Los Gatos History
Here’s a fun bit of Los Gatos real estate history – pricing from yesteryear! The newspaper ad for Los Gatos homes for sale is enticing. One of them reads:
Rustic type of 5 rms.,
2 Brs., tub and shower bath,
fireplace, H.W. floors, 2 car
garage, lot 60 x 140.
Or check out the house on Englewood:
1 story, rambling type, 6
rms., 3 brs., H.W. floors,
fireplace, tiled baths, 2-car
attached garage, choice
Another one features a house on Almendra for $12 ,750 with “floor furn”, which appears to be “floor furnace” (from the “Must Sell” ad, which spelled it out). Makes me wonder what the alternative to floor furnace would be! Or a house on Massol, also a rustic type for $15,000. I love the description of the “Must Sell” home as “sturdily built” and, surprisingly, “complete, with all new furniture” – $12,700 and just $4,000 down.
Can you guess the year of this Los Gatos real estate advertisement?
Have a look at this and try to guess the year:
What year do you think this ad for Los Gatos homes for sale ran? The newspaper was called the Mail News and Star, by the way.
Keep reading to see the year…
Locals may remember that a few years back, there was a wonderful “Los Gatos History Walk” put on every year or so. Town residents would don garments from a bygone era and take on the persona of legendary Los Gatos figures for a few hours. Both fun and educational, it provided a sense of the town’s past – both the buildings and the people’s. It was absolutely wonderful while we had it.
Today, there’s an app for that! It’s called Discover LOST Gatos and as of this writing, there are 3 different tours:
- The Heart of Los Gatos (approximately a 35 minute walking tour with 12 stops)
- Los Gatos: The Gem City (a 45 minute walk with 12 stops
- The Cradle of Los Gatos (50 minute stroll with 13 stops)
The Mercury News did a nice article on this and will fill in the details on who’s behind this wonderful idea.
As for me, I just downloaded it to my phone and look forward to getting to know our beautiful town a little more. You can find it online wherever you get your phone’s apps – just search for LOST Gatos.
Perhaps you’ve driven over Highway 17 from Los Gatos to Santa Cruz and wondered about the large white building off to the left, perched on a knoll overlooking the valley and that same highway. That’s the Sacred Heart Jesuit Center, now a retirement home for Jesuit priests and brothers (members of the Society of Jesus) for the provinces of California, Oregon, and Washington. Many decades ago, it was the novitiate for the California province, meaning it’s where young men entered the order. Two of my uncles did just that. I am a fairly frequent visitor to this lovely place now, as one of my uncles has gone full circle and has retired where he first entered. Some of my old professors from Gonzaga University in Spokane are there, too, as well as Jesuits that I knew growing up in the area.
So today I wanted to share some photos with you, as many people living in Los Gatos would have no occasion to visit what my family still calls The Novitiate. However, Testarossa Winery is next door (at what used to be the Jesuit Winery), so many of my readers will have been close. Please enjoy the photos, which I took last Saturday while there to see my uncle.
When you think of prunes, you probably don’t stop to think about Saratoga’s history. Yet you may well know that Santa Clara County was once the prune capital of the world. And Santa Clara County’s prune epicenter was Saratoga.
My parents moved around a few times, and their last home, just off Sobey Road in Saratoga, was on 1.5 acres of prune and walnut land. (I have a vivid recollection of the malathion spraying and trimming needed on all those trees with the medfly invasion.) We loved the prunes and walnuts but never associated them with anything significant. However, these orchards, which we all know are shrinking, are a piece of our collective “living history” in the Valley of Heart’s Delight…now known as Silicon Valley.
Awhile back I did a little session on the history of fruit in the Los Gatos and Saratoga area – thought my readers might enjoy it too. Please naviage through the following slideshow manually – click on the dots below to move the images ahead (because some slides would be quick and others take a minute to read). Hope you enjoy it.
Los Gatos Fire Department History
Fire was a major danger in Los Gatos in the 1800s. Buildings were made of wood, including sidewalks (think boardwalk), and most appliances – light, heat, cooking – still used an open flame. Fire was a greater, more present danger than local wildlife (cougars and grizzlies). In its early years, the town relied on bucket brigades, finally graduating to two volunteer Hose Companies and a Hook and Ladder Company in around 1886. The Cold Spring Water Company of Los Gatos filed to incorporate in December 1890 with the stated purpose to “introduce water for domestic and fire purposes into the town of Los Gatos.”. In 1888 the town passed an ordinance to provide for the organization of a dedicated Fire Department, and perhaps just in time. A major cartridge fire in July of 1891 leveled many of the town’s businesses, and saw the shift of the business district from the east bank to the west bank of the Los Gatos Creek – and it has remained so to this day.
