Once a flag stop for the Southern Pacific Railroad between San Francisco and San Jose, Atherton takes its name from Massachusetts trader Faxton Dean Atherton. Drawn to the area at the urging of a colleague who had written to him about the many opportunities here, Atherton purchased over 600 acres in 1860. Several years later, he built Valparaiso Park which was named for his Chilean bride, Dominiga de Goñi in Valparaíso.
In a Word
Unlike many of the Bay Area’s communities, Atherton’s population has remained stable over the past two decades — a trend that is expected to continue.
The traditionally residential flavor of Atherton is strictly protected by a land-use plan that prohibits commercial or industrial development. In fact, city planners and residents alike are attuned to the same overall mission: to preserve the advantages of a small atmosphere while in close proximity to all the cultural, recreational and economic opportunities afforded by the San Francisco Bay Area.
In 2014, Forbes Magazine ranked Atherton’s ZIP code as the most expensive in the nation.
Thanks to its abundance of native live and white oaks — as well as the bays, redwoods, cedars, pines, and other ornamental trees that cover its six square miles — Atherton was once known as Fair Oaks.
Located just north of renowned Stanford University, Atherton is home to a cosmopolitan population dominated by professionals and prominent figures in government, education, industry, sports, and the arts.