This story published on May 21, 2006)
The Juan Bautista de Anza expedition, traveling from Mexico to establish a mission in San Francisco, camps on Los Gatos Creek in the vicinity of Lark Avenue.
Father Fermn Francisco de Lasun establishes Mission Santa Cruz. The neophyte Mission Santa Clara Indians clear a path over the Santa Cruz Mountains to link the two missions together.
Brothers-in-law Jose Maria Hernandez and Sebastian Fabian Peralta receive the 6,631 acre El Rancho Rinconada de Los Gatos land grant from Mexico. The adobe homestead, built near Los Gatos Creek, is in what is now Vasona Park. The town of Los Gatos is located within the original boundaries of the rancho.
John C. Fremont’s expedition to map California camps on Wildcat Ridge (Cuesta de Los Gatos), a site above Los Gatos, before crossing the mountains to Santa Cruz.
Julian Hanks and Isaac Branham build the first sawmill on Los Gatos Creek in the Lexington area for the booming Santa Cruz mountain lumber business. Logging will be a major business from 1850 to mid-1860s.
Scottish entrepreneur James A. Forbes, intending to build a flour mill, acquires 2,000 acres of the original Rancho Rinconada de Los Gatos from Jose Hernandez. Forbes Mill, the first commercial building in Los Gatos, is completed two years later. The mill begins operating in 1855, but Forbes loses the business in bankruptcy in 1857. The mill then passes through several owners and operates until 1887, when fruit orchards begin to replace wheat fields in the area. The building is damaged in the 1906 earthquake, and everything except the storage annex is demolished in 1916. In 1950, the mill is designated a State Historical Landmark. In 1981 Eureka Federal Savings supports the restoration of the Forbes Mill annex as a museum.
The Santa Cruz Gap Turnpike Joint Stock Co. is chartered to build a toll road to the summit.
Once called Jones Mill after Zachariah “Buffalo” Jones, the town became Lexington about 1860. Eight sawmills thrived as long as trees could be felled in the Santa Cruz Mountains. When the lumber supply ran out, the town went into a decline. In the late 1890s, Alma and Lexington were linked by a notorious “mile of saloons” – drawing a crowd from teetotal Los Gatos. The two towns are now covered by Lexington Reservoir, built in 1952.
Stagecoach travel from San Jose is made possible when two privately owned toll roads are joined. Horse-drawn coaches begin transporting passengers from Los Gatos to Santa Cruz.
Oil is discovered in Moody Gulch in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Four miles south of Los Gatos, the oil field is one of the first on the West Coast. The endeavor is not profitable and drilling ends in 1912. The operation is suspended in 1921.
John W. Lyndon purchases 100 acres in what will be the heart of town and develops downtown Los Gatos. He starts the town’s first bank, cannery and gas company.
The town of Alma, originally called Forest House, is founded about a mile south of Lexington. The town becomes a bustling stagecoach stop.
The arrival of the first South Pacific Coast Railroad, on a narrow-gauge track, connects Alameda and San Jose to Santa Cruz.
The Los Gatos Canning Co. is established on North Santa Cruz Avenue to handle the profusion of produce from local orchards. The company is bought by George Hooke in 1894 and then by the Hunt Brothers in 1906. In 1907, Hunt Brothers move the cannery to the corner of North Santa Cruz and Saratoga avenues, where it remains until the business closes in 1955.
Vigilante justice is exacted on young Incarnacion Garcia, who is accused of stabbing to death Rafael Miraville. Within a half-hour of the murder, Garcia is hanged from the Main Street bridge. Later, witnesses at the inquest are unable to identify any of the more than 200 people who viewed the hanging.
Inventor John Bean moves to Los Gatos for health reasons. Upon discovering that his trees have scale, he invents a continuous-action insecticide spray pump. His inventions expand from spray pumps to clothes washers, and by 1928 the highly successful John Bean Manufacturing Co. merges with the Anderson-Barngrover Manufacturing Co. to become Food Machinery Corp., or FMC.
The Southern Pacific Railroad acquires the mountain rail line from the South Pacific Coast Railroad. The difficult-to-maintain line is discontinued in 1940 because of storm damage and increasing competition for passenger traffic from auto and bus transportation using Highway 17.
he Town of Los Gatos incorporates.
