Every October, the neighborhood donkey Pericles leads the children to the local school, clip clopping his way down narrow streets covered with gold and red leaves. Pericles, better known as Perry, visits classrooms and is always very careful of his surroundings, minding small desks, bookshelves, backpacks, and of course, the young students that want to pet him behind the ear.
A donkey walking to school with kids may seem unlikely for a neighborhood located in the heart of Silicon Valley; but in Barron Park, residents say that this rural and old-fashioned pace of life is what distinguishes the neighborhood from the rest of Palo Alto.
"The pace of life is slower and the neighborhood has a familiar feeling of community. You don't need an excuse to say hi to your neighbor," said Brandy Faulkner, who grew up in Barron Park.
Located roughly between Matadero Avenue and Arastradero Road, the neighborhood is just far enough away from El Camino Real that most of the sounds heard on the streets during the day are songbirds and children's bike bells.
In the late 1800s, residents saw apricot orchards, strawberry fields and dairy pastures lining the streets, and during the 1920s, many San Franciscans built summer cottages near the rail station that was eventually demolished in later years. Barron Park was annexed to Palo Alto in 1975.
Today, the neighborhood landscape varies from newer, larger, two-story houses to smaller ranch-style homes and cottages that sometimes resemble a warm Thomas Kinkade painting.
Teena James has lived in the area since 1986 and remembers what happened during the Loma Prieta Earthquake in 1989. "A neighbor who had lived here for quite a while checked on everyone, knocking door to door to see if they were OK," she said. "There is a feeling that neighbors are here to help out. ...
"We (the neighborhood) can tell you who lives in each house, how many pets they have, or who their kids are, so when we see a new car, we know they're just visiting or passing through."
Since many families have moved in because of the top-quality schools, Anne Nacey Maggioncalda said the neighborhood is diverse in both ethnicity and socioeconomic level. All four schools are in walking distance and many blocks in the neighborhood create a phone and e-mail directory for their own cul-de-sacs. A family-oriented place, Barron Park sustains its community spirit through a strong neighborhood association and welcoming committee.
Barron Park Neighborhood Association President Lynnie Melena, a resident since 1970, said that people have come to terms with the housing changes over the years, but remain concerned with nearby new developments.
Barron Park also holds multiple block parties every year along with regular annual events such as a winter holiday songfest, May Fete and a summer ice cream social welcoming new families. In December, the choir from local Gunn High School leads the neighborhood on a winter parade through the streets, and during May Fete, the residents erect a May Pole and celebrate with good food and good company.
Maggioncalda said she has never lived in a neighborhood quite like Barron Park. "It's like a big family."
CHILDCARE AND PRESCHOOLS: Barron Park Childcare Co-op, Gretchen_Reynolds@yahoo.com; Barron Park Playgroup, Beth Delson, firstname.lastname@example.org; Barron Park Kids' Club, 800 Barron Ave.; Barron Park Preschool, 3650 La Donna Ave.; Juana Briones Kids' Club, 4100 Orme St.
FIRE STATION: No. 5, 600 Arastradero Road
LIBRARY: College Terrace branch, 2300 Wellesley St.; Mitchell Park branch, 3700 Middlefield Road
NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: Lynnie Melena, president, 650-493-2135, email@example.com, www.bpaonline.org.
PARK: Bol Park, Laguna Avenue between Barron and Matadero avenues; Juana Briones Park, 609 Maybell Ave.
POST OFFICE: Cambridge, 265 Cambridge Ave.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Barron Park and Juana Briones elementary schools, Terman Middle School, Gunn High School
SHOPPING: San Antonio Shopping Center, California Avenue
MEDIAN 2008 HOME PRICE: $1,612,000 ($670,000-$2,500,000)
HOMES SOLD: 25
MEDIAN 2008 CONDO PRICE: $912,000 ($904,000-$1,200,000)
CONDOS SOLD: 3