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Stanford Lands

The Campus Plan

In 1876, Leland Stanford purchased 650 acres of what had been Rancho San Francisquito for a country home and began the development of his Palo Alto Stock Farm for trotting horses. In 1885, a year and a half after the death of their only child, Jane and Leland Stanford executed a deed of trust conveying the farm, along with several other parcels of land, to the trustees for the founding of the Leland Stanford Junior University. He later bought the adjoining properties totaling more than 8,000 acres. The size and varied topography of the 8,180 acres of foothills and plains that Stanford has today in the center of the San Francisco Peninsula provide a rare opportunity for comprehensive land use and resource management. About 60 percent of Stanford’s land today remains open.

The Stanfords traveled widely before founding Stanford and wanted the Main Quadrangle and the Palm Drive main entrance to reflect European Beaux Arts formalism. They engaged Frederick Law Olmsted, the foremost landscape architect of the time. The Stanfords’ collaboration with Olmsted and the architectural firm of Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge resulted in California Mission-inspired buildings of local sandstone with red-tiled roofs, surrounding a cloistered quadrangle with Memorial Church as its focus. The rectangular plan of the Main Quadrangle was designed to provide for expansion through a series of quadrangles developed laterally. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the Great Depression and World War II intervened. The university’s campus planning today, however, has returned to the original concept of quadrangles and connecting malls in its design.

Today’s Campus

Stanford University is located on 8,180 acres in the center of the San Francisco Peninsula. Stanford is a self-sustaining community featuring 49 miles of roads, two separate water systems, three dams, three open water reservoirs, 88 miles of water mains and a post office. Stanford’s Central Energy Facility utilizes heat recovery and thermal storage to maximize efficiency in the university’s heating and cooling systems. Stanford provides or contracts for its own fire, police and other services. Stanford owns 35 acres in Redwood City that will open as a campus of the university in 2019.

The main Stanford campus is located in six different governmental jurisdictions:

  • 4,017 acres in unincorporated Santa Clara
  • 2,701 acres in unincorporated San Mateo County
  • 1,161 acres in Palo Alto
  • 114 acres in Woodside
  • 111 acres in Menlo Park
  • 76 acres in Portola Valley

Sustainable Stanford

Stanford leads by example in working to reduce its environmental footprint and by engaging the campus community to save resources and contributing to a culture of conservation and innovation. For more information about Stanford’s sustainability efforts please visit