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…)
An ad for the Oaks Sanitarium near Los Gatos placed in the California State Journal of Medicine’s 1918 edition.
A continuation from Los Gatos and the 1918-1920 Influenza Pandemic: Part 1.
Health Care Services
Today we think of Los Gatos as being a town with plenty of medical services and we’re very proud of the healing and life saving work that is done there, especially now. But at the start of the 1900s this was just a pretty, agricultural town.
Only after a 1905 British medical publication professed that Los Gatos, CA had one of the most healthful climates in the world did thing start to change, and eventually a hospital for tuberculosis, the Oaks Sanitarium, was built and advertised to meet growing needs.
There were very few doctors in town, so locals who fought severe cases of influenza during the pandemic likely went to the clinics in more populated areas like nearby San Jose. State documents show that additional nursing and medical services were supplied to San Jose and other Bay Area cities.
There were many brave individuals who generously gave their time and efforts to help those in need both during the war and the influenza pandemic which immediately followed. We have details on some of them because their stories had tragic endings and made the news.
“Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases,” states the graphic used in an informational article published across various newspapers in October 1918
Los Gatos Pandemic Then and Now
Today, Los Gatos is a bustling town of approximately 30,000 people with booming industry including high tech and an ever-expanding medical industry. We face a crisis locally and nationally, and do our part to help halt the progress of the COVID-19 pandemic by sheltering in place, working (or studying) from home, and supporting our essential workers.
The current pandemic has often been compared to the influenza of 1918 – 1920, but a lot has changed over the last 100 years. In 1920, Los Gatos’ total population was 2,317 (less than 10% of the current population) and it had only grown in size by about 85 people over the decade since the prior census! However small, this town has its own tales to tell, so I’ve dug up some history to present to you a retrospective on Los Gatos and the 1918-1920 Influenza pandemic.
Rolling back the clock, historic documents point to issues with masks and non compliance during the Spanish flu pandemic. Looking through 100+ year old Bay Area newspapers, you can review official city and county documents with numerous paragraphs lamenting the lack of progress on the “Joint Highway District”. In particular, there are gripes regarding the completion of a state highway between Santa Cruz and Los Gatos which some locals were banking their hopes on during the “disappointing experiences which this country passed through at the time” (Santa Cruz Evening News V 24 #113 Sept 13, 1919). Apparently, getting to the beach was a mood lifter then, too!
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.
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