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NewsCommunityThe 2019 Tour of Historic Milpitas

The 2019 Tour of Historic Milpitas

Saturday, June 29th, 9AM-2PM

Gather at Milpitas Public Library

This year the Milpitas Historical Society will hold its annual tour of historic sites in Milpitas on Saturday, June 29th. We do this as a community service to help Milpitans connect to the history of our city. Generous donations from sponsors ensure that the tour is free and open to the public. Participants will be riding in an air-conditioned tour bus with reserved seating.

Check-in for the tour is at 9AM in the Milpitas Public Library garage on 160 N. Main Street, and the tour will end at 2PM.  

During our assembling time, which is before normal library hours, we will have a small amount of cars parked in the garage’s lower levels. However, as a thoughtful courtesy to regular Library patrons, please park your vehicle on the 3rd or 4th floor and take the stairs or elevator to the ground floor, where the tour’s registration desk will be situated near the Society’s Leapin’ Lena fire engine. Handicapped parking is on the ground floor, or you can park near the elevators on upper floors.

The tour will include an examination of an often-overlooked encased wood wall, complete with imprints of cattle brand test burns saved from the adjacent 1922 Winsor blacksmith shop, which was demolished in 2005. A special bonus will be learning some of its history from Robert Winsor, a direct descendant. 

Participants will also learn the highlights of the history of the restored Leapin’ Lena fire engine, which is now on display at the Library, and saw actual service in Milpitas from 1947 to 1956.

Inside the Library, we will look at what were once aspects of the 1916 Milpitas Grammar School and, in the years after its closure, various civic spaces.

Outside, across from the Library on Main Street, the participants will hear the history of the 1915 Dr. Renselaer Smith house (a fine example of Prairie School architecture designed by local architect Frank Delos Wolfe in a movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, popularized by the nationally famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright). A noteworthy landmark, it currently is officially designated as a cultural resource.

At a key point, the tour group will pose on the steps of the former Milpitas Grammar School for a commemorative photo, after which everyone will board the bus to travel to the historic intersection of today’s Serra Way and South Main Street (formerly Alviso Road and Old Oakland Highway, as well as other names depending upon the era being discussed). 

Main Street and Alviso Road, circa 1914. Photographer, Alfred Knight Sr.

Our docent will relate the truly historic importance of this intersection to various businesses that have served the community over many decades, going back to the California Gold Rush of the 1850s. The Pashote Building (at the far right in the photo to the right), with its Spanish Colonial Revival-style architecture, is still standing today, albeit substantially altered in appearance; currently we know it as the An-Jan Feed & Pet Supply store. On the tour you will learn more of its extensive history, and that of the other buildings shown in the photo.

From this location the tour will travel by bus to the José Alviso Adobe Park to learn about the adobe residence and its outbuildings on what was originally a 4,458-acre Mexican land grant, the 1835 Rancho Milpitas. Its ownership status had to be reaffirmed when Alta California ceased being a part of Mexico and California became the 31st state in the United States.

NOTE: As a friendly caution regarding these next (and last) two sites, we advise wearing shoes suitable for trekking in the cemetery’s dry grass and the apricot orchard’s dirt.

The tour will proceed south on Piedmont Road to visit the historic 1902 St. John the Baptist Catholic Cemetery (normally closed to the public), in which numerous families of Milpitas pioneers are buried. Though many of the graves are unmarked, numerous names on grave markers are recognizable to local historians, and this is a rare opportunity to visit this location.

The last site on this year’s tour is directly across the road from the cemetery — the Silva Apricot Ranch. This is the last working apricot ranch in Milpitas; Kelly Silva and his family have cared for this farm for more than 60 years. The complete processing of the ranch’s fresh Blenheim apricots (from destoning, to sulphuring, to sun-drying) will be demonstrated by the Silva crew (if the timing of this year’s crop again cooperates with our scheduling efforts). 

Silva Apricot Orchard, sun-drying cots, circa 1955. Courtesy of Kelly Silva

The tour bus will return everyone to the Milpitas Library by about 2 PM.


To reserve a seat on the tour bus or to obtain additional information, please call 1-408-262-7979. 

Anyone without a reservation wanting to join the tour on June 29th is welcome. We will first add registrants on standby status to fill any seats emptied because of cancellations and no-shows. Last-minute participants will be added to the tour bus if seating is still available.

Please note that the bus has been filled to capacity for the last three years. 


This year’s free tour of historic sites in Milpitas was made possible 

by the generous support of the following sponsors:

The City of Milpitas; Mark Tiernan Communications; Rotary Club of Milpitas; Debra Giordano, Master Brokers; Charles Margiotta, D.D.S., Hillview Office Center; Phil Sweat, Pacific Tire Outlet; Jerry H. Glass, D.D.S., Main Street Professional Center; Kelly Yip-Chuan, Platinum Realty Group; Todd Flesner, OPES Advisors; and Larry Ciardella

Joseph Ehardt
Joseph Ehardt
Joseph Ehardt is a research local historian with the Milpitas Historical Society and one of its annual historical tour docents. Additionally, he is the Society’s current Director of Educational Outreach Programs, which supports Milpitas’ elementary school teachers with local history presentations for young students. He also is a member of the Society’s Board of Directors.



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