SF Examiner 07/03/1926

This is a brief(?!) history of the village area going from corporate mining town to housing subdivision.

Some of the pictures below and many more can be found by searching the Santa Clara County Parks Archive and History San Jose Online Catalog.

From 1863 until bankruptcy in 1912, the Quicksilver Mining Company of New York, was the owner and operator of the New Almaden mines and property. In February 1915, George Hobart Sexton leased and then by 1918, acquired the property and started the New Almaden Quicksilver Mines Corporation (along with “The New Almaden Company, Inc.” and “The New Almaden Stores, Inc.”).

The principle source of ore became the El Senador (Senator) Mine, which is near the McAbee Road entrance in Almaden Quicksilver County Park.

In September 1923, Sexton and John Mitchell, president of the Hotel Fairmont chain, announced plans to convert the Casa Grande and much of the Hacienda village to a “millionaire’s paradise”. Proposing a stock offering, the 2200 acre Hacienda area would be bought for $225,000 and $1,225,000 would be used to convert the Casa Grande into a luxury resort hotel with 36 hole golf course and 7 acre lake. The surrounding properties would become exclusive private home lots.

The dream did not materialize as the mining soured. In January 1926 after major mine exploration ventures failed and capital was exhausted, Sexton presented a reorganization plan. A series of land transactions and housing subdivision plans soon followed.

The Senator mine was closed down in March 1926. 

In April 1926, the “Almaden Manor” “Block A” map was filed with the County for a subdivision along Almaden Road. This subdivision plan was accepted by the County in May 1926 including acceptance of the existing Almaden Road on behalf of the public. See:
Santa Clara County Surveyor Counter Map UM46 for “Almaden Manor” “Block A”

In June 1926, the “Almaden Manor” “Block B” map was filed with the County for a subdivision along Alamitos Road. This subdivision plan was accepted by the County in July 1926, however, as noted on the signature page the Board of Supervisors did not accept the proposed road on behalf of the public (In 1935, when the Almaden Reservoir with canal was built, Alamitos Road took a different route with the current bridge constructed in 1935, reconstructed in 1964, and in process of being replaced). See:
Santa Clara County Surveyor Counter Map VM16 for “Almaden Manor” “Block B”.pdf

George Sexton died in August 1926. The corporation was struggling, foreclosures and litigation took place.

In May and June 1927, deeds of trust were recorded and in January 1928, “Lake Almaden Properties” “Block C” subdivision map was filed with the County along a proposed Bertram Road. This subdivision plan was accepted by the County in February 1928, however, as noted on the signature page the Board of Supervisors did not accept the proposed road on behalf of the public. See:
Santa Clara County Surveyor Counter Map WM34 for “Lake Almaden Properties” “Block C”

In October 1927, the New Almaden Quicksilver Mines Corporation filed for bankruptcy. As a result of a court decision, the title of the mining property passed to wife Mary Lord Sexton with a $750,000 mortgage held on the property by son William Lord Sexton.

In 1927, the Black brothers with others purchased the Casa Grande, and in 1928, purchased the “Almaden Manor” and “Lake Almaden Properties” from the Sexton heirs. David Black took up residence in the Casa Grande to develop “Club Almaden” as a resort. Ben Black joined him in 1933.

In December 1927, deeds of trust were recorded for “New Almaden Park”. In February 1928, a subdivision map along Almaden Road with a proposed “Rome Drive” was filed with the County. This subdivision plan was accepted by the County in June 1928, however, as noted on the signature page the Board of Supervisors did not accept the proposed Rome Drive on behalf of the public. See:
Santa Clara County Surveyor Counter Map XM10 for “New Almaden Park”

In January 1928, deeds of trust were recorded for “Almaden Gardens”. In March 1928, a subdivision map along Almaden Road was filed with the County. This subdivision plan was accepted by the County in June 1928. See:
Santa Clara County Surveyor Counter Map WM41 for “Almaden Gardens”

In 1928, Paul Houret purchased the area north of today’s Bertram Road bridge from the Sexton estate.

The above subdivision maps started the legal basis for a future County right of way within which a public road could be placed. The road may use or move to any portion of the right of way, however, the County retains rights to the full right of way. There are issues that arise when the maps are aligned with the roads, creek, and properties that existed before and after the filings.

When the map was submitted in 1928, there were very few residences on the Bertram side of the creek. By May 1928, cemetery fences were taken down in preparation to put a road through it, and a court injunction was pursued to stop the road. By 1935, Bertram Road was graded and the dirt was used to finish filling the acequia that ran along Almaden Road. In Nov 1935, an attempt sponsored by Supervisor Joe McKinnon was made to have the Board of Supervisors accept Bertram Road, excluding the cemetery area, but it was still refused. 1935 is also when Alamitos Road was realigned and the Alamitos bridge near the reservoir was built (reconstructed in 1964). This period also would start creek bank realignment in town to roughly match the subdivision map, floods also changed the creek route (especially the 1955 flood that later resulted in digging out the channel in places by the Water District.)

There is some documentation confusion, perhaps until at least 1935, Bertram Road did not cross the creek and terminated at the Houret property . Houret had constructed a creek crossing and then a bridge on his property. Some Bertram residents started driving across the creek and a platform may have been placed in the creek for a time.

By 1966, the County had decided to maintain but not accept Bertram Road with a 20 foot right-of-way width. In June 1977, the Board of Supervisors again acknowledged Bertram Road was not accepted.

