Landmark gatehouse earns second chance

The spot considered the first gated community in California was in shambles a year ago — uninhabitable and ready to be torn down by the town of Hillsborough unless $300,000 could be raised.

Lifelong resident Sally Meakin, 60, stepped into the movielike plot and raised the money in time for her favorite landmark to be saved. Now the town’s police station will have a part-time communications center; a backup command post at the site is in the works.

Officially called The Chateau but also referred to as the Carolands Chateau, the 77-year-old gatehouse at Ralston and Eucalyptus avenues was designated as a site to be torn down a few years ago. Meakin believed the gatehouse was a vital part of the community, though, and was determined to save it.

“To me, it would just be a lovely pause in the hectic part of the day just to see it,” Meakin said.

With about 6,000 cars driving by the gatehouse each day, it marks one of the busiest roadways in the town.

But raising the money proved overwhelming. The Meakins started a fundraising campaign in February by sending out mailers and posting banners. Meakin raised around $100,000 but was well short of her goal — until she received an e-mail from the daughter of a wealthy retired Hillsborough couple.

“The next thing we know, they wanted to pledge $300,000,” Meakin said.

With the gatehouse saved, residents wanted the private property used for public good. The Police Department stepped in and offered to take it over to post officers while providing a mini-station to aid in investigations and other police work.

After the entire structure is rebuilt, it will allow officers to be stationed near the North and Crocker schools. It will also host the town’s biggest annual event, the Concours d’elegance Italian car show, held each May.

Setting up shop inside a gatehouse built for a guard in 1930 should not faze the department, Capt. Mark O’Connor said.

“We can set up a command post in the trunk of a car, basically,” O’Connor said. The department will use Homeland Security grants to renovate the interior.

A retired Burlingame elementary school teacher, Meakin is just satisfied the place she used to walk by as a kid will remain intact.

“It may not be important to anyone else on the planet, but it’s important to me,” she said.

In its infant stages, the remodeling project will head to a town council for approval, which is likely to happensoon.

mrosenberg@examiner.com  

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