There are five historic districts within Los Gatos: Almond Grove, Broadway, Downtown, Fairview Plaza and University-Edelen. All located on the western side of highway 17, each played a pertinent role in the early development of the Town of Los Gatos. Each of these districts continue to embody the history, charm and desirability of which Los Gatos is known.
After the town of Los Gatos incorporated in 1887, Almond Grove was its inaugural and principal subdivision. The 40-acres of blossoming almond orchards was the final remaining land of the 162½ acres Mason Tract purchased in 1865 by John Mason.
Victorian architecture prevails in both ‘simple’ and remarkable residences found in this district. Both Colonial and Mission Revival design can also be found in this district. There are approximately 180 residences within Almond Grove, with 147 constructed prior to 1930.
The four primary purchasers and developers of Almond Grove were prominent figures in Los Gatos. Banker Alphonse Eli Wilder; capitalist Augustine Nicholson; Magnus Tait, a farmer and miner; and John Bean, an orchard farmer all have streets named in their honor.
Numerous contributors to Almond Grove lived in the development. Some of the notable homes include:
- 139 Wilder- Owned and built by L.E. Hamilton, secretary of the Odd Fellows and director of the 1889 Los Gatos Cemetery Association. Hamilton was hired as a carpenter by Sarah Winchester of the Winchester Mystery House.
- 231 Tait – the Magnus Tait home
- 129 Tait – Home of E.E. Place and birthplace of George Place, owner of Place Mortuary housed in the Coggeshall Mansion on North Santa Cruz Avenue, a Town historic landmark once the site of the Chart House restaurant.
- 354 Bachman – Home of George McMurty, who, during his youth, helped haul stones to build Forbes Mill Annex. McMurty later became the first treasurer of incorporated Los Gatos, a position he held for over 40 years.
- 200 Glen Ridge – Home of educator, Raymond J. Fisher. Fisher Middle School is named in his honor.
The first residential subdivision and the first residential street in the Town of Los Gatos, this 100-acre tract of land includes what is now the Broadway district. Purchased by Henry D. McCobb in 1863, who had designs on subdividing it into city lots to form a new city named Cobbsville.
Cobbsville never came to pass and, on September 24, 1881, the land was sold to John W. Lyndon, a vital figure in Los Gatos history. He subdivided the area into 48 lots, which he sold for $125 and up. Among the first to buy land in the Broadway district was William L. Lingley, a sailor from Maine. In September 1881, Lingley purchased the Lyndon “Subdivision A” for $600 in gold coins.
The first plotted street in Los Gatos, Broadway was opened on January 5, 1883, allowing access Lyndon’s subdivision. Preceding Broadway were infrequent homes and businesses such as Forbes Mill.
The Broadway subdivision includes just over 50 structures, most built before 1900. As with many of the other districts, Victorian, Craftsman/Bungalow and Colonial Revival architecture abound. Within the boundaries of Broadway can be found some of Los Gatos’ oldest and most distinctive structures.
Notable residences in Broadway:
- 45 Broadway – The Waterman House, Victorian Italianate style
- 55 Broadway – John W. Lyndon‘s Victorian mansion, later the Farwell house
- 89 Broadway – Neighbors claim the home was once rented by writer Jack London’s first wife.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Downtown Los Gatos includes areas located along North Santa Cruz Avenue and West Main Street. The hub of Los Gatos, it continues to provide a vibrant retail environment and is heart of many Town events, including the weekly Farmer’s Market, Holiday/Children’s Parade, Fiesta D’Artes, and the Plein Air art show.
The smallest of Los Gatos’ historical districts, Downtown comprises the Town’s only remaining historic commercial buildings, including its first commercial intersection and half of the 19th century commercial center. A wide variety of architectural styles such as Victorian, Queen Anne, Richardsonian Romanesque, Mission Revival and Art Deco, are represented in Downtown commercial structures. Many, the Los Gatos Theater to name but one, have undergone revitalization, especially after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake.
Notable buildings in Downtown:
- 15 University Avenue – Charles Warner River Rock Bungalow. The only home in the district, built in the 1920’s entirely of river rock found in Los Gatos Creek.
- 123-149 West Main Street – Known as the Montebello Building, this example of Mission Revival architecture is a crucial ‘visual anchor’ in Downtown.
- 1-17 North Santa Cruz – Hofstra Block (La Canada Building) was remodeled multiple times, including after the 1989 quake, but it’s fundamental originality has been preserved.
“Fairview Plaza”, which contains the landscaped Central Plaza Island, was the original moniker given to Pennsylvania Avenue’s cul-de-sac in the “Fairview Addition” subdivision.
Upwards of three quarters of the residences in this district were constructed before 1900 and still exemplify the character of the time. The narrow pedestrian path called “Turnstile Walk” is located at the eastern end of the cul-de-sac and connects the district with Downtown.
“Fairview Plaza” is a rare and unique neighborhood thanks to the authentic, beautifully-preserved Victorian and Craftsman residences, all of which are in close proximity with each other.
The University/Edelen area is tucked between highway 17 and east of North Santa Cruz Avenue. Its official borders are Saratoga Avenue, Main Street, Los Gatos Creek and Old Southern Pacific Railroad. These very defined boundaries create its distinction as a neighborhood.
Once part of the 162 ½-acre Mason Tract from which Almond Grove was also created, the land was subdivided In September 1880. These 5 parcels ranging from 6.75 acres to 10 acres were subdivided yet again and became the Miles / Edelen Subdivision (The Vineyard Lots), the Hagerty Subdivision, the Quick Subdivision, the Bentley/Pierce Subdivision and the English Subdivision, which created the lots forming the University / Edelen Area. Victorian architecture prevails here in both residential and commercial, with a smattering of Craftsman/Bungalow-style cottages and a few buildings in the Colonial Revival style.
Notable buildings in University-Edelen:
- 315 University Avenue – Harry Perrin home, also called the Honeymoon House.
- 50 University – Known as Old Town and currently the site of multiple retail stores as well as the Catamount (LINK: March 24 2017 Catamount blog post), these historic buildings housed the University Avenue School and Auditorium from 1881 to 1964.
- 130 Edelen – Miles House is a 2-story Queen Anne Victorian built in 1896. It has undergone numerous transitions over the years but today is a privately owned residence. Miles House, along with areas of Old Town, was used in the 1970 Orson Welles movie, The Toy Factory.”
The Town of Los Gatos is filled with charm and history, all of which is chronicled in its four significant districts. The variety of architectural styles, appealing avenues and historic allure of these five boroughs were the catalyst for all that makes Los Gatos one of the Silicon Valley’s most sought-after places to live.