Recently digitized imagery gives a glimpse into the city’s past.

Story by Kate Bradshaw / Present day pics by Magali Gauthier

El Camino Real at Santa Cruz Avenue, June 1968. (Image courtesy of Menlo Park Planning)

“It started, honestly, as office clean up.” said Thomas Rogers, principal planner for the city of Menlo Park. When Menlo Park’s City Hall was being renovated in 2017, Public Works Director Justin Murphy delivered to Rogers a number of boxes that had been sitting in his office. Inside, the boxes contained hundreds of old photographs of Menlo Park over the years, many dating as far back as the 1960s.

Undated photo, likely late 1960s. (Images courtesy of Menlo Park Planning)

In the months that followed, the Planning Department proceeded to undertake a sizable digitization effort around those images, eventually making them accessible as part of the public domain and available online via Flickr.

Many of the photos are from September 1968, when—for some reason lost to time—the department took a photographic survey of the city’s downtown. Other photographs were slides that were “kind of random,” Rogers said. When planning officials were able to figure out the time period that a photograph was taken, they listed it beneath the image, while some remain undated.

Kepler’s Books, at its former location on the west side of El Camino Real, in September 1968. The space is now occupied by a Starbucks Coffee. (Images of courtesy of Menlo Park Planning and Magali Gauthier/Menlo Almanac)

In speaking about the project, Rogers rattled off a colorful list of the many interesting things he learned about city’s history while archiving the imagery: that Kepler’s used to be located on the other side of El Camino Real, near where the Starbucks is in the 800 block; that Menlo Avenue and Ravenswood Avenue didn’t intersect at some point in the past; that Santa Cruz Avenue had no median running through it at one time; and that in 1968 the BBC building was an office for the Richard Nixon/Spiro Agnew presidential campaign.

You can access the full photo archive here.

Here are just some of the many images featured in the archive, as well as some comparisons of the archive’s historical photos and what the sites look like today.

Oak Grove Avenue circa 1968. (Image via Menlo Park Planning)
Clockwise from top left: Hamilton Avenue and Dumbarton Rail Cooridor; Palo Alto Savings, Santa Cruz Avenue, September 1970; Multi-Family Residential, November 1968; Ampex Offices, January 1969. (Images via Menlo Park Planning)
Clockwise from top left: U.S. Post Office, Oak Grove Ave, 1968; Menlo Park Aerial Photo; March 1969; Menlo Park Carriage Authority; Civic Center Aerial Photo, 1965. (Images via Menlo Park Planning)
Overhead view of Menlo Station during the summer of 1983. (Images via Menlo Park Planning)
The BBC building on Santa Cruz Avenue, east of El Camino Real, served as a Republican Party headquarters in the late 1960s. Built to house a bank, the building in 1939 became the second home for Menlo Park City Hall. (Images of via Menlo Park Planning and Magali Gauthier/Menlo Almanac)
Magoo’s Pizza Parlor at 639 Santa Cruz Ave., where the Warlocks, the band that later became the Grateful Dead, played its first gig on May 5, 1965, shown here in September 1968. The site is now home to Harvest Furniture . (Images via Menlo Park Planning and Magali Gauthier/Menlo Almanac)
Burgers Gone By (clockwise from top): Hippo Charcoal Broiled Hamburgers, Oak Grove Avenue, 1968; A&W Root Beer (and “We Will Give a Hoot and a Hop”—Mobil Station) El Camino Real, 1968; Foster’s Freeze, Oak Grove Avenue, 1968. (Images via Menlo Park Planning)
Reservoir construction, 1962. (Image via Menlo Park Planning)
El Camino Real, East Side, 1968. (Image via Menlo Park Planning)
Undated photo, possibly 1950s-era. (Image via Menlo Park Planning)

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More photography features from The Six Fifty:

11 local Silicon Valley photographers you should follow on Instagram right now

These photos of WeirdStuff Warehouse will make you sad the quirky shop is gone for good

Fungus Photography: Mushroom hunting in Northern California (through a macro lens)

The final days of Redwood City’s world-renowned roller skating mecca

Stanford vs. Cal: A visual history of the Big Game

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