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There are three designated historic districts in San Mateo: two local districts - the commercial Downtown Historic District and the residential Glazenwood Historic District; and one National Register listed district - the Yoshiko Yamanouchi Historic District.

Downtown historic district

The Downtown Historic District is the heart of San Mateo.  Not only visually and architecturally, but historically - particularly in understanding San Mateo's development between 1890 and 1950.

Officially designated as a local district by the City in 1993, the Downtown Historic District is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The District retains a high degree of historical and architectural integrity.


The Downtown Historic District begins at Baldwin Avenue on the west side of South B Street and continues south on both sides of the street to Third Avenue.  Most structures along South B date from before 1900 to the late 1930s and display great diversity of architectural embellishment. Some of the buildings within the district are outstanding local examples of a particular period or style.


 Most Third Avenue buildings were built in the 1920s through the late 1930s, representing a variety of building styles and scale.  While most are one to two stories in height, the nine and one-half story Spanish Colonial Revival style Benjamin Franklin Hotel (now Draper University) and the five-story Art Deco Medical Arts building dominate the street.  


The block between El Camino and San Mateo Drive is a mix of Spanish Colonial Revival and Tudor Revival, somewhat reminiscent of a commercial street in an imaginary European village. 


The district also includes several structures individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places: the St. Matthews Hotel, circa1900, now affordable housing; the Greek Revival commercial building (originally the Bank of San Mateo) at 2nd and South B, designed in 1925 by W. H. Weeks; and the Spanish Colonial Revival Fire Station, the only remaining structure from the 1939 City Hall complex designed by William Toepke.


Of particular note is the Saint Matthew's Station Post Office at 210 South Ellsworth.  Built in 1935 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it is a fine example of the Mission Revival style of architecture. The design of the building, as well as the murals contained within it, are highly reflective of the early, Spanish-dominated history of the area. Additionally, they are representative of predominant California trends in federal art and architecture of the period in which they were produced.

Take a Downtown walking tour:

Virtual Downtown San Mateo Walking Tour

 Self-Guided Downtown Historic District Walking Tour


Glazenwood historic district

The Glazenwood Historic District, a neighborhood of single family homes within Hayward Park, was designated a local historic district by the city in the early 1990s and is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.  The District retains a high degree of integrity.


Glazenwood now occupies the site of the original Hayward mansion which was converted to the luxury Peninsula Hotel after Hayward’s death.  The Hotel burned down in 1920.


Between 1922 and 1925, the S. A. Born Building Company developed the property into an upscale residential area of Spanish Colonial Revival homes.  One distinguishing feature of the subdivision is its U-shaped design with the two curved streets of Laurel and Rosewood.  Curved streets were popular at the time, derived from the country lanes of England.


The District includes a majority of houses on the west side of Rosewood Drive, Laurel Avenue, the 100 block of Hayward Avenue and the east side of Palm Avenue between 9th and Hayward.  The boundaries are based on the original subdivision map as well as the visual coherence and age of the houses.


Perhaps the most striking visual feature of this neighborhood is the use of the Spanish Colonial Revival style architecture.  Many architectural historians note that this style became the favored style for coastal California in the 1920s.  In fact, if one architectural style were selected to characterize San Mateo’s historic building stock, the most likely choice would be the Spanish Colonial Revival.  One historian described the neighborhood this way, “Glazenwood epitomizes San Mateo’s hopes during the 1920s, as it formed itself into a community of ‘beautiful homes’.”


yoshiko yamanouchi historic district
California State Historical Resources Commission Collage_edited.jpg

Recently listed on the National Register of Historic places, the Yoshiko Yamanouchi House Historic District is located at the corner of Humbolt Street and East 5th Avenues.  The property is significant for it’s association with the Japanese-American community in the San Francisco Peninsula area during the post-World War II era. The property is also significant for it association with Yoshiko Yamanouchi, a member of the pioneer Issei generation in San Mateo, who was the owner of a successful business (the Blu White Laundry) and a leader in the Japanese American community and the local Buddhist church.


There are 3 major components: A Ranch Style House, the Katsura Villa (1957), a Japanese Style hill and pond Garden (1958) located in the south east corner of the property. The Katsura Building, Walkway, and Garden (1968) is on the north part of the property. The Katsura Building is a traditional Japanese style building that references features of the Katsura Imperial Villa in Kyoto, Japan, which is one of the world’s most recognizable and influential creations of traditional Japanese architecture and landscape.


Together the gardens and structures create an ensemble of designed landscape and architectural features whose character reflects both suburban residential design from the post-World II era and traditional Japanese-style architecture and garden design. The property retains a high degree of integrity.  Read about the Yoshiko Yamanouchi Historic District in the San Mateo Daily Journal.



"We regret much of what we've built; we regret much of what we've torn down.  But we've never regretted preserving anything." 

 - Daniel Sack, Campaign for Greater Buffalo

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