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This archived information is dated to the 2008-09 academic year only and may no longer be current.

For currently applicable policies and information, see the current Stanford Bulletin.

Stanford Lands and Architecture

The campus occupies what was once Leland Stanford's Palo Alto Stock Farm and the favorite residence of the Stanford family. The Stanfords purchased an existing estate in 1876 and later acquired much of the land in the local watershed for their stock farm, orchards, and vineyards.

The name of the farm came from the tree El Palo Alto, a coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), that still stands near the northwest corner of the property on the edge of San Francisquito Creek. Many years ago, one of the winter floods that periodically rushed down the arroyo tore off one of its twin trunks, but half of the venerable old tree lives on, a gaunt and time-scarred monument. Named in 1769 by Spanish explorers, El Palo Alto has been the University's symbol and the centerpiece of its official seal.

The Stanfords gave their farm to the University in the Founding Grant of 1885. They personally financed the entire cost of the construction and operation of the University until 1903, when surviving founder Jane Stanford, who performed heroically in keeping the University functioning during difficult times following Leland Senior's death in 1893, turned over control to the Board of Trustees. The founding gift has been estimated at $25 million, not including the land and buildings.

The general concept for the University grounds and buildings was conceived by Frederick Law Olmsted, the designer of Central Park in New York. A brilliant young Boston architect, Charles Allerton Coolidge, further developed the concept in the style of his late mentor, Henry Hobson Richardson. The style, called Richardsonian Romanesque, is a blend of Romanesque and Mission Revival architecture. It is characterized by rectilinear sandstone buildings joined by covered arcades formed of successive half-circle arches, the latter supported by short columns with decorated capitals.

More than one hundred years later, the University still enjoys 8,180 acres (almost 13 square miles) of grassy fields, eucalyptus groves, and rolling hills that were the Stanfords' generous legacy, as well as the Quadrangle of "long corridors with their stately pillars" at the center of campus. It is still true, as the philosopher William James said, during his stint as a visiting professor, that the climate is "so friendly . . . that every morning wakes one fresh for new amounts of work."

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