While many major fires destroyed homes, stores, hotels, and even an opera house, the worst is often said to be the 1901 fire.
Found this in my “Los Gatos History” file and thought my readers would enjoy seeing it. I’m sorry that I don’t recall who it was who so kindly put it into my hands.
This ad is proof of the wisdom in the adage “buy and hold!”
The very first subdivision or planned neighborhood in Los Gatos was along Broadway and nearby (Clifton Avenue, Browadway Extension and Wood Road). There had already been quite a few houses built at that time in Los Gatos, but none were planned areas per se. John Lyndon was the developer and he bought the land and created 48 parcels which were sold in 1881 – a good six years before the far larger Almond Grove district was created and 6 years before the town was incorporated, too. A few homes in this area may already have been present, though, and seem to predate the 1881 date.
No doubt, Mr. Lyndon’s real estate buying decision was at least partially influenced by the location of his Lyndon Hotel, a whose bar was a popular hangout for the likes of John Steinbeck and Charlie Chaplain, which was located at the corner of Santa Cruz Avenue and Broadway, and now is the Lyndon Plaza (since sadly the hotel was torn down in the 1960s).
What was once a fairly quiet end of town is today mostly in the heart of it. The area closest to the post office enjoys a wide road (if desperately in need of repair), a good variety of Victorian and mostly older, historic homes, and is very uniformly well kept. Because it is either “in town” or “close to town”, the road is lined with cars most days – perhaps also because these houses of course pre-dated garages.
Where is the Broadway Historic District in Los Gatos?
The Town of Los Gatos has a Historic Districts Map – have a look:
Broadway neighborhood of Los Gatos real estate information
The annual Los Gatos historic home tour returns to town the weekend of April 11th and 12th, 2015, and you can purchase tickets now or sign up to volunteer. Sponsored by the Museums of Los Gatos, now called NUMU, the annual event showcases beautiful houses in town, and this time around will include gardens, too.
The NUMU site offers this teaser: “The 2015 tour features four houses including a 1910 bungalow, 1905 craftsman, 1885 folk Victorian, 1904 Richardson Victorian and an acre-sized outdoor collection of household items, classic cars and farm tools that illustrate the architectural roots of Los Gatos.” Please visit the link below or click on the image at the right to get all of the details and to purchase your advance tickets (more costly if you wait to the day of the event).
If you drive through the Edelen, Almond Grove, Fairview Plaza, Glenridge and other older and historic Los Gatos nieghborhoods, you may have wondered how far back in time these architecturally interesting properties go. What are the oldest residences in town, or close by?
In the Santa Clara Valley, there are a few old adobe homes here and there, such as the Peralta Adobe in downtown San Jose (built in 1797), and the Santa Clara Women’s Club Adobe (built in 1790), and many more. In Los Gatos we don’t have any pre-1800 adobe homes to my knowledge.
Property records for LG indicate that there are a couple of homes dating from about 1840 or 1850, but a close look reveals that they have been extensively remodeled and look more like homes from 2005. Want something authentically historic and still looking the part? There are plenty, but they don’t date from quite so early. They are instead from the late 1870 or so at the earliest, generally.
Today I did a search of county real estate records for homes in Los Gatos (in town, 95030 & 95032 plus the mountains, 95033) and found hundreds of properties identified as pre-1900 construction. There were about about 400 in 95030, 120 in 95032, and also about 120 in 95033.
The majority of the older homes were said to be built in 1900. That figure is so high as to make me ponder whether that’s just an easy way of saying “really old” rather than the precise year of construction completion.
For all Los Gatos areas combined, there were about 65-67 homes that pre-date 1900. That’s a pretty good handful for the lover of historic properties to admire! If you enjoy seeing lovely older homes, especially Victorians, be sure to visit Los Gatos and drive through the historic districts and streets near downtown! Here are a few photos to urge you to have a look in person 🙂
While there are many neighborhoods with homes which qualify as historic, such as Glenridge, just five of these areas have the historic district designation: Almond Grove, University or Edelen, Fairview Plaza, the Broadway area, and Downtown.
The Town of Los Gatos has a wealth of information on the districts designated as historic and what qualifies them as such. For more information, have a look: