Publication Date: Wednesday Apr 2, 1997


Book tells neighborhood history Publication Date: Wednesday Apr 2, 1997

Book tells neighborhood history

Author needs research help to complete self-published book

Doug Graham is working on a labor of love: a self-published book about the history of Barron Park. He has piles of material, an abundance of ideas and a palpable enthusiasm for his subject.

But he lacks one thing: time to do the research. So Graham, a self-employed manager for pharmaceutical research and development projects, could use a bit of help. He's looking for people to conduct oral interviews of longtime residents, transcribe taped interviews, and track down historical documents he hasn't been able to find.

"Fifty years from now this will be so valuable. People are fascinated with their own history," said Graham, 59, a Barron Park resident since 1972. "But I can't work on it all the time. I'm trying to work my jobs and get a kid through college."

Graham, also a management instructor for U.C. Berkeley Extension, began writing the book about a year ago. It will chronicle Barron Park's history from as far back as the mid-1700s.

Graham began thinking about the neighborhood's past in 1975, when he saw an exhibit of neighbors' old photos at a celebration in Bol Park. The clincher came two years later when Graham read an oral-history thesis that local resident Ann Knopf had written about the neighborhood.

"I saw what she was doing, and it seemed so interesting that I said, 'Wow, I've just got to write a book about this.'"

Graham's working title, "A Sense of Place: The History of Barron Park," stems from his impression of how residents feel about their neighborhood. "It's like the feeling people in small towns have," he said.

He's been collecting material for 20 years: old maps, letters, photos, news clippings and newsletters.

The book traces the history of a neighborhood that Graham describes as both the newest and the oldest part of Palo Alto.

Originally an Ohlone Indian village, the area was settled in the 1850s as Mayfield Farm, making it the first Anglo settlement in northwest Santa Clara County, Graham says. But what's now known as Barron Park didn't become part of Palo Alto until 1975, when the neighborhood was annexed to the city following several failed attempts initiated first by the neighborhood and then by the city. Among the various points of dispute between Palo Alto and Barron Park, for example, was alcohol. Barron Park had saloons, while Palo Alto was dry through the 1960s.

Graham's book will cover topics that range from the life of Sara Wallis--a regional leader of the women's suffrage movement--to the creation of Bol Park, to the modern era of suburban problems such as increased traffic and demolition of old homes.

Graham knows his audience is small; he plans to publish just 200 copies. But his purpose is neither mass distribution nor profit, he says. He hopes just to break even. "I want to stimulate local historians to dig deeper into their neighborhood's history."

Anyone interested in helping Graham with his research can contact him at 493-0689 or on e-mail at

--Sara Selis

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