What stood in my neighborhood before the houses were built?

Asked by A.j., 95123 Mon Mar 3, 2008

Before 35-40 years ago,I know that alot of the Blossom Valley area in San Jose,Ca. was surrounded by orchards,
fields,and a few old houses (for example) Hayes Mansion.Eventhough we were the very first owners of our house there had to have been something else that stood place here 50 to 100 years ago,I am curious to know what stood place in my neighborhood of Snell Ave. In the areas between Santa Teresa Blvd. and Calero Ave. And if it in fact was mainly orchards and fields,what stood here before the orchards and fields? Where can I attain such information?

Help the community by answering this question:

+ web reference
Web reference:


Michael Cheng, Agent, San Jose, CA
Tue Jan 11, 2011
I lived in the Blossom Valley area for a relatively brief 10 years about 25 years ago. By then, most of the valley had been commercialized with most of the orchards and row crop lands being converted to strip shopping centers, auto rows, and tract developments. During the time I was there, only a few open fields were still around, offering fresh corn and such. Actually, I've just read an interesting pictorial history book about this area, but the book was issued in very limited production so I doubt it's in libraries. If we go back about 150-300 years ago, this area was a corridor for Mexican cowboys to herd cattle up and down the old El Camino Real when it was just a dirt path. The area was dominated as much by the Missionaries as by wide-roaming gentlemen outlaws like the infamous Joaquin Murieta.

By 1848, the US received the Mexican Cession (including California) in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Interestingly many of the original Mexican land rights were retained by the local owners, including the riparian water rights so in contention by the valley's farmers today. Then, in 1849, the discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill triggered a gold and immigrant rush. Hundreds of thousands poured into a virtually vacant California with the more level headed buying up large tracts of agricultural land. Many of these were Italian farmers who transformed California into the agricultural powerhouse it still is today. Some of them brought their Missionary wine-making techniques to local vineyards long before French style wine got in vogue. Others planted orchards as the soil supported dozens of types of fruiting trees.

By the end of the 19th century, this area was covered by tens of thousands of acres of apricots, prunes, and other easily sun-dried fruits, along with fresh apples and cherries. Unfortunately, aside from a few train tracks, transportation was very limited and California did not export much. During WWII, the US military had a huge need for food, so many of the local farmers started selling to the US government, which exported the fruit around the world. Afterwards, this area came to be known as the "Valley of Heart's Delight" and a large number of family owned fruit processing plants supplied the world's demand for quality California fruits.

By the 1980s, further immigration from Asia and thriving technology firms like Apple transformed the area yet again into "Silicon Valley". The rapidly escalating cost of living drove the last fruit processing companies into the central valley, where they still operate today from Chico to Bakersfield. Once the processing plants left, the local farmers had no way to process their fruit cost-effectively, so they all sold out to developers.

It's just unfortunate that our local schools don't teach much about our rich history.
Web Reference:  http://www.archershomes.com
2 votes
Terri Vellios, Agent, Campbell, CA
Fri Apr 29, 2011
Awesome answers! I remember Sunnyvale in 1965 the various Cherry Orchards, Apricots, and Orange Trees. I used to cut through the orchard on my way to catch the school bus. This was before Valco Mall was built. It looked so different back then.
Web Reference:  http://www.terrivellios.com
1 vote
Sam Shueh, , San Jose, CA
Fri Apr 29, 2011
You are not alone. That was exactly the same question I asked and documented.
Some are recent aerial. Enjoy, Sam Shueh



There are several images film from today's communication hill and more recent(1970 and on) images at similar location(then & now)
Web Reference:  http://sam.shueh.net/
1 vote
Rebekah Owen,…, Agent, San Jose, CA
Fri Jan 7, 2011

When did you move here? We moved here in 1969 when my dad got transferred with IBM. It's funny because today I live across from Santa Teresa Hospital - my first job was in my stepfather's medical office before Santa Teresa was a Kaiser owned property - and I look at IBM every day. When we first moved here in 1969 it was all plum and apricot orchards and, even though my dad worked at IBM, I never knew what the buildings looked like because all I could see were the plums orchards around it. It was really gorgeous in the spring when the pink plum blossoms popped.

At Santa Teresa and Snell it was a flashing 4 way light with a big old house on the southwest corner. I remember when they put Thrifty drug store in on the southeast corner and their 5/10/15 cent ice creams :-)

There wasn't anything that "stood" here. It was all farmland and orchards.

We were the first ones to move into a new tract on Mountford Drive. I remember cattle in the field at the end of the street and the farmer shooting rock salt at us when he caught us on his land.

My stepfather's patients used to own a lot of the farmland where IBM is now.

I am a pilot and when I fly out over central valley and look at the patchwork of farmland there, I image that that is just what our valley used to look like.

OK, enough nostalgia :-)

Have a great day!!

1 vote
Realtor, ,
Sun Mar 9, 2008
I would check your local library.......that is interesting to find out the history of your area.
1 vote
Michael Robe…, Agent, San Ramon, CA
Mon Mar 3, 2008
Hi AJ, I remember orchards there 40 years ago. I saw photographs many years ago (circa 1890s) that showed nothing but scattererd oaks and Spanish Grass. Similiar to what we see between Morgan Hill and Holister today in areas. I don't have an answer as to where you can find info. I would imagine San Jose City Offices have resources.

1 vote
Arpad Racz, Agent, San Jose, CA
Thu Oct 29, 2015

Your local historical society would be a good start.

Kind regards,

0 votes
Hibytoday, Home Buyer, San Jose, CA
Mon Oct 26, 2015
in 1969, the demands of orchards let down and the vast build of silicon valley grew. In 1970, the dirt road of Santa Teresa blvd. was made as a gravel durance roads. They led that by building traffic lights their and cutting down the orchards, to build the current roads of Snell Avenue, Erskine Ct, Treetop Ct, McGilvra Ct, Calero Avenue, Lean Avenue, Surber Drive, Vale Drive, Maddison Ct, Holgate Avenue, Conestoga Way, Glen Harbor Drive, Bufkin Drive, Bufkin Ct., and others. In 1971, the roads were paved and the houses were designed, and most were on the market, with a choice of design pick or straight sale by 1972 or 1973.
0 votes
Sam Shueh, , San Jose, CA
Mon Apr 23, 2012
Santa Teresa was a 2 lane car road before 1960s Snell was always there. Snell family owned ~300 ac and served on OAK GROVE SCHOOL district ..... Before the Orchard, the Valley bottom were dotted with Live Oak trees. It was so thick parents told children not to venture too far...

Most the farm owners named streets after their names. Cottle, Snell, Hayes, Heller, Bernal etc...

Go to SJ Public Library (King) map library look at old road maps started around 1930s..
0 votes
Search Advice
Ask our community a question

Email me when…

Learn more