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.)
There’s so much information on this club and this building that books could be written. At this point, we’ll turn to bullet points to make skimming easier! Quotes and info are taken from the registration for historic status or the websites quoted above.
- Pergola and high backed redwood benches
- 40’ tall pine tree, trellis, and 5’ tall privacy hedge.
- Back is fenced at the property boundary
- Courtyard is paved with “pink pebble” and “is spotted with Japanese Maples and lots of small white flowering plants.” There is a bench beneath a wisteria. Neighbors to the clubhouse have nicknamed the courtyard “the Secret Garden” (saratogafoothillclub.com)
- Trellis creates a protected walkway from the rear door.
- Two raised porches with redwood railing and balusters in the back and alley.
- April 1918: first landscaped – renovated 1949, 1966
- 1927: street gets new curb and gutter
- 1966: sidewalk added, road repaved
- 1975: “the southeast side garden was converted to a patio with slabs of aggregate divided by bricks and enclosed by a low ground cover.” Benches also added.
- Repairs: “Since its construction in 1915, the Clubhouse has required constant and costly maintenance including replacement of woodwork, oiling of exterior shingles, replacement of sections damaged by termites and dry rot and four roof replacements. The Club’s membership has sponsored numerous fund-raising projects to finance the upkeep and alterations.”
- Alterations, repairs, and additions:
- 1921 – funds were raised for the clubhouse’s first furnace (1921 furnace replaced in 1955, and two were added in 1974) – central forced air heating system
- “1922 A 6′ strip of land was purchased from the adjacent property owner on the back side.”
- 1923 – opened a doorway from the dining room into the motion picture booth which was then remodeled into a kitchen pantry
- March 1925 – kitchen electrified, no longer running wood or coal. Current kitchen is from 1980s
- 1936 – kitchen addition – “adding a 6′ x 54′ rectangle (324 sq. ft.) to the building on the alley side” – this is the only change to the original footprint of the structure, giving extra room in the kitchen, kitchen storage space, and expanding the men’s dressing room. This addition was designed by Morgan early that year and finished by November. “No plans were found for this project and the alteration was so skillfully completed that it is nearly indiscernible on the exterior.” The difference is clear from the interior – there is no wood paneling or ceiling trusses in the addition. Other minor interior changes were made along with the expansion, and an interior pergola appears to have been removed.
- 1948 – new roof
- January 1974 – windstorm breaks the circular rose window. Original materials were not replaceable, so “crinkle amber glass was substituted… obtained from a supply at the Saratoga Federated Church” – two new furnaces were also installed.
- 1980s-1990s – sump pumps, kitchen utilities upgraded, automatic sprinklers installed.
- 1985 – Improperly installed roof begins to leak. Building is covered in plastic for months while members fundraise for its replacement. Legal actions were taken against the contractor of the leaking roof and eventually received settlement for damages incurred.
- 2004 – (listed as current work in the 2005? document) repairing roof leak and then “replacement of water-stained interior wall paneling”
More historical information on the Saratoga Foothill Club
- The Club:
- Saratoga Foothill Club aka Foothill Women’s Club aka Foothill Study Club (register form) was founded in 1907 under the name Foothill Study Club (per saratogahistory.com) as a forum for women with the goal “to foster and encourage intellectual and civic activities within the club and in the community.” Members wanted to broaden their education and “promote a spirit of friendliness.” (saratogahistory.com) The Club as a women’s study group seems to have concluded after WWII.
- It is the oldest social organization in Saratoga.
- The inception of the Club coincides with the women’s movement
- The 12 founding mothers were Miss Lyra Mills, Mrs. Flynt Mills, Miss Jennie Farwell, Mrs. ES Williams, Mrs. JT Richards, Miss Laura Richards, Mrs. HT Plant, Mrs. George Foster, Miss Ethel Foster, Mrs. JL Pendleton, Mrs. EA Norton and Miss Florence Stone. (saratogahistory.com)
- “The members, limited to 60 women included two classes of membership, active and associate. Active dues were .25 cents for and associate $1.00. Incorporated in 1914, the members changed the name to Saratoga Foothill Club.” (SaratogaHistory.com)“Since its inception, club members have provided support to the community. The Foothill Club spearheaded the Santa Clara county library system, improved the landscaping in Blaney Park; supported the troops during World War I and World War II with knitted hats, gloves and socks. The clubhouse housed a small regiment during WWII.” (http://www.saratogahistory.com/History/foothillclub.htm)
- Accomplishments: (Period of Significance: 1915-1954) (all from the register form)
- 1907 – present: the organization is formed and remains the oldest social organization in the city.
