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Our Town

A Brief History of Los Altos

The history of Los Altos began at an early time. The native Indians were here for thousands of years before the arrival of the Europeans. They are now referred to as the Ohlones, meaning "people of the west.”
In the 1800s, most of the acreage that is now Los Altos and Los Altos Hills was included in two Mexican land grants; namely, Rancho la Purissima Concepcion and Rancho San Antonio..


In the late 1800s, Mrs. Sarah Winchester, widow of the inventor of the Winchester rifle, owned the 100 acres that later became the townsite of Los Altos. The Peninsula Interurban Railway purchased her land in 1906. One year later the Southern Pacific Railroad bought the land for a right of way for their commuter trains to run from San Francisco through the west valley and to connect to a branch line from San Jose to Santa Cruz.
Paul Shoup, who later became SP president and is named the "father of Los Altos,” helped create the town when he and others formed the Altos Land Company. The Shoup family built several summer homes along University Avenue that are still there today. In January 2000, Paul Shoup was chosen by the Los Altos Town Crier as its “Los Altan of the Century.”
With the mild climate, the train for transportation and number of businesses starting to increase, families started locating here in increasing numbers.

Los Altans voted to incorporate in 1952 due to fear of intense development and the possible annexation of some lands by surrounding communities. Shortly thereafter in 1956, voters in Los Altos Hills approved their own incorporation to protect their one-acre zoning.

Today, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills serve as the hometowns to many of the high-tech executives working in Silicon Valley. The elements that blend together to make these communities so desirable are the schools, small-town atmosphere, climate, volunteerism, community spirit and safety, cultural happenings and family-oriented annual events such as the Kiwanis Pet Parade, Arts & Wine Festival, and the Festival of Lights Parade.

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