Only 43,000 call Campbell home but this city’s deep-rooted sense of community makes it a fantastic place for families of all sizes. More affordable than neighboring Los Gatos, Campbell offers exceptional schools and a variety of ways in which to live. From historical homes harkening back to the town’s fruit canning days to modern condos and townhomes mere minutes from downtown, whatever type of residence fits your lifestyle, it can be found in Campbell. Neighborhoods with a touch of that rural feel are a throwback to the city’s agricultural days while others offer expansive tree-lined streets and spacious, remodeled residences. Campbell residents enjoy a connectedness with neighbors and the community that truly makes living in the Orchard City absolutely priceless.
Homes in Campbell vary from historical to mixed-use development and its housing market, just like most other Silicon Valley cities, continues an upward path. Campbell is in close proximity to major commute corridors with a myriad of attractive neighborhoods, an astounding array of amenities including its lively Community Center and Heritage Theatre, and a more affordable median price point. In short, Campbell is an ideal place to live and play in the South Bay.
Once surrounded by orchards that fed its impressive fruit canning industry, Campbell has modernized and matured while retaining an attachment to its agricultural roots. Campbell is one of the very few Silicon Valley cities that isn’t anchored by a high tech tenant. But that is one of its greatest assets, offering a residential respite, a retreat from the hustle and bustle while still offering modern amenities galore. A town fueled by a tight-knit sense of community, Campbell has outstanding schools, award-winning festivals, a vibrant downtown, gorgeous parks, and an assortment of amazing shops, boutiques, multi-cultural restaurants, cafes, and an energetic nightlife scene.nd in a large city. With highly-rated schools, a year-long slate of community events and activities, excellent local dining, shopping, nightlife, parks and access to hiking and biking trails, Los Gatos offers a package that not even its biggest rivals atop the Silicon Valley housing market can match.
History of Campbell
Named after its founder, Benjamin Campbell, the city itself is set on the farmland Benjamin purchased in 1851. East Campbell Avenue, which runs through downtown, was once the driveway to the Campbell’s residence.
In 1846 at the age of twenty, Benjamin Campbell arrived in the Valley of Hearts Delight. He and his family were originally part of the ill-fated Donner party but decided to go their own way, splitting off from the group and making their way to California. Five years later, using money he’d saved from working at his father’s Saratoga Creek lumber mill, Benjamin bought 160-acres of land that had been used for cattle grazing by the Santa Clara Mission. The boundaries of this acreage were Winchester Avenue, Latimer, Sunnyside, and the Los Gatos Creek.
Originally planted with grain and hay, Benjamin and his wife, Mary, had the foresight to realize that all of the fledgling fruit orchards being planted would eventually result in a burgeoning canning economy. In 1876 they decided to subdivide their property, selling just over an acre of land to the South Pacific Coast Railroad for $5. The construction of the railway and telegraph station put The Orchard City on the map as a major fruit production and shipping center.
By 1887, this preliminary Campbell subdivision became a vital rail center for transporting dried and canned fruit across the nation. The Campbell Fruit Growers Union was formed, the cooperative that managed the world’s largest 17-acre drying yard. Adjacent to the railroad, the expansive yard was filled with 25,000 trays of fruit-laden trays during peak season, which were loaded onto rolling metal carts and pushed along the rails to the processing plants.
In 1886, Englishman and industrialist John Colpitts Ainsley settled in Campbell. A year later, he bought 7 ½ acres adjoining the town of Campbell and planted an orchard of fruit trees. In 1890, at 29 years of age, he started his first wash boiler cannery, canning 1,000 cases of fruit during his first year in business. Two years later, he built a cannery at Campbell and Harrison Avenues at the eastern entry to downtown. The cannery is long gone but in its place is Ainsley Park, named in his honor. In addition to the JC Ainsley Packing Company, there were two other prominent fruit processing facilities in Campbell, Payne Cannery and George E. Hyde & Company, owners of the drying yard.
A bustling and populated town thanks to its growing fruit industry, many of Campbell’s residents were flush with wealth. Its first financial institution, the Bank of Campbell, was established in 1895. Now the Farley Building, the original structure still stands at the corner of Campbell and Central Avenues, making it the oldest commercial building within the city’s borders. The town’s thriving business community was the catalyst for the creation of Campbell’s Board of Trade in 1898, ultimately becoming the Campbell Chamber of Commerce in 1925.