- 1909: movement to remove billboards on Saratoga-Los Gatos Rd. 30 members boycotted a certain butter brand until their signs were removed.
- 1910: lobby for scenic highway through the Saratoga foothills fails initially, but eventually produced the County Scenic Highway 9.
- 1910: successfully sought the removal of a curtain displaying a color picture of a nude woman at the Victory Theater in San Jose.
- 1912: the Club proposes the first themed Blossom Festival. It was California history themed, including a parade with portrayals of Native Americans, Mission Padres, Mexican Rancheros, and Gold Rush miners, followed by speeches, music, and pageantry, originally held at the Saratoga Elementary School, then the Village Green, and then the site of the Clubhouse. “After the Clubhouse structure was built in 1915, the Festival moved to the Glen, a natural amphitheater leading from Saratoga Avenue to Saratoga Creek. The Blossom Festival was a regionally acclaimed affair for 28 years, until 1940. Throughout the entire period, the Club remained a Festival co-sponsor with the Saratoga Improvement Club. Lillian Fontaine, mother of actresses Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland, was a Foothill Club member and both of her daughters often starred in Blossom Festival performances directed by their mother.” (register)
- 1914: CA Gov Hiram Johnson comes to the Blossom Festival as an honored guest – he supported the prohibition, as did the club.
- 1914: successfully lobbied to establish a county library system.
- 1917: San Jose Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) resolved to support amending the constitution in what would later become the 18th Amendment adopted in 1919 for the prohibition. The SFC women endorsed the WCTU.
- 1914: began raising funds to build their own clubhouse. Two members donated the land.
- 1917: The first community Memorial Day celebration was put together.
- 1917 – 1920: weekly movie nights at the clubhouse. The Club committee pre-screened shows, and the projection booth was active during this time.
- 1921: Club joins the California’s Save the Redwoods League in support of the Redwood Preservation Bill.
- 1922: the Saratoga Improvement Company (?) created Blaney Park for the Village, but since Saratoga was not incorporated, the Foothill Club held the deed in trust for Blaney Park when SIC dissolved until the City of Saratoga was incorporated in 1956.
- 1927: Club raised funds to construct a community library building. The Saratoga branch was “completely funded by community donations and designed by a well-known architect, Eldridge Spencer.” (register)
- 1931 – present: with the Community Chest, the club begun to serve hundreds of holiday food baskets to needy families in the community annually.
- 1934: Kathleen Noris, resident and author, joined the Club. She “allowed her play, “Victoria,” to be performed in May of 1935.” (Register)
- 1938: the Club founded a History and Landmarks Committee, led by Florence Cunningham, to record the history of Saratoga and collect historical records, artifacts, photos, and memorabilia. In 1965, after Cunningham’s death, the committee became the Saratoga Historical Foundation. This foundation successfully worked to save and move two structures which then became the current Saratoga Historical Museum which still holds the Foothill Club collection.
- 1941, December 12: Not a week after US declared war, the 31st Field Artillery, Headquarters Division, stayed in the clubhouse while billeting soldiers in Saratoga. The women assisted soldiers camped in Saratoga, providing hospital kits and donating “thousands of articles to the war relief and to the Red Cross.” Although the clubhouse was promised to be returned to the women in perfect order, “after two and one half months of military occupancy, the floors needed to be refinished, the stage repaired and a major cleaning of the kitchen and bathrooms was required.” (register form)
- 1949: the Club is on record in favor of having the proposed State Highway (now Highway 85) bypass Saratoga.
