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The Fretwell Building
Photograph by Judith Silva, courtesy of the City of Santa Clara

The Los Gatos Historic Commercial District includes the town's earliest commercial intersection and half of the 19th-century commercial center. Important businesses, institutions and civic buildings were all located here. Architectural styles range from Queen Anne and Richardsonian Romanesque, through most of the intervening modes, to Art Deco, all in typical commercial forms with large display windows. Strolling through the streets of this district, you may note the consistent scale and setback of the buildings from the street--nothing exceeds 2-1/2 stories, and many buildings are single-story. There are many excellent examples of architectural styles represented here. The Mission Revival style is represented by the Sorenson Plumbing building on 23 West Main Street, a one-story frame building constructed in 1906. The Fretwell Building at West Main Street and University Avenue is typical of the Romanesque Revival, with the fine detailing in the imitation stone-faced reinforced concrete facade. Built in 1907, it is also a good example of early heavy reinforced concrete construction. The First National Bank of Los Gatos occupied the building from 1912 to 1918.

Rotating images of the Rankin Block, First National Bank Building, Hofstra Block and the Bogart Block
Photographs by Judith Silva, courtesy of the City of Santa Clara

The stucco-faced Rankin Block (Montebello Building) at 123-149 West Main Street is another example of Mission Revival style architecture. Although two curvilinear parapets have been removed and the storefronts and applied relief ornamentation on the upper floor have been modified, the building is an important visual anchor for the district. It retains the historic tile hip-roofed towers, exterior stucco, fenestration, ornamental window mullions, corner entrance, brick pilasters, vertical divisions, entrance and hallways for the upstairs. The building was constructed in 1902 following a fire on October 13, 1901. The Post Office was located here from 1917 to 1948, and from 1932 until the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake the Chamber of Commerce occupied a portion of the building. The First National Bank Building at the northeast corner of West Main and Santa Cruz Avenue stands as a fine example of Renaissance Revival style architecture. This tall one-story building was constructed in 1920 and was occupied by the First National Bank of Los Gatos until 1955. The lunettes over four windows contain bas relief sculptures of Franciscan Missions. Another noted building at this intersection is the Hofstra Block (La Canada Building- 1-17 North Santa Cruz Avenue). Note the circular bay window with a witch-hat roof projecting out. The Bogart Block (Woodmen's Hall) at 18-20 Santa Cruz Avenue was constructed in 1907. This two-story reinforced concrete building has Classical Revival ornamentation including rusticated pilasters, a modillion cornice, paneled parapet and arched second-story windows. The upstairs was at one time the meeting place for the Woodmen of the World. The second story separated from the first floor in the Loma Prieta earthquake, but was set back together and strengthened without changing the historic appearance.

Bank of America Building and Templeman Hardware
Photographs by Judith Silva, courtesy of the City of Santa Clara
The Art Deco movement is represented by the Bank of America Building at 160-170 West Main Street. This stucco faced two-story reinforced concrete building was constructed from 1931 to 1932. The Art Deco Style building was occupied by Bank of America until 1963. It was one of the earliest new buildings constructed for the bank after the name changed from Bank of Italy to Bank of America, and includes an enframed window wall composition and a fine zigzag frieze under the ceramic tile roof. On 24 North Santa Cruz Avenue stands the Templeman Hardware Store, a one and one-half story reinforced concrete building in Mission Revival Style with a combed brick parapet, molded accent blocks and green marble splash panels. Arthur W. Templeman had a hardware store here from the time the building was constructed about 1921 until 1966.

The Charles River Rock Bungalaw above and adjacent Librante's Gem City French Laundry below
Photographs by Judith Silva, courtesy of the City of Santa Clara

The Charles Wagner River Rock Bungalow at 15 University Avenue is the only residential building included in the district. Constructed in the 1920s, the exterior of the one-story bungalow is composed entirely of rounded rock obtained from Los Gatos Creek. The original owner, Charles Wagner, had a barbershop on West Main Street, and Mrs. Alice Wagner conducted her professional photography business here. In the 1930s Jacques Libante resided in the house. In 1934 Libante had his Gem City French Laundry built at the rear of the lot. The Laundry, at 11 University Avenue, is one of Los Gatos' best examples of Art Deco style and was used for a French hand laundry into the 1960s. Today the historic commercial district continues to be a lively commercial center and an important component of local tourism.

The Downtown Commercial Historic District boundaries are Elm St./Old Town Parking lot on the north, Main St. on the south, Los Gatos Creek to the east and North Santa Cruz Ave. on the west. Many of the stores and restaurants are open to the public during normal business hours.

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 [graphic] Los Gatos Historic Commercial District and link to Economic Development Essay   [graphic] Charles Copeland Morse house and link to Bay Area Architecture Essay
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