should remain inviolate and no 

further building be permitted.” 


When Escondido Village was built in the 1960s provision was made for a substantial 

green belt along both El Camino, and Stanford Avenue.  Perhaps this was a result of this 

recommendation but it should be noted also that the siting of the football stadium in 1921 

provided for a substantial greenbelt between the stadium and El Camino. 


Mumford’s report came at the same time that the City of Palo Alto planned to expand the 

Palo Alto Hospital.  When Tresidder heard about it he rejected the proposal. This was in 

accord with Mumford’s recommendation that the University should “firmly resist” any 

intrusions into the campus for “motor highways, power lines, reservoirs, or public 

institutions of any kind”. On March 6, 1947 Mumford wrote Tresidder.  “I am glad you 

won the first round about the extension of the hospital: you’ll doubtless have more fights 

of the same kind on your hands.  You are in about the same position Central Park was in 

during the first seventy-five years of its existence; the New York Times once published a 

picture showing that if all the proposed buildings and worthy projects that wanted a plot 

of land there had been built, there would have been no park left.” 


A map produced  in 1950 (see map 4) shows the status of the arboretum as it existed 

between the construction of the hospital and the beginning of rapid university growth 

during the Sterling-Terman era.  In this map he lower arboretum is bordered by Galvez, 

El Camino, the early alignment of Quarry Road, Pine Avenue (later Campus Drive east of 

Palm Drive) and presumably the road leading from Palm Drive toward the Nursery.  


The Sterling Period (1949-1968) 


The postwar period saw the development of land use policies with accompanying maps 

and sketches.  The first study was undertaken by the Planning Office in November, 1950.  

The recommendations presented to the Committee on Plant Development of the Board 

included “2.  A green belt is to be established on the south side of El Camino Real from 

San Francisquito Creek to Matadero Creek.”  This was to be a strip of 300-foot width and 

the study suggested that “No building would be permitted in the future on this strip”.  

Matadero Creek is approximately at the line between the Industrial Park and the Barron 

Park district. This green belt, however, could not have included the built-up area of 

College Terrace along the highway. 


Although a variety of uses were suggested for parts of the arboretum area in the various 

land use schemes developed, these suggested uses would become obsolete just a few 

years later when plans were developed for the Shopping Center.  On June 1, 1954 a 

Report on Master Plan with an accompanying map of existing land use (see map 1) was 

submitted to J.E. Wallace Sterling, University President, by the Advisory Committee on 

Land and Building Development. On April 10, 1956, the Committee presented  a revision 

of the master land use plan. The revision did not alter the map of the arboretum area 

except for a nick at the northeast corner of Quarry Road and Arboretum where the 

Shopping Center gas station was placed . A greenbelt was added in the 1956 map.  The 

report stated that “A green belt 500 feet wide should be preserved along El Camino from 

the Shopping Center to Stanford Avenue, and along Stanford Avenue from El Camino to 

Amherst Avenue” (in College Terrace). The maps associated with this planning showed a 

realignment of Quarry Road, an extension of Pine Avenue, now Campus Drive, to the 

west, and the new Arboretum Road. The area marked on the map as “Arboretum” shows 

the upper portion as it always had been, and the lower portion bounded by El Camino, 

Galvez Ave, Campus Drive, and Quarry Road.  The border behind the cactus garden 

became more exact when Quarry Road was connected to Campus Drive, Note that in the 

1954  map space is set aside for the Medical School south of the arboretum and for 

housing at the future site of Escondido Village. 


The documents reveal no further reports on land use and the arboretum during Sterling’s 

presidency, however an aerial photograph in the Stanford Observer of February 1967 (see 

map 5) reveals interesting information on the obscure western border of the arboretum.  

One can clearly see the empty fields between Quarry Road and the tree line behind the 

mausoleum.  These open fields stretch to the Hoover Pavilion. It is unclear why they 

appeared in the 1954 map as “arboretum”.  There is no record that trees were ever planted 

in the area. 


