The reverse side of the photomural, A Special Place, depicts portraits of key players in Edgewood’s human history. Visitors use hand-held earpieces to hear oral interviews with Henry Finkler (actor), George Taylor, and a representative of the Friends of Edgewood. Each one or two-minute story reveals the significance of the land to that particular group or occupant.The first recording is an enthused narration of the Finklers’ numerous civic responsibilities, passion for high wheel cycling competitions, and intense recording and analysis of weather statistics, which would lead to Redwood City’s chamber of commerce slogan, “Climate Best by Government Test.”
Francis “Butch” Taylor reminisces about his family growing up on the land that would become Edgewood County Park. He describes his father-in law, Benjamin Grant Taylor and his connection to the Finklers and the land. He reflects on his experiences raising a family and assorted pets at Edgewood, and life in general in rural San Mateo County in the mid 20th century.
The third narration is an overview of the waves of fights to save Edgewood from proposed development as a subdivision, state college, series of golf courses, playground for ORVs, and park that originally lacked full legal protection as a Natural Preserve.
The progression of color (sepia to black and white to full-color) provides a sense of time.
In this Exhibit
Although there is no direct evidence that native people lived in Edgewood, it is likely that the oak woodlands would have been attractive for acorn gathering and hunting. During Spanish administration of California, Edgewood was incorporated into Rancho de las Pulgas. By 1877, Maria Soledad de Arguello owned all land within Edgewood’s borders. Ranchers introduced non-native grass for cattle grazing.
In 1881, John Isaac bought the property that eventually became Edgewood Park. He was a native of England who immigrated to San Mateo County by way of Salt Lake City, Utah, and San Bernardino in southern California. He was employed in San Francisco as an examiner for the California Horticultural Commission. A newspaper article of the day indicates Isaac was instrumental in the large-scale propagation of a wasp that was parasitic to the Codling moth worms infesting the State’s apple crop. One of his legacies is a small book entitled Bug vs. Bug: Nature’s Method of Controlling Injurious Species. His wife, Edith, drew the colored illustrations.
The house that John Isaac built for his family began as the Monterey County Building at the California Midwinter International Exposition, held in Golden Gate Park during 1894. When the exposition closed, John Isaac acquired the building, dismantled it, and had the sections delivered to Redwood City via train.
Henry Finkler and his wife Aileen lived in the Isaac house in Edgewood Park. Henry Finkler was secretary to the State Supreme Court and was an enthusiastic big wheel bicycle rider and an avid weather watcher. Aileen was active in the Red Cross.
Benjamin Grant Taylor, who inherited the house from Henry Finkler, was a Clerk of the California State Supreme Court. His family moved into the house shortly after Finkler’s death in 1930, remaining until eminent domain was exercised in 1967.
The state of California acquired Edgewood Park by eminent domain in 1967. The original plan was to build Edgewood Hills State College. When this plan fell through, the next idea was to build a solar research project. In 1980, San Mateo County bought the property and planned to build a golf course. Meanwhile, poor perimeter fencing and signage led to abuse of the property.
Meanwhile, in the 1960s, Susan Sommers began documenting Edgewood’s remarkable plant diversity and rare species. She spoke to everyone about Edgewood’s plants; eventually, a coalition of over 40 groups and individuals joined the fight stop the golf course. In the 1980’s, the California Native Plant Society filed a suit to stop progress. In 1993, the County Board of Supervisors passed an amended Joint Powers Agreement with the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District to exclude development at Edgewood County Park and reaffirm the entire 467 acres as a Natural Preserve. The Friends of Edgewood organization was formed at this time.
The photo opposite shows, from left to right, Carolyn Curtis, Supervisor Ruben Barrales, Susan Sommers, and Supervisor Ted Lempert. Edgewood would not have been saved without the votes of these two supervisors.
Today, Edgewood is cared for by many groups including the County of San Mateo Department of Parks and Recreation; Friends of Edgewood; San Mateo County Parks and Recreation Foundation; Edgewood’s Trail Patrol, Weed Warriors, and Volunteer Horse Patrol; Eagle Scouts and local high schools; San Mateo County Horseman’s Association; and Sequoia Audubon Society. Each year, a “Best Friend of Edgewood” is honored, as part of this exhibit, for his or her tireless effort in improving Edgewood’s ecosystems, maintaining trails, and sharing this rare resource with the visiting public.