The Sacred Heart Novitiate opens on ranch land that the Jesuit order bought from Harvey Wilcox in 1886. In addition to Jesuit studies, the Novitiate operates a winery from 1888 to 1985. The Novitiate was renamed the Jesuit Center in 1968 and now serves as housing for retired priests.
In July, fire destroys buildings on both sides of East Main Street from the bridge to College Avenue.
The Queen Anne-style Coggeshall House is built by J.J. Hill at 115 N. Santa Cruz Ave. For 60 years the house serves as a funeral home and later a restaurant.
The first electric street lights are turned on using power generated and transmitted from the Hume Ranch, an orchard property located between Los Gatos and Saratoga.
A fire destroys much of the business district along West Main Street, from the bridge to the railroad tracks. Nearly 60 buildings burn to the ground.
The San Jose and Los Gatos Interurban Railroad makes its inaugural trip on March 19. The railroad is mainly used for passenger service but it also hauls fruit during the canning season. The train ceases operating in Los Gatos in 1933. The narrow-gauge electric trolley operates until 1938 when all the lines in San Jose are abandoned.
The April 18 earthquake damages Los Gatos buildings, the railroad tracks and the mile-long tunnel at Wrights Station. It will take three years to complete repairs and change to a broad-gauge track. Rail traffic over the Santa Cruz Mountains resumes May 29, 1909.
The Los Gatos Telephone Co., the first local phone service, incorporates. In 1931 the city council votes to remove the “unsightly” telephone poles from the downtown in favor of underground wires.
Highway 17, from Santa Cruz along the old Santa Cruz Highway to Los Gatos, opens to automobile traffic. It will be 10 years before the road is paved. The 16-foot wide, curved highway opens to traffic in 1921, funded by a state bond measure passed in 1911.
Los Gatos Town Hall located on East Main Street is built and will house city government until demolished in 1965 to make room for the new Civic Center complex.
William Riker buys land 10 miles south of Los Gatos on the old Los Gatos-Santa Cruz Highway to build his utopian Holy City. Riker and his followers living in Holy City are members of the Perfect Christian Divine Way. The area is a tourist stop until the construction of the new highway in 1940. Riker sells Holy City in 1957, and most of the buildings are later destroyed by arson.
A bond measure passes to form the Los Gatos Union High School District. Three years later, the Los Gatos High School on Main Street is constructed with money from a $250,000 bond measure passed in 1923.
The Los Gatos Grammar School, later called University Avenue School, is dedicated. It closes in 1960 and the buildings become the Old Town shopping center.
The Cats Estate, home of writer Charles Erskine Scott Wood and his second wife, poet Sara Bard Field, is completed. In
1922, renowned artist Robert Trent Paine creates the concrete cat statues (named Leo and Leona) that mark the entrance to the estate off Highway 17.
Vasona Reservoir is constructed with federal funds made available by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) during the Depression.
Ming Quong Children’s Center in Los Gatos, an orphanage for Chinese girls, opens. The home’s origins are from Presbyterian missionaries rescuing Chinese girls from slavery in the 1870s. The Los Gatos Strawberry Festival is started as a fundraising endeavor for the orphanage.
Highway 17 as we know it today opens after nine years of construction and $9 million in expenses. It replaced 100 years of logging trails, stagecoach routes and rail lines. The highway opens to traffic near what is now Lexington Reservoir, 1.8 miles south of Los Gatos.
The Lexington Dam and reservoir are completed. The reservoir covers the historic towns of Alma and Lexington. The initial bond election for $2.5 million passed Oct. 7, 1947.
Hotel Lyndon is demolished. The once-elegant hotel located on Main Street and Santa Cruz Avenue opened in 1899.
Old Town shopping center, purchased from the school district in 1963, opens as an upscale shopping complex and arts center.
The miniature Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad is relocated to Vasona Park.
Barricades are installed on North Santa Cruz and University avenues to prevent weekend cruising. An emergency ordinance to outlaw cruising is rejected by the Town Council in April 1979.
The Lexington Reservoir wildfire burns 14,000 acres and two dozen homes in its five-day rampage.
Loma Prieta earthquake damages 850 structures with more than $250 million in damage, shuts down a third of the downtown business district and forces hundreds of people from their homes.
Netflix, a DVD rental-by-mail business with headquarters in Los Gatos, launches its subscription service.