Preservation in the City of Santa Clara

South Bay Historical Railroad
In cooperation with Caltrans, the South Bay Historical Railroad Society, a nonprofit group founded in 1985, undertook the successful renovation of the Santa Clara Depot in 1986. Today, in addition to serving as a passenger depot it also houses a railroad museum.

Photograph by Judith Silva, courtesy of the City of Santa Clara

Every community has its own history, and has weathered the tides of change. Santa Clara is no different. The transformation of Santa Clara from an agricultural town to a modern metropolitan city began in the 1950s and continued through the rest of the 20th century. As farms disappeared, one by one, residential subdivisions moved into the spaces that orchards occupied.

Santa Clara has experienced growing pains similar to many other cities. With urban sprawl, businesses and residents migrated to the fringes of the city. Santa Clara's downtown area experienced a significant decline during the last half of the 20th century. Growth and redevelopment have also resulted in many of Santa Clara's historic places falling prey to the bulldozer.

The late 1960s saw one of the City's more controversial decisions, to demolish its original downtown in hopes of creating a new economic center. Using Federal Urban Renewal funds, eight blocks along Franklin Street were acquired and torn down. Several of the former downtown business owners who survived relocated to the new two-block Franklin Square and the six blocks were offered to new development. Not much happened and it took until 1987 to develop the last parcel.

Andrew J. Landrum House
Located in the heart of historic Santa Clara, the Andrew J. Landrum House is one of city's oldest and best preserved houses

Photograph by Judith Silva, courtesy of the City of Santa Clara

There are few persons today that don't believe that the old downtown could have been restored to a charming commercial center.but there is a new heightened awareness of the importance of preserving historic buildings. In 1976, a city-wide historic resources survey was completed by staff and volunteers. In 1985, the Historical and Landmarks Commission was appointed to act in an advisory capacity to City Council in all matters pertaining to historical landmarks, museums, community functions, special task groups, and to advise local residents and businesses on preservation related matters. The Commission is also responsible for the marking and preservation of historical landmarks/places and other functions as may be required.

The draft Historic Conservation District Ordinance, currently under review, is Santa Clara's most recent preservation initiative. In enacting this Article, the City recognizes the substantial aesthetic, environmental and economic importance of its historic and cultural resources. The purpose of this Article is to establish policies, regulations and standards to protect historic and cultural resources and to ensure that development in the Historic Conservation District is compatible and enhances the quality and character of Santa Clara. With the conscious efforts of the City Council, Historical and Landmarks Commission, and the many other groups and individuals, Santa Clara hopes to save its visible reminders of our past for future generations.

Last updated: January 16, 2018