Silicon Valley History: Fun and Interesting Facts About The Communities in Santa Clara County, Once Known as The Valley of Hearts Delight
Nestled in the rolling foothills of San Jose’s southeastern Evergreen area is a hidden gem known simply as the Villages.
As you drive up to the secured entrance, you’ll spot a sign: The Villages a Country Club Community. They take that claim to heart. A gated, community-oriented neighborhood centered around numerous country club amenities creates an immersive home for its residents. However this is a senior community, so to live at the Villages you have to be 55 or older. Therefore many residents are retirees who are active, love entertaining guests, and don’t want to mow the lawn every week. But you don’t have to be a resident to enjoy the country club side of things.
Only about a 20 minute drive from downtown San Jose, this area was once agricultural land with vineyards. It is still home to the impressive William Wehner historic mansion, constructed in 1888 and designed by architect David Burnham (this estate is currently closed to the public). The mansion is sometimes called the Cribari Mansion for its later owners, a name that was adopted by the first Village development. The original stone columns (circa 1891) for the estate’s original drive still stand as a prominent feature on one of the golf courses.
Today, the community is still surrounded by untouched rolling hills. And that natural beauty is staying put, as the Villages owns 550 acres of open space with community hiking trails. Continue reading
Greet the morning with the sweet smell of fresh Garlic in the air – the Gilroy Garlic Festival is back!
If you’ve ever caught the vivid aroma of the stinking rose early in the day it’s likely a breeze coming over the southern Santa Clara County city of Gilroy, the Garlic capital of the world. Whether you love or hate the pungent allium, this herb is a favorite for many foodies in Silicon Valley and around the world.
Gilroy celebrates their favorite bulb one weekend of the year during the Gilroy Garlic Festival, the last weekend in July. This year it’s back for the 38th annual event held on July 29, 30, and 31, 2016. So what to should you expect from “summer’s ultimate food fair?” Food, food, food, fun, shopping, music, and more!
Gourmet Alley is “all about the food” – classics like garlic bread, garlic fries, calamari, scampi, and sausage are available at the booths, and at the end aisle, watch the Pyro-Chefs stoke up five foot tall blazes from their frying pans. Weird food lovers will enjoy a plenitude of flavors from other booths around the festival, including free samples of garlic ice-cream, alligator and buffalo meat, or ice cream in a half cantaloupe. There’s also the range of standard festival food stalls, beer, wine, coolers, and non-alcoholic chilled drinks.
Each autumn, the St. Martin of Tours School puts on a fabulous tour of lovely homes in San Jose’s Rose Garden neighborhood. While anyone driving through this central San Jose area can appreciate the diverse and beautiful architecture, often the best features of these homes are found inside.
This year is the tour’s 22nd Anniversary! The homes tour is a large scale fundraising effort for the school. Tours are self-guided with hosts in each home ready to answer questions and share interesting historical facts and stories about the homes. On display will also be floral designs, artwork, and perhaps some treasures. The garden segment of the tour includes the Tea Garden, a spot to sit and enjoy complementary refreshments or a gourmet lunchbox (available to pre-order through October 6th with your tickets). The tour also features a boutique, where 100% of the proceeds will benefit St Martin of Tours School (credit cards accepted!) and a donation drawing.
Tour dates are Saturday, October 14th and Sunday, October 15th from 10am-4pm both days. No children under 12 are allowed on the tour. Come any time within the tour hours to begin, but note that it is recommended that visitors allot about 2 hours to view every home and the tour ends promptly at 4pm.
Tickets are available at the door, online, or through families in the school.
To read about the homes from last year’s tour, and to learn more about this year’s tour, and to purchase tickets, and more please visit the official Rose Garden Homes Tour website.
Who was Painless Parker, and why was he so well known in Saratoga, San Francisco, and beyond?
Edgar Randolph Parker, born Friday, Mar. 22, 1872 in Newfounland, Canada, would eventually come to be known as Painless Parker..
In 1890, at age eighteen he set off for the Philadelphia Dental College (and apparently also studied in NY) and his career as a dentist began..
He was a renegade dentist in the early 1900s with his flamboyant self-promotion, traveling from town to town with his dentistry show, proclaiming “painless” dentistry and hiring bands to play as he pulled teeth. In one day he pulled 357 teeth!
Dentists weren’t supposed to advertise, and California charged Dr. Parker with violating trade rules by practicing under the false name of Painless Parker instead of using his actual name. In response, in 1915 Dr. Parker promptly legally changed his first name from Edgar to Painless.
He opened 30 dental clinics in the 1920s — which he called “Painless Parker’s Dental Parlors” — up and down the west coast, at one time employing 240 workers including 79 dentists in 8 states, and it grossed $3 million per year.
