The name Belmont is derived from the French term Belle Monte or beautiful mountain. Clearly, Belmont, with its many hillside homes and windy streets, has earned the name. The early settlers of Belmont started building the city in the flats, surrounding El Camino Real and Old County Road, and later moved into what Spanish explorers called “la Canada del Diablo”, or Devil’s Canyon.
Ralston Avenue, the main street passing through Belmont’s small downtown area was once one of just a few direct paths connecting the Pacific Ocean to the San Francisco Bay. It was named after the famous 19th-century banker William Chapman Ralston, president of the Bank of California, who made his fortune from Nevada’s Comstock Lode. He built his large estate, Ralston Hall, in 1867. Today Ralston Hall is a popular wedding and event destination, and centerpiece of Notre Dame de Namur University, the only 4-year university in all of San Mateo County. Belmont boasts a well-established school district known for exceptional education in a small community setting containing Carlmont High School and Ralston Middle School, both California Distinguished Schools.
Before becoming a central city along the peninsula, Belmont began as a relaxing getaway retreat for city dwellers as demonstrated by current homes that began as humble mountain cabins. In 1925, Lee Monroe, Arthur Lyon, and Lawrence founded Belmont Country Club Properties, subdividing the Belmont hills into picturesque housing developments complete with a golf course, tennis courts, pool, and other family friendly leisure activities. Unfortunately, by 1929 the country club had been disbanded due to a combination of poor management and the stock market crash. Current residents are reminded of Belmont’s once lavish development each time they pass a small turreted structure at the top of Alameda which was once used as the sales office for Belmont Country Club Properties.
Although the attempt to make the city into an elite country club failed, Belmont residents still possess a passion for entertainment and recreation. Belmont is home to boundless hiking and running trails such as Water Dog Lake Park, and the nationally recognized Crystal Spring Cross Country Course. The community gathers together regularly for the always popular Greek and Polish Festivals. Peninsula natives flock to Belmont to enjoy exquisite meals at Vivace, winners of Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence. The Van’s Restaurant overlooks the entire bay and offers a unique menu all housed in an original building with a history that includes the Panama Pacific International Exposition in 1915 and serving as a speakeasy during prohibition. With a nod to Belmont’s prized trail, The Water Dog Tavern was established in 2016 providing locals a hip place to grab a pint and innovative cuisine.
Belmont is the perfect blend of traditional peninsula stature and new Silicon Valley advancement. The city offers commuters convenient public transportation to and from San Francisco or San Jose with a centrally located Caltrain station. Those settled in Belmont experience the city’s natural beauty, historical importance, safety, and a vibrant recreational scene on a daily basis.