Cultural Center for Family Inheritance and Elite Education
To build the top brand for family educational steward
This museum, and the university that surrounds it, were born as a single idea in response to a tragedy that befell one of the nation’s most powerful, influential, and ambitious 19th-century families.
Leland Stanford and Jane Lathrop were both born near Albany, York when there were only 24 states in the union and the West was still settled by indigenous and Spanish populations. At a time of enormous growth for the young nation, the Stanfords met, married, and headed to Wisconsin, where Leland practiced law before moving west to California during the Gold Rush, joining his brothers as a merchant in the Sierra foothills. Prospering, and soon accompanied by Jane in Sacramento, he amassed a staggering fortune by organizing the construction of the transcontinental railroad and building its legendary and controversial monopolies on commerce and transportation. Leland Stanford became Governor of California in 1861 and a U.S. Senator in the 1880s.
As the stanford’s financial and political fortunes in California swelled, the couple lived more opulently, with mansions in Sacramento and on San Francisco’s Nob Hill, large of farmland and vineyards near Mission San Jose, oil a growing stock form that they named Palo Alto (Spanish for “tall tree”).
When Jane nearly forty-likely after several miscarriages-she gave birth to the coupler’s only child, Leland DeWitt Stanford in 1868. As he grew up, young Leland—claiming for himself the name Leland Stanford, Jr.-developed keen interests in boats, trains (his father's livelihood), ponies, traveling, and, above all, collecting things: especially artifacts of natural science and antiquities. His collection was displayed in their San Francisco home, an early iteration of what would become the university museum.
To encourage the boy’s education and collecting, the doting parents took Leland Jr. on lengthy journeys to the East Coast and to the capitals, museums, and archaeological sites of Europe. On one of these trips—in March 1884—Leland Jr. contracted typhoid fever and died in Italy. Grief –stricken, yet resolved to create something worthy of his memory, the Stanfords dedicated much of their remaining lives to building the university named in his memory and the museum that honored his passion. The horse farm that was once beneath this tile floor would prove the perfect setting.