It was during this heyday of his that he bought 218 rolling acres off Prospect Road, close to the Saratoga Country Club (as the bird flies).You would know it today as Parker Ranch or the Parker Ranch neighborhood.
Parker died in 1952 at age 80 in San Francisco. He was buried here as Edgar Randolph Parker in the family plot at Madronia Cemetery in Saratoga, the implication being that, while death may have come as a release, it couldn’t be called Painless.
Parker’s son, Ned, followed his father into the profession and practiced dentistry in Oregon. The Los Gatos Weekly-Times ( April 3, 1996) stated of Ned “It seems he could never pass the examination in California.”
If you find yourself in Philadelphia, you might visit the Philadelphia Dental College, Parker’s Alma Mater, which later was renamed the Temple’s School of Dentistry. The museum is at the dental school, N Broad Street and W Allegheny Avenue. And there you can view the “Painless Parker’s” Bucket of Teeth!
Did you know that locals in Saratoga once had a two-day long party to celebrate a road? Those party animals!
Congress Springs Road is the name given to a stretch of Highway 9 as it passes through Saratoga, where it is also called Big Basin Way. East of 35, the road follows Saratoga Creek between the Saratoga Gap Open Space Preserve and Sanborn County Park to the edge of downtown Saratoga, or Saratoga Village, near the intersection with Ambric Knolls Road (as indicated on Google Maps).
The origins of Congress Springs Road (and this portion of 9) came from a committee of private investors in 1863 who wanted to build a road into the Santa Cruz mountains to access the expansive lumber resources around the San Lorenzo River and Pescadero Creek. Constructed between 1865 to June, 1871, the five-year project was a significant engineering feat, built by Chinese laborers through dense forest and undergrowth on steep valley slopes. The final track stretched from downtown to Saratoga Summit and was a road named the Saratoga and Pescadero Turnpike and Wagon Road.
The project was highly anticipated and its conclusion was met with a two-day, overnight celebration. Over two-hundred attended the festivities, where colorful wagons paraded up to the Summit before stopping at a picnic and camp site to spend the night with music, speeches, and a lavish trout dinner before the trek home next morning.
Within a year, the road was collecting tolls ranging from 25 cent to 1 dollar (based on vehicle and capacity), and had an established stage route.
The road was purchased by the county for $5,000 on December 29, 1879 and re-named Congress Springs Road on Feb 2, 1880 after the famous Pacific Congress Springs.
Don’t know this landmark? Saratoga is home to natural mineral springs, about a mile out of town, which have a similar composition to the renown Congress Springs in Saratoga, NY. A resort was built on 720 acres around the springs and opened the summer of 1866. By the 1870s, the resort was the place to be – popular with the famous, wealthy, fashionable, and elite, the resort also bottled and shipped Congress water internationally as a healthy beverage and cure for numerous maladies. The hotel featured private rooms and cottages with lush lawns, hiking, fishing (the Saratoga Creek was abundant with fish), hunting, and picnicking on the grounds, and by 1872, hot and cold mineral baths, connections with the Southern Pacific Railroad, and its own dairy, orchard, and vineyard.
On June 15, 1903, a fire broke out in the kitchen during dinner. Despite attempts to control the fire, the hotel was decimated by the blaze. The hotel was never rebuilt and the resort slowly stagnated until it was diminished to a picnic ground and the property was purchased by the San Jose Water Works and closed to the public in 1942.
So what is left of this many-named mountain road? Portions of it have been widened, re-engineered and paved to be a part of highway 9. Sections of the road were not used to build the highway and have since been repurposed as Saratoga Toll Road and Saratoga Toll Road Trail in Castle Rock State Park. (citation: http://www.trailstompers.com/castle-rock-state-park-trail-runs.html)
Something to clarify is that a “closer in” stretch of this road already had a toll booth on it, and a sign in Saratoga Village marks that one as having begun in 1850 – 1851. The City of Saratoga has a little historical background on that earlier toll road (see http://www.saratoga.ca.us/about/history.asp), explaining that Saratoga began as a saw mill (Los Gatos has a parallel in Forbes Mill), and that
“In 1848, William Campbell set up shop on the banks of what is now Saratoga Creek. His sawmill was destined to be the seed of a new community, but before he could complete it, gold was discovered at the western base of the Sierras, touching off the California Gold Rush and delaying Campbell’s plans.Martin McCarty leased Campbell’s mill in 1850, and began improving access to the site by building a toll road.”
