Obama Not Only President to Visit Redwood City

Back in the Great Depression, then President Herbert Hoover sought the advice of some Redwood City locals.

Redwood City is gearing up for a visit by a president who is facing mounting economic problems. Been there. Done that.

President Barack Obama will not be the only chief executive to spend some time in the San Mateo County seat at the on May 23. Herbert Hoover was here in 1932 when the economy was in the midst of the Great Depression.

The visit by Hoover was a well-kept secret – and still is, according to researchers at the archives room of the .

Shirley Schwoerer, a research volunteer at the library, said documents show Hoover was at the home of Sam Winklebleck, an executive with the Redwood City Tribune, sometime during the latter part of October or the early part of November 1932.

The information comes from the Schellens Collection, named for the late Richard Schellens, who collected such an astounding amount of information about the area that the Redwood City Tribune dubbed him an “Ace Historical Detective.”

“There was no local news items covering this event, understandably, under the circumstances,” Schellens wrote, apparently referring to the state of the economy, which gave birth to shantytowns the occupants called “Hoovervilles.”

The 31st  President sought Winklebleck’s advice on “strategic publicity,” he added. What Hoover learned from the newspaper executive is not known. There were 12 people at the dinner table, one of them Ray Spangler, a journalist then connected with the South San Francisco Enterprise.

The names of the others were “as yet not ascertained,” wrote Schellens, who added that three or more Secret Service agents were with Hoover.

The Winklebleck home was practically new when Hoover came. It made news when it was completed in early 1928. The home on Whipple was “striking in its exterior design,” the Tribune reported.

“Although of English architecture, the combination of one large chimney of field rock, the edging of the corners, the burnt rock trim of the windows” gives the outside “an Irish atmosphere,” gushed the unnamed news reporter.

Hoover, a Republican whose term ran from 1929 to 1933 when he was replaced by Franklin D. Roosevelt, was born in Ohio but had close ties to the Peninsula. In 1895 he was in the first graduating class at Stanford, leaving with degrees in geology and mining engineering. He also had a home in Palo Alto. Reminders of  his tenure include Hoover Tower at his alma mater as well as in Redwood City.

Hoover also visited Redwood City in 1928, apparently when he was president-elect, having defeated Democrat Al Smith. One report claimed Hoover stayed at the Sequoia Hotel on Broadway and took part in the . The hotel, now well beyond its glory days, opened in 1912 and cost more than $100,000 – quite a sum at that time.

A search of local newspapers failed to verify that there was even a Fourth of July Parade in Redwood City in 1928.

Besides, Hoover was the GOP nominee in July 1928. He was elected in November and was inaugurated in March of 1929.

According to the book, “Redwood City” A Hometown History,” the Redwood City Council sponsored a special parade so local residents could get a glimpse of Hoover.

Just what date that took place has not been determined, but it was certainly “after his election, but before his inauguration.”

Hoover might have stayed at the Sequoia at that time.


Follow us on Twitter | Like us on Facebook | Sign up for our daily newsletter | Blog for us

Sam Winklebleck May 22, 2012 at 08:10 PM
I was there. My father, Sam Winklebleck (correct spelling), was publisher of the Redwood City Tribune and hosted President Hoover at our house on Whipple Avenue. I think the year was probably 1933 or 1934, after Hoover had left office, rather than 1932. I was three or four years old when introduced to the ex-President. Family legend has it that my mother broke a leg of the dining-room table while dusting the chandelier above it. A hasty repair was made but there was great fear that Hoover (who was rather portly) might lean too heavily on the table and send the dinner crashing to the floor. Winklebleck Street was named for my father after his death in 1942. The original Tribune building stood at the corner of what was then Perry Street and California Street. Thanks for the item.
Stacie Chan May 22, 2012 at 10:17 PM
Thank you Sam for that wonderful anecdote and some insight into your family home on that day! And we have corrected the spelling of your family's name (apologies!)
Pat Cereghino May 23, 2012 at 03:29 PM
Thanks for the article! Always enjoy reading about RWC's history!
Jim Clifford May 29, 2012 at 04:56 PM
The Hoover Library says the visit was in 1936 when he was former president. looks as if he was testing the waters for a possible second run for the White House. Sent names of those at dinner. Will be good follow story. Stay tuned.
john meracle April 15, 2013 at 12:33 AM
obama in redwood city? what a joke he looking for more hispanic support


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »