Timothy Nolan Hopkins

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Timothy Nolan Hopkins

Birthplace: Hallowell, Kennebec County, Maine
Death: January 01, 1936 (76)
San Francisco, San Francisco County, California (Pneumonia )
Place of Burial: Colma, San Mateo County, California
Immediate Family:

Biological son of Patrick Nolan and Catherine Marston
Adopted son of Mark Hopkins, Jr. and Mary Frances Hopkins
Husband of Mary Kellogg Hopkins
Brother of Thomas Nolan and Margaret Nolan
Half brother of Frances Collins; Henry Frances Marston, Jr; Nellie Nelk and John Joseph Marston

Occupation: Businessman and Philanthropist
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Timothy Nolan Hopkins

Timothy Nolan Hopkins (1860-1936) was a financier and philanthropist. He was born Timothy Nolan in Maine in 1859. When his father died, he was raised by two aunts, and ultimately came to live with Mark Hopkins and his wife in San Francisco. After Hopkins died, his wife adopted Timothy Nolan.

The name of Mark Hopkins (1814 -1878) is known today chiefly because of the posh hotel on Nob Hill in San Francisco that bears his name. His connection with the hotel is tenuous, however, in that he donated the property on which it has been located for the building of a museum. Neither Hopkins nor his estate have had any connection with the property since that time.

An astute businessman, Mark Hopkins looked upon the California Gold Rush in 1849 originally for its mining opportunities, but quickly determined that selling supplies to miners would be more profitable. He and Collis Huntington opened an iron and hardware store in 1854 in Sacramento, where the two began networking with political figures of the day, including Leland Stanford, Charles Crocker, and Theodore Judah. When Judah devised a plan for a transcontinental railroad, Hopkins, Stanford, Crocker, and Huntington formed the Central Pacific Railroad (1861) to build it.


Hopkins served as treasurer, and oversaw the completion of the railroad linking East and West at Promontory, Utah in 1869. An interesting book on the subject of the “Big Four” is Stephen Ambrose’s “Nothing Like It in the World: The Men Who Built Transcontinental Railroad”, Simon and Shuster, 2000.

From the start, Timothy was treated as a full member of the family of the childless Hopkins. The death of his foster father in 1878 prevented his going to college. Instead, at the age of nineteen he was given important responsibilities in managing the family's financial affairs. In 1879, Mrs. Mark Hopkins formally adopted Timothy.

Mary Kellogg Crittenden of St. Louis, who came to San Francisco in 1875 to live with her mother's sister, Mrs. Mark Hopkins. In 1882, she and Timothy Hopkins were married. Timothy and Mary lived in San Francisco during winters and summered in Menlo Park at their 400-acre estate, located where the Menlo Park Civic Center now stands.

Timothy became a protégé of Senator Leland Stanford, who have been business partners with Mark Hopkins. Hopkins became Treasurer of the Central Pacific Railroad and Director of the Southern Pacific Railroad and the Wells Fargo Bank. He also was on the first Board of Directors of Cypress Lawn Cemetery in Colma, California, which received over thirty-five thousand remains from Laurel Hill Cemetery in San Francisco after the Board of Supervisors voted in 1900 to remove most of the existing cemeteries from that city.

Stanford urged that Hopkins take an option on 697 acres of land with the purpose of developing it for a town to serve Stanford University. He was on the verge of dropping the option when Senator Stanford personally endorsed a $60,000 note for him and the purchase went through in 1887. He founded the town originally known as University Park. In 1892, the town was renamed Palo Alto.

Timothy Hopkins served as a Stanford University trustee for fifty-one years, donated his private collection of books to the University Library, established the Hopkins Marine station in Pacific Grove (1872), later giving it to Stanford University. He and his wife organized and helped fund the Stanford Home for Convalescent Children. At his death from pneumonia at age seventy-five on January 1, 1936, he was the last survivor from the original University Board of Trustees. He was survived by a daughter, Lydia.

Timothy Hopkins: The ironic journey of Palo Alto's founder

Son of a servant wound up inheriting wealth of railroad magnate==

by Steve Staiger (written in 1999)

The life of Timothy Hopkins, Palo Alto's founder and a major early supporter of Stanford University, is a fascinating story of a man whose inherited wealth and second-hand name enabled him to make contributions to our communities that are still visible today.

Born in 1859, Hopkins was the son of Patrick and Caroline Nolan, Irish immigrants who had settled in Maine. Three years after Timothy's birth, his father came to California, lured by the gold fields. Finding some success, he sent for his family, but he accidentally drowned before they arrived in San Francisco.

The widow and her young son traveled to Sacramento, where she found work in the home of railroad magnate Mark Hopkins and his wife. The young Timothy was treated as a member of the family by the childless Hopkins couple. Growing up in Sacramento, Timothy was familiar with Hopkins' neighbor and business partner, Leland and Jane Stanford.