- 1950 – present: Scholarships to high school students
- “The first woman elected to the Saratoga City Council was Foothill Club member, Peggy Corr, appointed to City Council in 1976 and then elected for two terms. She was one of the early women office holders in a County renowned as The Feminist Capital of the World from 1975-1985 because so many local women were elected to office during those years.” (register form)
- In 2007, at the club’s centennial, there were supposed to be celebrations. I cannot find info on these except for plans from 2005 mentioned in the register form: “Their plans include a grand celebration with a replication of the historic Blossom Festival, the purchase and permanent placement of a Blossom Festival-themed sculpture in the courtyard, and the nomination of the building to the National Register.”
- The Clubhouse
- “Meetings were originally held in homes with participants sitting on fruit boxes or pillows. As the club membership grew, meetings were held in the nearby Saratoga Inn (1912). Upon receiving a gift of land from Mrs. George Wood and Mrs. David C. Bell, the group decided to build a clubhouse.” (saratogahistory.com)
- 1915 built the clubhouse
- “On January 7, 1915, the Saratoga Record noted the opening of the new clubhouse as follows:
- 1978 – listed in the National Register of Historic Landmarks, Number 81, in Santa Clara, CA.
- “The Saratoga Foothill Clubhouse was designated Saratoga Landmark No. 1 in 1988.” (register)
- The Historic American Building Survey (HABS) studied 32 historic buildings in Santa Clara County between 1977-1980 and reported that the bungalow was a uniquely Californian style, and the Clubhouse was used as a significant example. (register) The HABS has only studied two Morgan designs.
- “The 89 year old Clubhouse remains structurally intact, is still managed and maintained by its original owners, and continues to be in constant use by the community.” (register form, 2005) – the building is now a century old (almost 101yrs now)
Architecture and Site (mostly from the register form)
Current uses: Clubhouse and Meeting Hall/Event Center
Saratoga Foothill Club
- Public Lecture Series – in keeping with the original intent of the club, “The Public Lecture Series and the Art Lecture Series and monthly member programs foster and encourage intellectual activities to members as well as the community.” (saratogahistory.com)
- Memorial Day Ceremony – “For over 50 years, the Club has organized the program to remember the fallen on Memorial Day at Madronia Cemetery. It features speakers, bands, and the laying of wreaths on the graves of those who served in the military.” (foothillclub.org), since 1938 (here), “The ceremonies begin at the Memorial Arch in Blaney Plaza and proceed to the historical Madronia Cemetery for a patriotic program that features important speakers and involves children in all of the local schools and youth organizations.” (register form)
- Holiday Baskets – “Club members collect food and turkeys for distribution to needy seniors and families during the holidays.” (foothillclub.org) , “They provide over 150 Holiday Baskets each year,” (here),
- Scholarships – “The Club offers 2 scholarships of $1000 each year to Saratoga High School seniors. One is for excellence in the performing arts including art, music and theater arts. The other is for excellence in social studies including civics, history, economics, and psychology” (foothillclub.org)
- Club members involved in community planning committees for projects in their neighborhood and participate in community ‘endeavors’ such as sitting in city commissions and helping non-profit organizations with local events.
- In 2004 there were 250 members. 2007 was their centennial celebration.
Meetings and Business Events
- Catering available for all events
- Wi-Fi, AC, available
- Events can be held during the week or on weekends
Weddings/ Ceremonies/ Parties
- Wedding packages include most if not all necessary arrangements
- Wedding Coordinator: Panetta’s Elite Events
- For wedding packages and catering information, follow this link: http://www.saratogafoothillclub.com/catering.html
- The 19th annual lecture series begins Oct 22. Single lectures $25, entire series $100. For questions: 408 996 8050
- Info from: http://www.mercurynews.com/saratoga/ci_28936808/saratoga-sheriffs-captain-will-open-19th-foothill-club
Additional Details and Info
- Limited wheelchair access with no wheelchair accessible restroom
- Dance floor & Baby Grand Piano available
- “View: Costal Hills and Courtyard” (foothillclub.org)
- “There is only one event per day.” (foothillclub.org)
- Listed as site category: 1) Private Club 2) Historic/Landmark Building 3) Banquet/Events Facility (foothillclub.org)