Located along the Guadalupe River and adjacent to downtown San Jose and resting against the borders of Campbell and the Cambrian Park area of San Jose, Willow Glen is a very charming, older part of San Jose and Silicon Valley that seems to beckon to a more gracious time.
The area’s centerpiece is Lincoln Avenue, a street bustling with cars and pedestrians alike. It’s filled to the brim with restaurants and shops and seems to attract a never-ending strea of visitors, especially in summer and during the holidays.
This place has a great sense of community and history too. Willow Glen was once its own town, until the need for being hooked up to the sewer system proved prohibitively expensive, and the residents voted to be annexed to San Jose in the 1920s. Ask someone from this district where he or she is from, and you won’t hear “San Jose”, but rather “Willow Glen”. It’s expected that you will know where that is!
Lovely, Older Architecture is a Hallmark of the Willow Glen area of San Jose
Much of Willow Glen was built early in the 1900s and so the homes in the “downtown” area are older and feature classical styles of housing on tree lined streets – Spanish, Craftsman, and some even more venerable and Victorian. That is surely a large part of its charm. On the edges of Willow Glen, the homes are newer and tract. One area, known as Palm Haven, has a myriad of palm trees (both Royal Palm and Fan Palm) and older, diverse architecture surrounding a community park. The original access to Palm Haven from Bird Avenue and the rest of Willow Glen has been blocked off, but the grand old road can still be found easily enough via Clintonia off Riverside.
In addition to the unique architecture and the draw of Lincoln Avenue in “downtown Willow Glen”, there are other features that make Willow Glen popular for visitors and those who want to live there too. One is the community involvement and the love of the arts. There are festivals and free music concerts and they are a popular draw! The pace seems to be a little slower here. Is it really? I’m not sure, but just seeing that people slow down enough to play Bocce Ball at a neighborhood park convinces me that things somehow just aren’t as hectic here.
The Christmas season is special in Willow Glen, as many neighbors decorate their front yards with a single Christmas tree and lights. Other homes are fully decked out to the extreme. Some cold nights in December, traffic comes to a near standstill in this old enclave of San Jose, as folks drive in from miles to take in the holiday lights on the residential streets. It is by far the most scenic area of Santa Clara County during the holidays!
Willow Glen has a social conscience, too. There are organizations of religious groups, faiths and churches which meet to address social justice issues. One of the most popular sources of food for the hungry of Silicon Valley is the amazing Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. This is a full-circle kind of thing as Willow Glen was once very famous for the fabulous orchards that fed the Santa Clara County. It is probably no accident that the garden next to Second Harvest Food Bank includes fruit trees!
Looking for a quaint place to live that’s close to downtown San Jose but feels like a whole different place? Spend some time in Willow Glen. It will charm you!