Rich History, Celebrities And Underwater Towns
The now quaint and thriving Los Gatos was founded in the mid-1850s with the building of Forbes Mill. The two-story stone storage annex of the building that started it all, now sits as a museum just off of Main Street.
By the 20s, Los Gatos had developed a bohemian arts colony reputation; attracting painters, musicians, writers, actors and their followers. The actresses Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland (sisters) were graduates of Los Gatos High School, and John Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath in Los Gatos.
Downtown Los Gatos has retained its historic charm and today is a popular destination for fine dining, boutique shopping, music, hiking, mountain biking, and the best gateway to the Santa Cruz Mountains wine region.
Lexington Reservoir and Its Local Ghost Towns
The Lexington Ridge Inn overlooks the sweeping Lexington Reservoir, a 450 acre lake created from the construction of the James J. Lenihan Dam in 1952.
Prior to the reservoir being developed, the 800 residents of the towns of Lexington and Alma were forced to move to make way for the waters. Building ruins and old town roads under the reservoir can still be seen during droughts.
Lexington Reservoir County Park features a variety of hiking and biking trails for everyone from casual walkers to serious runners and biking enthusiasts.
One of our favorite trails takes you to the top of St. Joseph’s Hill for spectacular views of the reservoir and Silicon Valley, all the way to San Francisco.
There are two different possible origins for the name of the town. The first is that the town was the location of a branch road that led to the New Almaden mine. The second, and more fanciful, origin is that the town was named after a local prostitute.
Alma had a stage stop, hotel, saloons, small agricultural operations, general merchandise store, and lumber mills, as well as other establishments. The South Pacific Coast Railroad served Alma between 1880 and 1940, providing service between Los Gatos and Santa Cruz via Wrights, also known as Wrights Station or Wright’s Station.
Lexington started out in 1848 when Zachariah “Buffalo” Jones bought a sawmill for $3000 and laid out the town.
Originally a stop on the stagecoach route from Los Gatos to Santa Cruz until the 1860s when the saw mills moved up into the hills. With this change, Lexington began to lose importance. In 1880, when a railroad from Los Gatos to Santa Cruz (bypassing Lexington) was completed, the town’s fate was doomed.
The Lexington Murders was one of the most notable crimes in California during the 19th century. In 1883, a Los Gatos saloon keeper, Lloyd Majors, hired two thugs to rob an elderly Lexington man who kept $20,000 in gold in his cabin. They burned him with turpentine-soaked rags and beat him with pistols, killing him, and then fled with the gold. Their sensational trial in San Jose drew national attention similar to that accorded to the Lizzie Borden ax murders nine years later. Majors and one of the thugs were hanged. The other spent 15 years in prison.
The Notorious Speakeasy and Bordello
The Cats Roadhouse was originally a stop on the old stage coach line and served as a weigh station for the horse-drawn lumber wagons on their way to San Jose, as well as a rowdy social club for area residents. Around 1920, when the road was first paved, The Cats was one of the areas most notorious speakeasies and bordellos.
The restaurant and tavern were established in 1967 and it is one of the last remaining roadhouses in the United States.