In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt paid a visit to Campbell at the urging of the town’s first high school principal, Professor J. Fred Smith. During his visit, President Roosevelt planted a redwood tree on the school grounds. The Sequoia stood proudly for over sixty years until 1964 when it was cut down to expand Winchester Boulevard. A portion of the tree was made into a bench that is housed at the Campbell Museum. Today, another redwood stands in the same spot at the corner of Winchester and Campbell Avenues at the former Campbell High School, which serves as the city’s Community Center.
In 1925, John Ainsley and his wife, Alcinda, built a stately traditional English thatched cottage on 83 acres of land at the crossroads of what are now Hamilton and Bascom Avenues. In 1990, the house was loaded onto a flatbed truck and relocated to Grant Street near downtown Campbell to make way for eBay and other commercial properties as well as for much-needed housing. The Ainsley House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. Docent-led tours of the home are available and every holiday season, the home is decorated and holds a formal afternoon tea.
Ahead of his time, Ainsley did much for his employees, including offering hot lunches for his workers, on-site Kindergarten for their children, and a nurse to provide first aid and medical assistance. In 1912, Ainsley bought more land to the east of the railroad tracks, constructing cottages for his workers to combat the housing shortage that occurred each year during the height of the fruit processing season.
By 1929, the JC Ainsley Packing Company employed 750 workers during peak season. The cannery produced 300,000 cases of fruit each year, the majority of was shipped to Ainsley’s native Britain.
In anticipation of a post-war demand for housing, in 1945 the Ainsley Company subdivided a significant portion of its land, designating it specifically for those who had fought in World War II. With surrounding cities beginning to encroach upon it, Campbell residents supported the idea of unification, and in 1952, the newly formed city of Campbell was officially incorporated. Within a short timeframe, it had blossomed from Mission grazing land to a town of 5,000 that was vital to the fruit growing and shipping industry.
Since the 1950s, Campbell has continued to grow, attracting residents looking for a vibrant, community-oriented city with a small-town vibe. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, local attorney and developer Fred Sahadi constructed the PruneYard Shopping Center on the site of the Brynteson Ranch, which he bought in 1968. The mixed-use development included numerous upscale shops, restaurants, an inn, and a movie theater. The three office towers are Campbell and South Bay landmarks, the highest being one of the tallest buildings in the region outside of San Jose.
Not long after the center was built, it became involved in a famous U.S. Supreme Court case PruneYard Shopping Center vs. Robins that established freedom of speech in California. The case involved a dispute between the PruneYard and group of local high school students who were attempting to get petitions signed at the Campbell shopping center. The petitioners prevailed and the case established two important regulations regarding constitutional law, including the ruling that individuals can exercise free speech in certain private areas of shopping malls if they are generally open to the public.
Another of Campbell’s iconic landmarks is its water tower. City founder Benjamin Campbell along with other locals established the Campbell Water Company in 1892, providing water to the town’s residents and businesses. Multiple wooden tanks and pump houses were built, with the first tank meeting its demise during the 1906 earthquake. The monthly water bill for a family of five in 1909 was $1. In 1928, the 75,000 steel tank was installed on a tower 130 feet above the city. In 1997 it was painted an apricot and plum color to signify the city’s fruit growing past and was repainted its original beige a decade later. In 1975, the Campbell Water Company merged with the San Jose Water Company but the water tower, which can bee seen from highway 17 and even by airplanes flying into san Jose, remains a beloved Campbell landmark.
Long gone are Campbell’s glory days of fruit orchards and canneries but its past and the pioneers that put this town on the map are not forgotten. Set in its charming and lively downtown are the Campbell Historic Museum, the Ainsley House, and numerous historic commercial buildings. Both downtown and the Pruneyard Shopping Center are favorite foodie destinations and the city’s weekly Farmer’s Market is a huge draw for people all across the South Bay. Today, Campbell residents enjoy a myriad of housing options set in serene subdivisions, many of which offer harbingers to the history and community of The Orchard City.