Changes in Land Use – 1969-1989 


From the 1960’s forward, periodic General Use Permit Applications to the County were 

associated with the development of land use policies and plans. These policies and plans 

were used by the Board as points of references for future planning.  


In 1972, the  land use policy/plan prepared by the firm of Livingston and Blayney was 

presented to the Board. The maps associated with this plan continue to show “open 

space” consistent with earlier outlines of the arboretum.  The report states “Expansion of 

the Shopping Center across Quarry Road (to the east) is not recommended.  Once further 

intrusions into the Arboretum commenced, there would no logical cut-off line.  The 

land’s tax exempt character (as academic space) might be jeopardized.  …  Most 

important, the essential physical character of the campus, buffered from Palo Alto by a 

broad greenbelt – the basic concept of the original Olmsted plan – would be substantially 

destroyed if more of the Arboretum were to be invaded.  Sites flanking the Hoover 

Pavilion currently designated for Shopping Center overflow parking should be 

reclassified.  If additional parking is needed, it should be provided by decking over the 

present lot.”  The gas station built in this area in the 1950’s was an exception to this 

recommended land use. 


On April 26, 1973, The San Jose Mercury reported an “attempt under way to restore 

Stanford Arboretum”.  The article says, “University arborist William Parker and … Plant 

Services Director Daniel De Young ( a long-time member of our Society) are launching 

the staggering restoration project on a financial shoestring.  … “Before I retire, we will 

have this done’, says De Young.” Bill Parker is quoted in the Campus Report of May 30, 

1973  “The Arboretum has got to be kept free of buildings, or our grandchildren will 

suffer.  It’s our last chance for lots of trees and open area in this part of the Peninsula …”. 


In 1974 the Board approved new land use policies; however these were minimally stated 

and did not specifically refer to the arboretum area.  


In 1980 and 1981 the Planning Office prepared a Stanford Land Use Plan – 1980 and a 

Plan Supplement.  This plan made two significant changes to the use designation of the 

arboretum lands.  


  First, the area between the Hoover Pavilion and Arboretum Road, and the open field at 

the southwest corner of Quarry and Arboretum Roads were classified as “University 

Support”. This area had previously been shown as arboretum, however it appears never to 

have been planted and made a part of the “park”. The plan indicates that the area north of  

Arboretum Road had long been thought of as possible space for expanded Shopping 

Center parking, although the 1972 land use report recommended double-decked parking 

on the Shopping Center side rather than paving over this “Quarry Road plot”.  This has in 

the meantime become a paved parking lot. The area directly between the Arboretum 

Children’s Center discussed below, and Arboretum Road is still open space today. The 

area south of Arboretum Road is today the site of the Psychiatry Building and Medical 

Center parking. 


The second change was a division of the arboretum area into two different classifications, 

academic space, and open space however this distinction did not appear to have much 

significance in later years.  


In summary the 1980 land use plans reduced the arboretum area by removing the Quarry 

Road Plot including the southwest corner of Quarry and Arboretum Road.  It also 

redesignated the upper portion of the arboretum area to make it more available for 

academic use.  As the report states in its section “1980-2010”,  “… to indicate its future 

availability as an alternative to expansion in the foothills if further demand should occur.” 


The Campus Report of November 14. 1984 reported that the Planning Office was 

commencing a campus wide program to address the decline of the campus trees. The 

most immediate problem was the failure of the oaks in the foothills to reproduce ; 

however the arboretum area was also “a major part of the current planning”. This plan 

has resulted in the planting of innumerable oaks and other trees in the arboretum, 

especially alongside roadways. With the cooperation of the Center for Conservation 

Biology of the Biology Department,  a pond was created across from the old gymnasium 

site, and vernal pools were created near the Palm Drive entrance to the Campus. More 

recently the cactus garden has been restored. 