Mark Hopkins' death in 1878 changed the life of the young man. His plans for attending Harvard were cancelled, and he began an active role in managing the Hopkins' financial affairs. Although there were promises and assumptions on both sides that Timothy would share in the estate of his 'adopted' father, Mark Hopkins, legally he had never been adopted. Court proceedings were quickly settled, and Mrs. Mark Hopkins formally adopted him in 1879.

Timothy Hopkins was an officer of the Central Pacific and later Southern Pacific railroads, eventually becoming treasurer. In 1882, he married the niece of his adopted mother, Mary Kellogg Crittenden. Their wedding gift from Mrs. Mark Hopkins was Sherwood Hall, a large estate in Menlo Park centered on what is now the city's Civic Center. The estate stretched from San Francisquito Creek to Ravenswood Avenue.

One of his business interests was a nursery on his Menlo Park estate, where he grew acres of violets and chrysanthemums for the fresh-flower trade in San Francisco. He and his wife continued to live in San Francisco most of the year, spending the summers in the large mansion on their Menlo Park estate. He became close friends of the Stanfords, who also lived in San Francisco and summered at their nearby estate on propertly located near what is now the Stanford Shopping Center.

In 1885, Hopkins was appointed a trustee for the newly created Stanford University, a position he would hold until his death. Whether it was due to his position as a trustee of the new university or because of his summer residence nearby, Hopkins, with the Stanfords' support, purchased the land that would become Palo Alto. The new town was laid out in 1887 and named University Park. The name Palo Alto was not adopted until 1892.

Many of the original streets in the town were named by Hopkins. The literary origins of most of the names is obvious. Kellogg Avenue, by contrast, was named for his wife's family and Alma Street for a family friend.

Hopkins sold lots in the new town as quickly as possible. He donated several corner lots to congregations ready to build churches. In 1907, Hopkins and his wife gave a strip of land along San Francisquito Creek to the board of trustees of the town of Palo Alto for use as a park. The town named the new park for its donor. In 1922, he sold the last remaining lots to Norwood Smith and William Cranston.

In the early 1890s, Hopkins resigned his railroad positions and devoted his time to other business interests and to the young university. He became a major supporter of the university, especially in the years after Leland Stanford's death, when funds were scarce. He provided the money for the establishment of the Hopkins Seaside Laboratory on Monterey Bay in 1892.

Hopkins' gift of his collection of railroad-related material formed the basis of the school's Hopkins Railway Library. For several years, he paid the salary of a cataloger for the collection. The collection remained a separate entity within the university library until 1952, when it was combined into the main collection.

The 1906 earthquake was a financial disaster for Hopkins. Much of his income-producing properties in San Francisco were destroyed in the ensuing fire, thus limiting his ability to support the university as in prior years. In addition, his Menlo Park summer home suffered such damage that it was never occupied again. He moved his summer residence to the estate's Gate House, which still stands on Ravenswood Avenue.

Hopkins' financial situation recovered and his support of Stanford University continued. He managed the funding for the Lane Medical Library at the Stanford Medical School, which was then in San Francisco. He and his wife helped organize the Stanford Home for Convalescent Children in the former Stanford family summer home on campus.

Hopkins continued his support of the university he loved until he died on Jan. 1, 1936. His will provided lifetime support for his widow, with the provision for most of his estate going to Stanford University upon her death. The will also passed to the university the right to enforce a deed restriction for all property in the original universtiy park that barred the sale of liquor.

After Mary Kellogg Hopkins' death in 1941, a large auction was held to sell off the contents of the old Hopkins summer home. While local bidders purchased various items, the bulk of the items as well as the building itself was bought by Universal Pictures in Hollywood. The furniture was used by the studio as movie props. The building was dismantled, and the wood was used to build film sets at a time when wood was scarce because of rationing during World War II.

From his humble beginnings, Timothy Hopkins' life was full of accomplishments, the highlight being more than 50 years of service to Stanford University. Palo Altans can remember him as the founder of their town, and residents of Menlo Park can sense his presence as they visit their Civic Center, the site of his former home.

Timothy's biological parents were Patrick Nolan and Catherine Fallon.

Businessman and Philanthropist. Born Timothy Nolan, his father drowned in California when Timothy was only three years old. His widowed mother, having no where else to go, took a job as a servant for railroad tycoon Mark Hopkins. Mark and his wife Mary soon fell in love with Timothy and in 1879, one year after Mark Hopkins' death, Mary formally adopted him. Soon after, Timothy went into the railroad industry and by 1883, he became treasurer of the Central Pacific Railroad. In 1885, Hopkins was appointed as a trustee of the new Stanford University, a post he would hold until his death. In 1887, Hopkins purchased some land nearby the university and established a town which he first called University Park, but was later renamed Palo Alto in 1892.

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Timothy Nolan Hopkins's Timeline

March 2, 1859
Hallowell, Kennebec County, Maine
January 1, 1936
Age 76
San Francisco, San Francisco County, California
Colma, San Mateo County, California