Cat’s Hill Classic is back!
If you took Driver’s Ed in Saratoga or Los Gatos, you were probably made to park on the steepest hill around – Nicholson Avenue with its 23 degree grade. Positively frightening! But local bicycle enthusiasts take on Nicholson not with motor vehicles, but on their bikes in a race that has become a Los Gatos classic – the Cat’s Hill Classic bicycle race, which runs through the Almond Grove, Glenridge and Bachman Park neighborhoods of Los Gatos Saturday, March 25, 2023. There’s even a kid set too.
Please get the full scoop here on the organization’s website.
If you drive through the Edelen, Almond Grove, Fairview Plaza, Glenridge and other older and historic Los Gatos neighborhoods, you may have wondered how far back in time these architecturally interesting properties go. What are the oldest residences in town, or close by?
Los Gatos Historic Homes
Are there Adobes?
In the Santa Clara Valley, there are a handful of 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. I can’t say for certain if there are any remaining 18th-19th century adobe homes in Los Gatos. If they exist the most probable properties are around the Los Gatos Saratoga border, are private, occupied homes, and have extensive additions and modifications.
Victorian Era: Gold Rush to Gem of the Foothills
When discussing historic homes in the Bay Area, the Victorian undoubtedly comes to mind. And Los Gatos has plenty! A search of county real estate records for Los Gatos homes (in town, 95030 & 95032 plus the mountains, 95033) spanning the era from 1837-1901 revealed hundreds of properties identified as Victorian construction. It displayed about about 375 in 95030, 120 in 95032, and also about 140 in 95033. (more…)
The Town of Los Gatos is home to many lovely neighborhoods with historic homes (Broadway Area Historic District, Fairview Plaza and others), but perhaps none is so quaint or popular as the Almond Grove neighborhood. (See video drive through this neighborhood near the bottom of this article.)
Location, location, location: the Almond Grove’s got it
The location itself could be very compelling alone as the Almond Grove neighborhood is as much “in town” as “walk to town” with so many activities and opportunities happening along North Santa Cruz Avenue, Main Street and University Avenue – all a stone’s throw away. Quite vibrant, downtown Los Gatos enjoys an inordinate amount of restaurants, shops, coffee houses, bars, places to dine , taste wine, stroll or take in a film. It’s also home to free musical concerts in the summer, a parade in December, a gorgeous new public library, a Farmer’s Market every weekend and many other events year round. Finally, the Almond Grove is set near two parks, Bachman Park and the Los Gatos Town Plaza, so there’s a good amount of open space nearby too. There’s something for everyone!
Traditionally designed neighborhood with good community results
The allure of the Almond Grove is more than convenience, though. There’s an old time friendliness that seems to come with the big, welcoming front porches on so many of the older houses. Dwellings are also set closer together than one might find in suburbia, too. Rather than live so much in the privacy of the backyard, there’s an invitation implicit with this combination of close neighbors and a front porch that seems to underscore that residents are part of the neighborhood community and a bit less secluded.
The Almond Grove displays that sense of community from October to January especially, when it steps out as the best decorated corner of Los Gatos with a huge percentage of participation in the effort. Halloween is a great example. People’s enthusiasm is evident in by the beginning of October as props come out for the spookiest day of the year. Sometimes even in September, “Land of the Giant” sized spiders begin to appear, life-sized ghosts start to swing from porches and trees, the normally tidy and trim picket fences become smudged with spider webs, and every manner of Halloween decor drapes the district. On Halloween night, the Almond Grove district becomes positively overrun with enthusiastic kids from all over Los Gatos. I’ve been told that some homes get as many as 1,000 trick-or-treaters on Halloween night there. (more…)
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:
The 5 Official Town of Los Gatos Historic Districts
July 15, 2010
The historic Almond Grove District of downtown Los Gatos is home to a great number of historic homes, many of them Victorian in age and styling.
The other day, we drove past a property in which an attempt was being made to preserve a portion of the original structure – the front exterior wall and a back exterior wall. Aside from these, only the dirt appeared to be original. The foundation, roof, chimney, porch, interior walls, windows – all gone.
I’m certain that the historic preservation is the motive. But are we kidding ourselves to think that this kind of “remodel” preserves enough of the original structure to warrant calling it a remodel? Or is this just a farce? Perhaps some elements, like interior doors and old glass, are in storage somewhere and will make a reappearance down the road. Even so, if that happens, is it enough?
Here’s a view of the lot with the front remanent of the house showing. Please note: there’s no foundation (let alone any floors, windows or doors).
A closer, angled view reveals that there’s little behind this front wall and posts which at one time supported a roof over a front porch.
In addition to the front wall, a back wall is also left standing, supported by posts to stay erect. Other than these two walls, there’s little else to the lot but dirt.
And yet this is probably going to be considered a remodel for historic purposes. Is remodeling just a matter of interpretation, of hermeneutics? if so, I think we are stretching things too far. I hope I’m wrong about this. I don’t attend town council meetings, so perhaps this has been bantered around and there’s more to it than meets the eye – literally.
But even so, I have to ask:
Los Gatos, is this what we want to see happen to our historic homes?