Below are some photos comparing historical and current conditions:

The top of this picture was taken in 1924. The vantage point the photographer used is now blocked by trees so I had to take the current picture at a higher elevation. The creek meandered very widely, in some places over what is today Bertram Road. What is now La Foret restaurant is clearly seen, the house beyond would be by 21700 Bertram today. Note how the dirt road there curves towards the hills to avoid the creek area. 
As shown in the “Lake Almaden Properties” subdivision map, Almaden Road continued over the bridge then Alamitos Road started. In 1966 when the new bridge was constructed slightly to the south, Almaden Road and Alamitos Road were realigned. The old road through the bridge was renamed Almaden Way and the Alamitos Road piece renamed Bertram Road. The realignment of the new Bertram piece was followed by the more current creation of Bulmore Park restricting street parking.

 

 The current Almaden Way bridge was built in 1919, it failed inspection in 2017 and is now on a high priority replacement list. From the 1850s to 1919 the bridge was wooden. The top picture was taken in 1925 and also shows the Helping Hand Hall (Hacienda Hall). Built in 1887, it was torn down by Frank Pfeiffer in 1941 and the property divided. A new building was constructed closer to Saint Anthony Church. See Santa Clara County Parks Archive: 1925 bridge photograph; 1941 San Jose Mercury Herald article; 1941 photograph Norbert Pfeiffer, John Walsh, and Frank Pfeiffer tearing down Hacienda Hall

 

1890 F. Reade topographic survey map of a portion of the property of the Quicksilver Mining Company. Reade’s map is simular to Frederick Von Leicht’s 1880 map. Coloring added to highlight creek, sidewalk, and acequia. The green boxes are the 1917 building additions from the 1890 version (Church, Helping Hand, new Hancienda School, and a small building by the graveyard.)

 

The 1917 map geo-located onto the Santa Clara County GIS system assessor map showing today’s property boundaries. During the mining period there was nothing that followed the present Bertram Road except near today’s Almaden Way corner. The map shows a wagon road that mostly followed the creek (which flowed differently). For example, the above maps show today’s Bertram Road near the Community Club was creek bed in 1917. The old wagon road was more toward the hill where there are houses today. The road then angled towards what is now 21581 Bertram and split – one path forded the creek (no bridge) coming to Almaden Road between the Carson and Bulmore houses, the other continued to the Hacienda cemetery. There was no road on the north side of the cemetery.

 

This 1885 picture shows the Hacienda Boarding House (now La Foret) and the Boomerang Club (a men’s rooming house). Note the dirt road in the distance in front of the Boomerang Club. See Santa Clara County Parks Archive: 1885 Hacienda boarding house and the Boomerang

 

The 1919 USGS topographic map was based on a physical land survey done in 1915-1916. There is no Bertram Road or old wagon road shown. The next USGS topo map was prepared in 1943 from aerial photographs and had errors that were corrected in 1953. The above shows the original Alamitos Road (I colored it) which started by the Helping Hand, in places followed the creek more closely than the current Alamitos Road, and crossed on a wooden bridge near where the dam is today. There was also an old mining road on the hill to the east that went behind the Helping Hand and connected near today’s Cinnabar Hills Road intersection. Lovely Glen Resort was by 23960 Alamitos Road and the former Twin Creeks community. Cannon’s Resort was covered by the later reservoir, it was below today’s 23505 Alamitos Road. See: Cannon’s Resort 1934 – History San Jose; USGS Historical Topographic Map Explorer

 

This circa 1936 aerial photo was taken after the 1935 Almaden Reservoir and canal was built. The chimney in the lower right is the one still seen today. Hacienda Hall and Saint Anthony Church are near the picture center. Note the mining road that ran behind the church and the graded and realigned Alamitos Road.  Bertram Road has been graded. The two houses on Bertram appear on the 1880-1917 map and appear to be 21630 Bertram after its 1935 remodel and 21700 Bertram before the 1938 remodel. The old 1880 mining road that originally ran on hillside of 21630 Bertram is barely seen.

 

1939-F Santa Clara County Flight CIV 285-041

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 1948 U.S. Forest Service Flight CDF-5 3-75

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The top photograph was taken in 1887 and shows the mining company’s Almaden Road, which was narrower and closer to the rock outcrop on the left . The young boy would be in front of and to the left of the speed limit sign. A Contested Election in California 1887

My brother, Michael Cox, pointed out that the rock bench seen in my photograph is written about by Jimmie Schneider on page 125 of “Quicksilver: The Complete History of Santa Clara County’s New Almaden Mine,” 1992: “one day a steam shovel appeared at a point on the Almaden Road just below the original Hacienda school building and began cutting a bench in the steep hillside.”

Mike’s further comments: According to Jimmie, the then mine manager, a Mr. C.E. Nones, was a leading promoter of a variety of questionable projects at the Mine. Some of his management style is related in Quicksilver Mining Co v. Anderson (Circuit Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit September 4, 1917) No. 2941. Mr. C.E. Nones planned an electric rail car line from New Almaden to San Jose at a time when the mine community was fading and was already served by two railroad lines that were fading just as fast financially. Perhaps encouraged about the mine’s future due to new ore discoveries at the Senator mine, Nones issued shares in the new electric rail line company and began excavating a rail bed for the new line. The point of initiation of the work was the left-hand bank shown in the foreground of the lower photographs, a cut face Schneider labeled as “Nones Bluff” on one of Jimmie’s hand-drawn maps. This bank had to be cut away to make room for the rail bed, which was to run along the north and west side of Almaden Road. As Schneider relates it, the work stopped abruptly and mysteriously, leaving the partial cut face as its only tangible remnant. Quicksilver Mining Co v. Anderson; Schneider “Nones Bluff” chapter draft

That’s all for now, come back soon!