The more flexible use designation of the upper arboretum area might have facilitated site 

acceptance of the Graduate School of Business’ Littlefield Management Center which 

opened in 1988. The building is adjacent to the main Business School Building.  It 

straddles Lasuen Street  and extends about 50 feet into the east lobe of the oval.. A 

roadway was built through the building to keep Lasuen St. open. The extension of the 

building into the lobe of the oval seriously disturbed many members of the Campus 

community who had thought that the region between Lasuen St. and Lomita Drive, which 

mark the width of the quadrangle, inviolable. This concern may have found resonance in 

the next set of plans produced in 1989/90. 


Also in 1988 the Hoover Pavilion site accommodated construction of the Arboretum 

Children’s Center and a parking lot.  This area had been the site of some driveways and 

hospital outbuildings.  


The Final Decade: 


The 1989/99 period revealed a change in thinking about the arboretum.  This change was 

revealed in the Landscape Design Guidelines prepared in March, 1989 by the Planning 

Office. Palm Drive and the Arboretum are listed among the “sacred” rural places 

mentioned in the report.  Under “concepts”, the report says “Where the buffer remains—

the Arboretum,… --the traveler makes a passage from the noisy everyday world through 

a quiet, unmanicured landscape, to the academic heart, where the activity may remain 

intense, but is of a different character.  By preserving the campus as a unified separate 

place, we preserve its focus.”  Under landscape types, it states “Framing the urban/rural 

mosaic are rural lands.  These rural lands border the edges of campus and insulate it from 

surrounding communities. The largest rural expanse is the Arboretum flanking Palm 

Drive.  The juxtaposition of the rural landscape with the geometry and order of the 

ceremonial entry down Palm Drive contributes to its drama and impact.” 


The report Campus Plan for the Second Century written by the Planning Office in June, 

1991 includes a Primary Open Space Matrix  (See map 6). The report says that the open 

space matrix is the framework for all campus development. “The primary open space 

areas should not be violated”. The area indicated for the lower arboretum continues to be 

bound by Campus Drive, Galvez Street , El Camino and Quarry Road after exclusion of 

the Hoover Pavilion, Arboretum Children’s Center, and Quarry Road parcels.  During 

this period the Planning Office developed plans for each of the regions identified in their 

1989 landscaping plan. The report says “Although limited development could be 

absorbed by the region, the 1990 Draft Land Use Plan and the recently completed Second 

Century Plan confirm that no building development shall occur in the region”.  


The 1990s ended with only two new developments in the arboretum area.  In conjunction 

with the opening of the renovated Museum, paved parking lots, each about 50 feet wide 

were constructed on both sides of Museum Way for its entire two block length.  


The only part of the arboretum affected by the Sand Hill Road and Shopping Center 

project approved late in the decade was replacement of the Hoover Pavilion driveway 

with Palo Way, a full size road connecting Palm Drive to Quarry Road. The new road 

was cut through a well-forested portion of the green belt between the Hoover Pavilion 

and El Camino.  


In addition to Palo Way,  other roads have been constructed over the years in the 

arboretum. These were the construction of Galvez Street in the 1920s, Arboretum Road, 

and the western extension of Campus Drive in the 1950s, and the extension of Roth Way 

across the upper arboretum in the 1970’s. Roth Way replaced a graveled road, Plum Tree 

Lane, which has been replanted.  Other actions to reduce  road impact were the 

abandonment of Lasuen Street from Arboretum Road to El Camino, the cutting off of 

roads to the Mausoleum,  and the abandonment of a road segment by Campus Drive and 

Palm Drive, when Campus Drive was realigned.  



The Present  


On November 1, 1999 the University submitted its Draft Community Plan and General 

Use Permit Application to Santa Clara County which has jurisdiction over Stanford’s 

unincorporated land in the County.  This includes the entire area known as the arboretum.  

Following the County’s review and approval process, the plan was adopted by the County 

Board of Supervisors as an amendment to the County’s General Plan. 


