History of San Mateo


San Mateo has a long history that started long before the Spanish missionaries “discovered” it. San Mateo was home to a tribe of native Americans that inhabited the area that would become known as San Mateo for a long time before the Spanish outpost was established in 1793. The location was an ideal location because of its mild climate and close proximity to water.


The first non native American was erected in1793 to be used as an outpost for Spanish missionaries to bring religion to the area. The Mexican Land Grants enacted in 1835 left a handful of residents owning large sections of land. As a matter of fact two of these “ranches” were combined to create the city of San Mateo. The “Rancho” period lasted about 30 years. In 1850 the American Mercantile company bought up huge swatches of land at $4 an acre and began building some of the most grand homes in the area.




By 1861 a Stage Coach stop had been erected where the old mission building stood bringing more commerce and travel to the area. The construction of the railroad was also a big boom for the area. The new railroad carried passengers from San Francisco to San Mateo in about a half hour.


The railroad service opened up travel between San Francisco and San Mateo and brought many wealthy business owners to the little town. It quickly became a hot spot of summer homes. Large estates were built by some of the most powerful individuals in the west.




The majority of the population were originally made up of people that were employed by these great estates. The first newspaper was established in 1894 a milestone that indicated how large the community had grown.




Two schools were established as well one for boys and one for girls in 1887. 1887 also saw a creation of the San Mateo fire department after the town hall burned to the ground because the wait for the Redwood City fire department was too long and the building was lost.


The town was officially incorporated in 1889 the same year that the Crystal Springs dam was constructed insuring the communities growth.


San Mateo saw tremendous growth quickly over the 100 years during its establishment period. Many o the historically significant buildings are still standing today. The community still maintains its charm that lured travelers to settle there.