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Guide to the Michael L. Belangie Papers
M0924  
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Collection Details
 
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Belangie, Michael L. Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1945-1980
    Collection number: M0924
    Creator: Belangie, Michael L.
    Extent: 9 linear ft.
    Repository: Stanford University. Libraries. Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information

    Access Restrictions

    None.

    Publication Rights

    Property rights reside with the repository. Literary rights reside with the creators of the documents or their heirs. To obtain permission to publish or reproduce, please contact the Public Services Librarian of the Dept. of Special Collections.

    Preferred Citation:

    Michael L. Belangie Papers. M0924. Dept. of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, Calif.

    Biography

    Born in Butte Montana, on June 29, 1907, Michael Louis Belangie was the eldest of three children. His father was of French-Canadian origin, and spent his working life as a miner. The tall, thin, dark, and conservative, "Mike," as he came to be known, typified the "American Dream," rising from humble origins to success, comfort, and recognition in the community in which he chose to make his home, Menlo Park, California.
    The young Belangie was a "go-getter" from the beginning. He graduated from Butte High School and went to work for the Montana Power Company as lineman, and later as hydroelectric station operator. Then he entered the University of Montana in Missoula. But after two years there, he left school. The Depression was sweeping the country. Belangie quickly landed a job as timekeeper and draughtsman for the U.S. Forest Service. This first taste of civil service started him on a career path that he followed for the rest of his life.
    From 1939 to 1943, Belangie worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, reaching the position of Regional Field Supervisor, working in the San Francisco office. His work lasted throughout the early critical years of World War II, when food rationing became a reality in the United States.
    Belangie volunteered for the U.S. Army in l943, and was assigned to the 115th Combat Engineers Battalion in the Pacific Theatre, seeing duty in the Philippines, New Guinea, New Britain, and the Admiralty Islands. As a tech sergeant, he helped to establish and administer Engineer Supply Depots, and supervised operation of supply lines to elements of the 40th Infantry Division in forward areas. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his Army service.
    Discharged from the Army in 1945, Belangie joined his wife of ten years , Mary (Maree), in San Francisco, California, and went to work briefly for the Federal Housing Administration.
    In late 1945 he purchased Menlo Textiles, a national purveyor of custom-loomed fabrics in Menlo Park, California, some thirty miles south of San Francisco. He and Mary moved to Menlo Park, where he operated the weaving company for the next l8 years. He was drawn to it, as he told a local newspaper, " because it was a creative enterprise-something I could do with my hands." Belangie's artistic streak extended to fabric designs as well as pen and ink landscape sketches.
    During his tenure at Menlo Textiles and his sideline enterprise of selling real estate, he frequently had a reason to call into Menlo City Hall, and he began to volunteer for various committees . Soon, Belangie was appointed to the Menlo Regional Planning Committee Executive Council, the City and County Parks Committee, and the Master Plan Revisions Committee. He also became a member of the Menlo Historical Society, was an early advocate of the Menlo Public Library, and was instrumental in forming Menlo Park's Arts Commission.
    His public service efforts led him to run for the Menlo Park City Council in 1950, an election that he won. He also became Mayor in 1954-55. In 1955, he resigned his Council seat owing to the press of business, but he was persuaded to join the Council again in 1957, when he was appointed to fill the vacancy left by the death of a councilman . Belangie remained a Councilman, being elected over and over again until l971, when he again resigned, this time to become Executive Vice President of the Menlo Park Chamber of Commerce.
    Belangie had a simple formula for public service: "With my fellow councilmen, I felt our first job, as representatives of the people, was to be responsible, and responsive, to furthering the amenities for living, working, and leisure." On the City Council he helped to design Menlo Park's innovative professional-administrative zoning policies, which enabled the city to expand commercial areas without eroding the city's basic residential character, policies that have been emulated by cities all over America. Another major contribution was his work to keep Stanford Research Institute (now SRI International) in Menlo Park.
    A lifelong golfer, Belangie also assisted in the design and planning of the Menlo Park Sharon Heights Golf and Country Club, and served a term as the Club's Executive Secretary and General Manager.
    But what he is remembered most fondly for is "the Fountain." The Fountain , a replica of a fountain in Rome called "Neptune's Family," had been cast in the 1860s to grace the grounds of Thurlow Lodge in Menlo Park, the home of W. E. Barron. It survived a destructive fire in 1872, when the home was owned by Milton Latham. Later , the property, including the mansion, gatehouse, and fountain, were purchased by Timothy Hopkins, nephew of Mark Hopkins. When Menlo Park moved its Administrative Complex onto this land in the late 1960s, two relics of its former grandeur remained: the gatehouse, and the broken and rusty fountain, greatly in need of restoration.
    The gatehouse was restored without much fuss, but Neptune's Family remained in ruins. Belangie, struck by its beauty, vowed to save it from the breakers and see it restored, and for a number of years it sat forlornly in his backyard. Finally, his efforts to persuade the City that the Fountain's historic value was such that the metal sculpture should be restored were successful. The sparkling fountain, with its plumbing repaired, and basking in a new coat of paint, was placed beneath an old oak tree near the gatehouse, and is still burbling away today (2000).
    Mike Belangie, however, did not live to see the Fountain restored. He died in 1974 at the age of 69. But ten years later, the Fountain's restoration was completed by the City, and in a ceremony held on July 4, 1984, its restoration was celebrated, with a plaque placed at the base of Neptune's Family, dedicating it to Mike Belangie.

    Scope and Content

    The Michael Louis (and Mary) Belangie Collection is extensive (9 linear feet). It is divided as follows: Boxes 1, 2, 8 (oversize), and 9 (oversize photo album) contain files pertaining principally to Belangie's personal life. Boxes 3 through 7 contain principally material that, although about the Belangies, represents "life as it was " in Menlo Park, California, 1945-1980. These files contain such material as costs of operating a household, automotive records and costs, appliance and other advertisements, insurance records, stock transactions and investments, medical records and costs, and yearly income taxes.