I suggest to the reader that a copy of the plan be obtained from the Planning Office, or 

found on the internet at


The plan has a number of implications regarding the future of the arboretum.  (see map 6) 

Most significantly, two sections of the lower arboretum are no longer classified as 

primary open space as they were in the Campus Plan for the Second Century  of 1991 as 

cited above. The remainder of the lower arboretum area in the new plan is called the 

“arboretum planning district” and totals 126 acres. The upper arboretum is a part of the 

Campus Center planning district. The areas reclassified are: 


1)  The section on the northwest corner of Galvez St. and Campus Drive, bounded by a 

line leading from the intersection of Arboretum Road and Galvez to the intersection of 

Lasuen St. and Campus Drive, following approximately the bike path and drainage ditch  


This section has been reclassified as the DAPER/Administrative (Dept. of Athletics) 

Planning District.  The plan does not specify what use or possible development might 

occur in this area.  In this entire Planning District, the plan proposes a possible additional 

50,000 Gross Square Footage of academic development and 200,000 GSF of Athletics 

and Student Activities. This district is also the proposed site of a parking structure.  


This area is mostly a large open field bounded along Galvez, Campus Drive, and the bike 

path  by trees, many of which are massive old eucalypti. On the north there is a 

prominent thick grove of relatively young eucalyptus.  The open field is used for football 

parking but increasingly for parking for special campus events.  Because of the extensive 

use of this field for parking, and even for tents for special events, the grass cover is 



2)  The section between the Hoover Pavilion and El Camino 


This section has been reclassified as the “Quarry Planning District” along with the 

Quarry Road Plot on the south side of Hoover Pavilion.  The Plan states that this site, 

along with others is “ideal for hospital residents and post-graduate fellows because they 

are within short walking and bicycling distance of the medical school and hospitals and 

the transit center at the Palo Alto University Avenue train station”. The plan states that 

this 6.2 acre site can accommodate 150 apartments..  


This section has been a segment of the El Camino greenbelt. Its forest has screened the 

Hoover Pavilion from the highway. 


The plan touches on several other issues which could affect the future of the arboretum.  


Parking needs are also a part of the Plan. Apart from parking for new housing, the plan 

states that “1245 new on-campus parking spaces will be added to support new facilities, 

meet the demands by community users of Stanford facilities such as the Museum” and 

discourage off-campus parking. The plan also notes that 300 of these spaces are 

associated with “the prospective new performing arts center and the basketball arena”. 


The plan combines both housing parking and other parking, for a total of 3,095 parking 

spaces.  For the Arboretum Planning District, the number of new spaces is a minus 134. 

The plans call for elimination of parking along Lasuen Street between Campus Drive and 

Arboretum Road . 


The area of the upper arboretum is in the Campus Center Planning District. A total of 

1286 new parking spaces are envisaged for this District. 


The Plan mentions the exploration of a possible Palo Alto-Stanford performing arts 

center, and the possible use of the old gymnasium site at the southeast corner of Lasuen 

and Campus Drive for this purpose.  As stated above, the Plan provides for additional 

parking spaces for this possible center.  


The  Museum and the proposed site for the performing arts center are across Lomita and 

Lasuen respectively from the upper arboretum now designated as Campus Center.  As 

mentioned above the Arboretum Road parking lot in the upper arboretum was recently 

constructed to meet Museum needs. The Plan labels both the lower arboretum and the 

upper arboretum as Campus Open Space.  The development policy for this space is 

“Temporary uses that are compatible with the open space character are allowed”. 


In this article I have tried to show how the Founders’ desire to retain the arboretum open 

space has been colliding with the University’s development needs for most of the past 

Century. In addition the Palo Alto  community seems to be looking more often than in the 

past at the arboretum open space to meet its needs. Will anything be left of the Founders’ 

arboretum at the end of this Century? 









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