In 1776, Juan Bautista de Anza led an expedition through the San Francisco Peninsula. In his diaries, he refers to the dry arroyo “half a league” north from “Arroyo San Matheo.” Historians now agree that this notation is referring to existing Burlingame Creek. In the years to come, Spanish missionaries developed the land into farmland used to sustain the mission in San Francisco. In 1822, after the Mexican American War, the land was known as Rancho San Mateo and given by Governor Pio Pico to his secretary, Cayetano Arenas. After an uprising in Sonoma led to the founding of the Bear Republic, Arenas needed to dispose of the Burlingame land quickly. He sold the land to San Francisco mercantile company, Howard & Mellus. Howard eventually bought out a partner with hopes of retiring in the lush country lands. He died shortly after, and the land was divided among his family, including his father-in-law Joseph Henry Poett.
There is much controversy surrounding the purchase of the land by Anson Burlingame and William C. Ralston. Both men saw great value in the retreat south of San Francisco and were eager to make a financial investment in the property. According to maps dated May 13, 1866 and 1868 on file with the San Mateo County Recorder’s Office, Joseph Henry Poett sold Anson Burlingame a portion of his allotment of the Howard property for the creation of his estate. There was also a deed, dated May 30, 1866, which covered the sale of the land by Poett to Burlingame for $54,757.50. However, there was an additional deed, dated June 2, 1866, which covered the sale of the same land by Burlingame to Ralston for the sum of $1.00.
Following Anson Burlingame’s death in 1870, D. O. Mills became the guardian of the Burlingame estate. Mills sold the property to Ralston.
After Ralston’s death in 1875, the property was taken over by his partner, William Sharon, who used the property as a dairy farm. Following Sharon’s death, his son-in-law, Francis Newlands, assumed control of the property. In 1893, Newlands began the subdivision of the property, beginning with the Burlingame Country Club and the surrounding five cottages. In 1894, the Burlingame train station was created. The first two stores opened for business on Burlingame Square, across from the train station in 1901.
The town grew slowly until 1906 when the San Francisco earthquake and fire sent hundreds of people in search of a safe residential area. The heirs of D. O. Mills sold the property to the Trousdale Development Corporation which developed residential and commercial areas.
Burlingame is home to the historic and breathtaking Kohl Mansion. The Kohl Mansion has a storied history. It was originally built as a home for Charles Frederick Kohl and his wife. After a series of unfortunate events, Kohl tragically died leaving the property to his mistress. She was eager to sell the land and found an unlikely buyer in the Sisters of Mercy. Since the purchase, the Kohl Mansion remains as a charming background for Mercy High School. The mansion is still used for community events, parties, and remains a top wedding venue in the Bay Area.
Residents of Burlingame not only have a rich history to take pride in, but they have an exquisite downtown shopping area filled with highly rated restaurants, elegant bars, and designer stores. Burlingame Avenue is the place to shop, eat, and socialize. With retailers such as Kate Spade, Anthropologie, and Lulu Lemon it is easy to see why Burlingame is a premier shopping destination. Every Sunday, Burlingame Ave. is also home to the Farmer’s Market.
Much like it did over 100 years ago, Burlingame still retains the allurement and beauty of its original state. Residents of this desireable city can be proud of their celebrated history, meticulously manicured neighborhoods, and a thriving sense of community.