Visiting the Woodside Store is like being magically transported back to the mid-1800s, when people were flocking to California via horse and buggy to “strike it rich” during the Gold Rush. For a time, it was the only general store on the Peninsula between Mission Dolores in San Francisco and Santa Clara, making it the heart of the logging community. The Woodside Store still stands strong (very strong — it was built entirely out of redwood trees) at the corner of Kings Mountain and Tripp roads in the County of San Mateo. It is one of two historic sites within the San Mateo County Park system. The other is Sanchez Adobe.
This once-upon-a time general merchandising emporium sold clothes, liquor, wine, hardware supplies, food and medicine. It was home to the only U.S. Post Office in the redwoods and it also served as a bank, containing the only safe on the Peninsula. And to top it off, there was a dental chair in the Store, where lumberjacks could get painful teeth pulled. Today, this historic landmark serves as a museum. It is staffed by knowledgeable docents from the San Mateo County Historical Association who provide drop-in history lessons for visitors of all ages. You can also organize a school field trip by calling 650-851-7615.
Woodside Store is open to the public on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. You will find a small parking lot and restroom facility adjacent to the site. Admission and parking is free, but please note that the parking lot closes at 4 p.m. And definitely bring your camera as you step back — all the way back — in time to 1851!
Situated between two of the most popular parks in the San Mateo County Park system in which to hike, Wunderlich and Huddart, the Woodside Store is surrounded by magnificent redwood, oak and Douglas fir trees. Animals commonly spotted in this area include black-tailed deer, bobcats, brush rabbits, coyotes, western gray squirrels, opossums and raccoons. Birds to watch for include acorn woodpeckers, stellar jays, California quails, chestnut-backed chickadees, great horned owls, red tailed hawks and more.
During the California Gold Rush from 1848 to 1855, approximately 300,000 people flocked to the region in pursuit of gold. While they did not find gold on the Peninsula, they did discover another valuable material for gaining riches — redwood. This region featured (and still features) ample redwood trees, which were seen as dollar signs for shingle makers, sawmill men and lumberjacks supplying materials for the building boom in San Francisco. Between 1852 and 1860, five sawmills operated within the boundaries of what is today Huddart Park, just up Kings Mountain Road from the Woodside Store.
Two entrepreneurial men, Dr. Robert O. Tripp and Matthias Parkhurst, saw this as an opportunity to open a general store that would service all of the woodsmen and their families. They opened the Woodside Store in 1851, but had to rebuild after the original structure burned down. The building we see today was erected in 1854.
Over the years, the Woodside Store became quite the community gathering spot for activities. In addition to being a general store, hardware store, stagecoach stop, post office and bank, it also served as a dentist’s office, as Tripp was a dentist by trade. In fact, he was commonly referred to as “Doc”. While pulling a tooth could cost someone an ounce of gold (or $16) in San Francisco, Doc would do it for just $4. The Woodside Store also housed the initial 190-book collection of the Woodside Library Association which formed in 1858. And while not an official saloon, there was plenty of drinking in and around the Store. Doc Tripp built one of the Peninsula’s first wineries so the Woodside Store was well-stocked. This was the place to be in the 1850s.
Parkhurst died in 1863 and Tripp, as the sole proprietor of the Woodside Store, continued to operate it until his death in 1909.
Even though by this point, the Store was in poor condition, San Mateo County recognized its historical significance and purchased the Woodside Store in 1940. It became a State Registered Landmark in 1949. Almost half a million dollars was invested into the Store during the 1980s to restore it to its 1880s appearance. Ever since, visitors have been able to experience an accurate representation of what this important gathering spot was like nearly one and a half centuries ago.
If you visit the park on “Old Woodside Store Day,” which is the first Sunday of May, you can partake in hands-on activities from the 1800s like making shingles, using a two-man saw, twining rope, making rag dolls and more.