Saratoga California neighborhood map
Want to learn more about Saratoga’s history? Information for this post was collected from a variety of interesting sources, including these:
Signposts II by Patricia Loomis (wonderful book with short articles on local, Santa Clara County history, particular road and place names)
- (same article as above here: ) http://www.santacruzwaves.com/2015/11/skyline-boulevard-the-ever-evolving-saratoga-gap/
Online archival newspaper resources: http://cdnc.ucr.edu/cgi-bin/cdnc?a=d&d=SFC19030616.2.35
And online book, Pen Pictures from the “Garden of the World”
For an interesting article on the Springs: http://www.fohbc.org/PDF_Files/Saratogas_BGrapentine.pdf
South County is rich with wineries! Recently my husband and I visited one of them, Guglielmo, when we were in Morgan Hill for some friends’ pool party. Jim hadn’t been to Guglielmo Winery in decades, and somehow I’d never been there before at all.
Set in a beautiful campus, the Guglielmo Winery is venerable as one of the older wineries around and begun in 1925. The Guglielmo website states that “Guglielmo Winery is the oldest, continuously operating, family owned winery in Santa Clara Valley.”
It has a nice mix of the “hark to yesteryear” items, both outside and in, with more contemporary decor and landscaping. It’s a very nice blend of old and new.
Inside, there’s a rustic, rambling set of rooms that serve as both 2 wine tasting stations and a really fun store full of kitschy, funny, and useful things. Close to the cash register was the area for white wines, and in the back was another for reds. We were at the former. The wine we tried was delicious and we came away with two bottles of the Tre and one of a sparkling wine.
In summer, the winery provides free music at its Vine and Vibes series on Wednesdays. There are other events too – check out the schedule at their site:
The winery is located at 1480 East Main Avenue, Morgan Hill, CA. There’s a small tasting fee of $5 per person as of this writing (July 2016), and the fee is refunded if you purchase $25 worth of wine or more. http://www.guglielmowinery.com/
Here are some images of the winery when we visited on July 2nd. Enjoy!
The Saratoga Foothill Club, designed by Julia Morgan, is a Silicon Valley architectural landmark. It is located in a residential neighborhood near the Big Basin Rd and Sunnyvale-Saratoga Rd intersection, a block away from the downtown area. If you’ve never been, it’s worth a trip! Go for a couple of hours and enjoy lunch in downtown Saratoga Village, too.
Saratoga Foothill Club
20399 Park Place
Saratoga CA 95070
Availability: Tuesday through Sunday, 9:30 AM – 10:00 PM (per this writing)
http://www.foothillclub.org/ (disclaimer: events listed on this page are from 2014 and earlier)
National Register of Historic Places – Registration Form
History of the Club
I’ll post a very detailed history below. Generally, though, this club was part of a trend of women getting involved in their communities to both improve the places where they lived but also to improve their influence. This took place before women were permitted to vote and can be seen as part of the broader, growing civic influence of women.
The Building and Grounds
The architect: Julia Morgan
Today what may be more compelling than the movement behind the building is perhaps the building itself. Fittingly, it was designed by the most prominent female architect in California, Julia Morgan, an graduate of the University of California (Berkeley – it was the only UC at the time) and the prestigious Ecole des Beaux Art in Paris. She was a sorority sister with Grace Fisher Richards, one of the founding members and the then-current president of the Club. She was also the first licensed female architect in the state. (She is best known for her gorgeous work at Hearst Castle.) This certainly was not lost on the women who hired her! Nor on many other clients – “Of the 480 Morgan projects listed in Boutelle’s Julia Morgan Architect, 1995, from 1896 to 1946, more than one third were for women clients or for women’s organizations…. Even more impressive is the fact that Morgan also hired-women professionals. By 1927, six of her fourteen employees were women, a remarkable number for an established business.” (Per the register)***
The Saratoga Foothill Club was built out of redwood (outside and in, though the floors are hardwood) with a wood shake roof in the Craftsman or Arts and Crafts style in 1915. As with many of her designs, it is simple, understated, and made ample use of natural materials. Julia Morgan was inspired by the local Bay Area School of design. The bungalow feel fits in nicely with the neighborhood.
The structure itself is a one story building that’s 74′ wide across the front and 60′ deep, plus some pop-out areas around the sides. Inside there’s redwood paneling (redwood is a soft wood), hardwood floors in most of the area (carpeting in the entry). The kitchen has sheet vinyl and paster walls – more practical. In addition to the kitchen there’s a main room measuring 33’9” x 40’3 and a dining room with an open fireplace – the last two are joined by two sets of accordion doors. There’s a storage room and also a projection room. And of course there are restrooms. The building is set on a 7409 SF lot, nearly level, with a beautiful courtyard and pergola. (More info below image gallery.)