In the words of a former shareholder, Mrs. Helen Wicksten, who lived at 2246 Ralmar Ave.: The story of the Palo Alto Park Mutual water Company goes back to World War I. The U. S. Army was stationed in Menlo Park beside the Creek and El Camino Real. A place was needed for the Cavalry. After scouting the nearby areas, it was decided that a site, in what is now called East Palo Alto, would be ideal. Bay Road ran from Redwood City to Cooley’s Landing at the Bay so that transportation and supplies would be available from San Francisco. The oak trees and good earth would be ideal for the horses but most of all the discovery of a source of underground water was most important. A well was dug and the water tower put in. As the place was bordered by Palo Alto and Menlo Park, it was named Palo Alto Park and this is how it remains in the records of San Mateo County. A pool was put in for the horses; the edges were made of sharp rocks suitable for the horses hooves.
When the Cavalry had gone and the water company was established, shares in the company were allowed access to the grounds. They had picnics and used the pool. As time went by, restrictions were put on the use of the property. In order to maintain the pool, there would have to be a new filter system, insurance coverage and a permanent life-guard. The costs involved were too high for the little mutual company. They voted to close down the grounds for recreation.
The pool was filled in, the ground leveled and now all that is left is the water tower and the administration building.
Over the years, the water company has operated wisely and well it takes care of local needs and on occasion has sold water to Hetch Hetchy and San Mateo County. It also serves as an election station when needed. It has a live historical background. Mrs. Helen Wicksten.”
The origin of the Palo Alto Park Mutual Water Company goes back to World War I, when two wells were drilled as a water supply for Camp Fremont (Camp Fremont in 1917-18, home of the 8th Division of the U.S. Army) near present-day Addison Avenue. In the period after the war, until about 1924, the wells were used for irrigation of farmlands.
In 1924, a real estate company subdivided the area and the first four property owners formed the Palo Alto Park Mutual Water Company. Over the years, more real estate development created increased demand for water, especially after World War II. In the 1940’s, more wells were drilled and deepened. In the 1950, the sixth well was drilled two hundred eighty feet. In the early 1950’s a large one hundred thousand gallon redwood holding tank was built. An early concrete irrigation reservoir was converted into a swimming pool on the property, and was used for many years. In 1958, it was closed, broken up, and filled in.
After the Loma Prieta Earthquake of October 17, 1989, by the Grace of God, the company received funds from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Administration) OES (State of California Office Of Emergency Services) and the American Red Cross Water Restoration Project. As the results, a new well, Well # 7 was drilled to 500 feet and capped at 460 feet, 2 booster, 8’ water main grid the system ,6’ water mains throughout, a fire hydrant every 300 feet, an emergency generator, and well #1, and well # 4 were properly abandon. Our storage capacity tripled with the addition of two tanks, 11,500 and 350,000 gallon
Before 17 October 1989, the infrastructure was in very bad conditions. We had two inches water mains on some streets and if there were leaks, nearly the whole system would have to be shutdown to make the repairs. After the Loma Prieta Earthquake, our system was in a total shamble, we experience 2 to 3 leaks a day. The daily routine (post earthquake) was to drive around spotting the leaks and make a determination of which one could be fixed in house or which one needs an underground construction company to make the repairs. Well number 5, well number 6 and the booster pump was knockout of service, the redwood tank leaked and the attempt to repair the tank proved unsuccessfully as the tank was being filled with water on the 20th of December 1989, the Redwood tank collapsed. We then pumped into a close system that demanded 24/7 watched to maintain the PSI at a safe level. On March 19, 1990 Mr. Frances D. Grady passed away on the company ground while maintaining the PSI.