Timothy Hopkins (1859–1 January 1936) was the adopted son of Central Pacific Railroad co-owner Mark Hopkins' widow, Mary Hopkins, and friend of another co-owner Leland Stanford and his wife, Jane. He was one of the founders of Palo Alto and a trustee of Stanford University for over 50 years. His estate is now the site of the Menlo Park civic center.[1]

Timothy Hopkins
Timothy Nolan

1859 (1859)
Augusta, Maine
DiedJanuary 1, 1936(1936-01-01) (aged 76–77)

Timothy Hopkins was born Timothy Nolan in Augusta, Maine in 1859 to Irish immigrants, Patrick and Catherine Nolan. His father moved west to California and once established sent for his family; however, he drowned before they arrived. His mother went to work in the home of the childless Hopkins family who treated Timothy as the child they did not have. They intended to send him to Harvard but Mark Hopkins' death without a will in 1878 changed things. Timothy Hopkins took over much of the financial management of the estate and in 1879 was legally adopted by Mary Hopkins. He eventually became treasurer of the Southern Pacific Railroad successor of the Central Pacific.

Timothy Hopkins married Mary Kellogg Crittenden, a niece of Mary Hopkins, in 1882 and were given a 280 acre estate, Sherwood Hall, formerly the Thurlow estate, in Menlo Park (bounded by Ravenswood road, Middlefield road, San Francisquito Creek and the Caltrain railroad tracks); though they also lived in San Francisco.[2][3] Across the creek and a little way upstream was the country estate of Leland and Jane Stanford, the future site of Stanford University.

In 1884 Leland and Jane Stanford's only child, also Leland, died and in 1885 they named a board of trustees including Timothy Hopkins for their proposed university in memory of their son though the university was not to be opened until 1891. Hopkins was to serve as a trustee until his death in 1936 and was president of the Board of Trustees from 1908–1914.[4] Hopkins, with the Stanfords' support purchased land in what is now the area of Palo Alto around University avenue and in 1887 laid out the plans for a new town, initially called University Park; in 1892 that town became Palo Alto. Lots were sold but under a covenant that forbade the sale of alcoholic beverages and a railroad station was built to serve the new university (Mayfield, a community just to the south with an already existing station was well known for its drinking establishments and the Stanfords wanted a dry town associated with the university). The covenant lasted until 1970.[5]

In 1887 his adopted mother, Mary Hopkins, married her interior decorator, Edward Francis Searles, and when she died in 1891 her will explicitly disinherited Timothy Hopkins and left her fortune to her new husband. The will was challenged and though the husband eventually won, Timothy was given several million dollars.[6]

In 1892 Hopkins provided the funding to establish the Hopkins Seaside Laboratory on the Monterey Peninsula for the just opened Stanford University. It was moved a short distance and renamed the Hopkins Marine Station in 1917. He and his wife were also involved in the founding of the Stanford Home for Convalescent Children which is one of the forebearers of the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital.[1][7]

He died on New Years Day 1936 of pneumonia in Stanford Hospital, then located in San Francisco, and was buried on January 3 at Cypress Lawn Memorial Park.[8] Timothy Hopkins' will gave his widow a lifetime use of his estate and at her death in 1941 most of it went to Stanford University. They had one child, Lydia (1887–1965).[9]

Named for himEdit

  • Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove. Also the Hopkins Marine Life Refuge established by California in 1931 in the waters adjacent to the station.
  • Hopkins Creekside Park in Palo Alto which is a narrow strip of land along San Francisquito creek which Timothy Hopkins and his wife gave to Palo Alto for parkland in 1907.[10]


  1. ^ a b Staiger, Steve (28 April 1999). "Timothy Hopkins: The ironic journey of Palo Alto's founder". Palo Alto Online. Retrieved 15 August 2016.
  2. ^ "Thurlow Estate becomes Dibble General Hospital becomes SRI International". Menlo Park City School District.. The estate was established by William Eustace Barron and later owned by Milton Slocum Latham. It is now the site of SRI International and the Menlo Park Civic Center
  3. ^ Gulker, Linda Hubbard (16 October 2009). "Menlo's oldest mainstay: The Gatehouse". InMenlo. Retrieved 16 August 2016.. The gatehouse is the only remaining building from the estate.
  4. ^ "Guide to the Timothy Hopkins Papers". Online Archive of California. Retrieved 15 August 2016.
  5. ^ Simon, Mark (2002). "Our Town". Stanford Magazine (March/April).
  6. ^ Cross, John R. (1 December 2011). "Whispering Pines: Stranger Than Fiction? The Story of Searles Science Building". Bowdoin Daily Sun. Retrieved 16 August 2016.
  7. ^ Brandt, Michelle L. "Mommy, where do children's hospitals come from? The origins of Lucile Packard Children's Hospital". Stanford Medical Magazine. Retrieved 16 August 2016.
  8. ^ "Timothy Hopkins dies of pneumonia attack". Stanford Daily. 6 January 1936. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  9. ^ "Mrs. Timothy Hopkins dies in Menlo after Year's Illness". Stanford Daily. 100 (19). 16 October 1941. p. 1. Retrieved 16 August 2016.
  10. ^ "Hopkins Creekside Park". City of Palo Alto. Retrieved 15 August 2016.