Los Gatos Town History

The name Los Gatos comes from "El Rancho Rinconda de Los Gatos," a ranch established in 1839 by a Mexican land grant and so named because of the large number of mountain lions in the area. In 1854, James Alexander Forbes purchased some of this land and built a flour mill. In 1860, the first hotel was opened to provide a stage stop on the toll road which had been built between San Jose and Santa Cruz.

Wheat production gave way to orchards, and rapid growth ensued when the railroad reached Los Gatos in 1878. The residential subdivisions of Broadway, Fairview, and Almond Grove were built in the 1880's. By 1887, the population had grown to 1,500 and Los Gatos voted to incorporate.

Fruit industries faded slowly during the Depression and World War II, but the postwar period brought an influx of people producing residential and commercial development. Highway 17 was constructed through the center of Town. Growth leveled off in the early '70s, leaving Los Gatos with its small-town atmosphere and pedestrian-oriented downtown.

Because of the distance from other centers of population, Los Gatos developed as a complete community, including residential, business and industrial elements. Preserving Los Gatos as a complete and well balanced community has been and remains a prominent goal for the community. From the first 100 acre town site and an 1890 population of 1,652, Los Gatos grew slowly so that by 1963 the area was only 6.3 square miles, with a population of 11,750. Today Los Gatos covers approximately 12 square miles and has a population of 27,445 persons (1990). This relatively slow growth over the first 80 years resulted in a human scale community with narrow streets and small buildings.

Los Gatos Boundaries encompass a wide variety of terrain, ranging from level land to steep and densely wooded hillsides. The sharp visual contrasts among these features and charming architecture create the picturesque setting of the Town. In the midst of an increasingly uniform urban complex, this setting has attracted people with a preference for the Town's distinctive, high quality natural and urban environment.

The slow growth of the Town over an extended number of years has left the Town with a heritage of older, established residential areas and a downtown with many historic buildings representing the various eras in the Town's history. Protection of these historic resources which are a major part of the Town's character is an important community goal. Two museums, Tait Ave. and Forbes Mill, help preserve the Town's valued history.


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