Millbrae ready to celebrate 60th anniversary

Costanoan Indians living off fish from San Francisco Bay, a Scottish entrepreneur named Mills purchasing his “brae” and a newspaper encouraging citizens to establish a city: Those tidbits, all part of Millbrae’s history, will be celebrated by the city Jan. 12, two days before its 60th anniversary.

When Scottish entrepreneur Darius Ogden Mills came to this area in 1849, he had $50 in his pocket. Mills opened banks and bought the 1,500 acres of land from Millbrae Avenue to Adeline Drive for $20 per acre.

Mills eventually sold Mills Field, a small airport, to the city of San Francisco for $1 million. That land is now San Francisco International Airport.

Millbrae Historical Society Curator Alma Massolo and President Mary Vella Treseler — also the city’s treasurer — put together the city’s full history and helped run its 50th anniversary commemoration.

According to the duo, Millbrae was known as “Alcohol Junction” for its illegal stills, which produced booze during Prohibition. It was also know for its clubs, bars and gambling before it became a city, they said.

The Millbrae Sun, which was eventually absorbed by what is now The Examiner’s Peninsula edition, urged the area’s residents to vote on incorporation. After a decade of debate, residents traveled to Sacramento and established a charter.

“At the time, there was also bickering over boundary lines between Millbrae and Burlingame,” Vella Treseler said.

The city that was largely founded through a train called the San Mateo Interurban Car will likely continue to grow through public transportation, Millbrae Train Museum Director Vernon Bruce said.

A BART extension to San Jose and high-speed rail from the Bay Area to Southern California could help the city expand, he said.

“There’s probably going to be too many people coming in the future,” Bruce said. “We might have a lot more higher buildings.”

The 60th anniversary celebration will feature an open house of city facilities in the morning, a celebration and a trivia contest in the recreation center in the afternoon, children’s activities and more, Recreation Services Manager Howard Kaplan said.

Facts about Millbrae

» The Costanoan Indians of the Ohlone Tribe were the first residents of Millbrae

» Its first known visitors were from the Spanish de Anza Expedition in 1776

» The Sixteen Mile House, now the name of a downtown restaurant, was built in 1856 and became a bordello

» Namesake Darius Ogden Mills’ 42-room mansion burned down in 1954

» Mills’ daughter, Elizabeth, opened Mills Hospital — now with campuses in Burlingame and San Mateo — in 1911

» The city’s oldest house is on 1 LewisAve.

» Millbrae grew during Prohibition when people came from throughout the Peninsula for its illegal distilleries.

» Mills Field — now SFO — developed after World War II.

Source: Millbrae Historical Society

mrosenberg@examiner.com

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