From its early beginnings as Ohlone land to the site of one of California’s twenty-one missions, from agriculture and manufacturing to the high tech industry of today, Santa Clara has morphed itself many times. This trend continues as the city strives toward revitalizing its downtown and shopping plazas while creating unique housing and mixed use developments. Just shy of nineteen square miles, approximately 127,000 people reside within the city’s borders. A cocktail of urban meets suburban, Santa Clara is comprised of quiet, welcoming boroughs juxtaposed by its status as a high tech headquarters, as well as home to state-of-the-art Levi Stadium and The 49ers football team. The 13th best city for young professionals and the 15th healthiest city in the nation, living in Santa Clara has much to offer including reasonable commutes to local businesses, fantastic public schools, an assortment of entertainment options, a storied history, and a variety of housing options. A quiet Silicon Valley escape set in the heart of the Valley, Santa Clara is a delightful place to live, work, and play.
A compilation of urban and suburban with a dash of innovation, Santa Clara has a lot going for it, including its diversity of residential options. Single-family homes in a variety of architectural styles as well as townhomes and condos are plentiful. The city is also home to the Bay Area’s first significant “Agrihood”, a farm-centered community near Westfield Valley Fair that will include 361 homes and a 1.7-acre parcel of communal farmland. These agriculturally-based communities are part of a nationwide trend that’s especially popular with Millennials in which new housing developments provide an urban farm, giving residents the opportunities to work in the fields and enjoy unlimited fresh produce. High tech giants the likes of Intel, Applied Materials, and NVidia are headquartered here, making Santa Clara a top choice for young professionals while its highly ranked public schools, multitude of parks and outdoor recreation, and quiet neighborhoods appeal to families.
The Mission of Santa Clara de Asis was the seed from which the city took root. Today, innovation, technology, and entertainment are its underpinnings. Locals from all over the Bay Area come to Santa Clara for world-class shopping and dining at Westfield Valley Fair and to attend concerts and sporting events at Levi’s Stadium. A massive revitalization effort is underway for the city’s downtown and various shopping plazas, which will only augment its Silicon Valley status as a shopping and dining mecca. One of the healthiest cities in the country, Santa Clara offers its residents the best of everything, all within its lushly landscaped borders.
History of Santa Clara
In 1769, when European Jose Francisco Ortega came to what would become Santa Clara, he found the land inhabited by the Ohlone Indians. Spain was in the throes if colonizing California by building twenty-one missions that were dotted along 600 miles of the California coast. Franciscan priests chose the valley Ortega had discovered and established their eighth mission, Mission Santa Clara de Asis, which was founded on January 12, 1777.
In 1821, Mexico gained its independence from Spain and by 1836, Mission Santa Clara was controlled by civil commissioners whose duty it was to administer the “return of the land to the native population.” Three years later, the Mexican governor commenced issuing expansive land grants to a few of remaining Ohlone Indians whom he favored. Many of the new landowners use their ranchos for grazing cattle.
The American frontier had worked its way westward to California in the 1840s and the land that once belonged to Mexico became the 31st state in the union. An influx of new settlers headed west, many drawn to California by the Gold Rush of 1849 and the promise of incredible wealth. When this failed to materialize, many of the 49ers recognized a new possibility of agricultural wealth offered by the fertile Santa Clara Valley.
In the 1850s as more gold seekers settled in the area, the town of Santa Clara began to take shape. The town site was surveyed and divided into 100-yard-square lots. One parcel was given to each citizen with the caveat that, to retain ownership, a house must be built on it within ninety days. An additional twenty-three houses were brought over from Boston and set up in the fledgling town. Around the same time, Santa Clara began to cultivate its commercial center, constructing hotels, a schoolhouse, church, and mercantile businesses.
A college (now the acclaimed Santa Clara University) was established on the site of Mission Santa Clara in 1851. Named in honor of the Mission, Santa Clara College became a prominent landmark of the developing municipality. Santa Clara officially incorporated as a town on July 5, 1852, becoming a state-chartered city ten years later. By the early 1960s, Santa Clara stretched two miles long and one and a half miles wide. On the outskirts of its borders were numerous family farms and orchards.
The economy of the Mission City was based primarily in agriculture and manufacturing. Wampach Tannery, established in 1849, was one of the city’s first businesses. In 1866, it changed hands, bought by capitalist Jacob Eberhard. In addition to providing employment, Eberhard Tannery produced high quality leather products that were in demand across the nation and as far away as Europe. The facility was demolished in 1953.
Another prominent Santa Clara business was Pacific Manufacturing Company. Established in 1874, they were a significant producer of lumber, millwork, sashes, doors, moldings, and trim work in addition to coffins and caskets. It remained the principal supplier of wood products on the Pacific Coast until it closed its doors in 1960.
Flower and vegetable seed farms flourished, blanketing the land in and around Santa Clara. J. M. Kimberlin and Company was Santa Clara’s first seed business. Established in 1875, Kimberlin eventually became the largest seed grower on the Pacific Coast. Following suit after the closure of J.M. Kimberlin, C. C. Morse and Company ultimately became the largest global seed producer. Their main warehouse was located near the railroad station and during peak harvest, employed about 500 people.
Fruit was another economic driver in Santa Clara, employing hundreds of women and men to handle, sort, and can the fruit that came from orchards all around the Santa Clara Valley. Established in 1905, Pratt-Low Preserving Company shipped canned plums, cherries, apricots, peaches, and pears throughout the United States, England, and Asia.
In 1900, the California Cured Fruit Association was instituted with the mission of overseeing the distribution of dried fruit produced in the area. In 1901, the Association built an expansive dried fruit warehouse near Santa Clara’s railroad station, in close proximity to C.C. Morse & Co. After only three years, the Cured Fruit Association disbanded. Its warehouse was revitalized in 1916 when Rosenberg Brothers used the space for its fruit drying facility.
Drawn by its climate and employment opportunities, more and more people were attracted to Santa Clara. By 1906, the population was approaching 5,000, where it remained until after World War II. As the need for housing increased, the city outgrew its borders. The farms and orchards to the north and west were developed to accommodate the expanding post-war population.
With the 20th century came a new type of commerce to the city of Santa Clara. Created in the 1950’s, the semiconductor chip and the electronics industry designed around it swallowed the residual orchard land. By 1990, Santa Clara was 19.3 square miles and had a population of over 93,000. Once set in the heart of orchards and agriculture, Santa Clara was now at the heart of Silicon Valley.
Today, very little of Santa Clara’s agricultural past remains. The City has fully embraced its progressive position as a high tech headquarters. The Mission City is a prosperous hotbed of cutting-edge housing trends, state-of-the-art entertainment venues, and incredible amenities. Here, residents can truly have it all.