Art in Menlo
For those who have lived in Menlo Park over the past 50 years, Rachel Bentley is a well-known name. Born in 1894, a resident of Menlo Park since 1937, she had a very rich and full life until her passing in 1991.
After having devoted her life to home and family, Rachel at the age of 56 found a new talent painting watercolors. In the beginning she said, "I struggled. I wasn't any good." But she took her teacher's advice: art is one-tenth talent, and nine-tenths hard work and perseverance, and it worked. She prowled California back roads doing on-the-spot sketches and watercolors of rural schoolhouses, ghost towns, and churches that had been there since the 1800's and showing their age. She usually made a pencil sketch at each site with notes as to colors, then produced the painting in her home studio on Cotton Street. Normally she kept the originals and painted copies when requested. During one of her early shows at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, she met Susan Gale, Menlo Park’s librarian and first historian. Susan gave Rachel some photographs of early Menlo Park and commissioned her to paint the scenes. Eventually Rachel painted more than 50 early Menlo Park scenes, 25 of which Susan willed to the City.
Rachel’s interest was in bringing to life the vanishing rural past. Why the past? As Rachel said, "Like many people in this fast-moving and complex world, I feel a fond nostalgia for the things we're leaving behind forever."
Traces of the Early Dead
Menlo Park has seen the birth of high tech (e.g., Google) as well as artists. Of the latter, the Grateful Dead has had perhaps the greatest and longest impact. In the early 1960s, Gerry Garcia and Robert Hunter lived and practiced their music in a large rambling house at 2100 Santa Cruz Avenue (shown here) known as the Chateau (it was demolished about 2008). At first known as the Warlocks, they had gigs at Magoo’s Pizza Parlor on SCA downtown (now Harvest Furniture) and hung out at Kepler’s (when it was at 825 El Camino), Applewood Inn (now Mountain Mike's) and Guitars Unlimited next door.