We happen to live on Bacigalupi Drive in Belwood of Los Gatos, a lovely street you might walk to get to Belgatos Park. A classmate of mine at Saratoga High School was a Bacigalupi and I have noticed that one of the old buildings in downtown Los Gatos is the Bacigalupi Building (it houses Mountain Charley’s, I believe – it is in the La Canada or Hofstra block near the corner of Main and North Santa Cruz). So I wondered, who were these people with the hard to pronounce name? (I can say it, but I speak some Italian!)
The Bacigalupi Family c.1922 – click to visit the Los Gatos Local History Research Collection and see a larger image and info on this family
The Hooked on Los Gatos project was a collaborative project by the Library and History Museum which appears to have since become the Los Gatos Local History Research Collection. This collection includes page after page of online resources, including all the photos in their archives relating to the Bacigalupi clan. Clicking on each image leads to more information. For instance, here I found information on James A. Bacigalupi, Sr.
I was very impressed to learn that he was the first president of the Bank of Italy, and then worked with A.P. Giannini to form the Bank of America. He may not be the most famous Los Gatan, but he’s certainly a big deal! To the right, this photo features Mr. Bacigalupi with his family, in approximately the year 1922. Click on the image to visit the original photo on the Local History Research Collection page, see a larger image and learn more about the family in this image.
As you probably know, the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake did a great deal of damage to many of the older, historic buildings in downtown Los Gatos. The La Canada (Hofstra) block was no exception. The Los Gatos Chamber of Commerce reported on its “walking tour” page (which has since disappeared, but thankfully has been archived) after the quake, that block was restored by the Bacigalupi, Farwell, Brady and VanDalsem families, so we can thank them for their continued love of our town and its history. (On a side note, if you’re interested in a Los Gatos walking tour don’t despair! The old walking tour has been swapped with a high-tech model: LOST Gatos the walking tour App.)
Los Gatos is a great place to live, but the early explorers must have been truly thrilled when oil was discovered at Moody Gulch and later in areas that are now part of the Town of Los Gatos. A few years ago, my Live in Los Gatos blog covered the topic of the old oil pump that can be seen in a parking lot on Los Gatos Boulevard. My better half became intrigued by this topic, did some research and is providing a guest blog here, this time on the Belwood connection to oil. (Jim’s previous contribution was April 22nd, when he posted on Harwood Road being a meridian.)
Oil in Belwood? Guest post by Jim Handy, originally published on Live in Los Gatos
It may come as a surprise to most of us that there was oil drilling as far north as Los Gatos. After all, that’s a southern California phenomenon, isn’t it?
Well, the truth is that there were ten oil wells in the Los Gatos area around the turn of the last century, and one of them was right here in the Belwood neighborhood.
Old Los Gatos map showing location of oil well in Belwood neighborhood
A USGS map found in 2000 shows that there was an “old oil well” near the intersection of Harwood and Belridge*. This map was drawn about 100 years ago, and there was oil exploration here as early as the 1860s, so there’s no telling when it was drilled. In those days citizens weren’t as circumspect about telling the state what they were up to as they are today.
I’ve looked around that intersection, and have found no trace of the well, but by the time these homes were built it may have been long gone, along with any traces of its existence.
Los Gatos was not much of an oil producer. There is no evidence of any commercial activity except in the Moody Gulch area on the other side of the summit. The USGS says that most wells on this side of the hill were used privately. Still it’s interesting to think that a little part of this history happened right here in Belwood!
* Note on the map: This map shows railroad lines and trolly car lines that don’t now exist, roads with different names then the ones we know today and major thoroughfares like Blossom Hill Road entirely missing. I have taken the liberty to add a few notes to clarify the spot. Many of the numbers on the map (13, 14, 18) indicate townships and some of the straight black lines are the limits of the township and not streets. Also, the squiggly line running through most of the image is the base of Blossom Hill – the hill for which the major road was named.
Jim Handy and Bella at Belgatos Park
Do you like maps? My better half, Jim Handy, is crazy about them. And when he learned that the road just on the other side of the house next door is actually a meridian, he got pretty excited. I think it’s the engineer in him – that beautiful, inner geek – that loves the analysis of it all.
Today’s blog entry, then, is a Guest Post by my map enthusiast (and former volunteer parks commissioner), Jim Handy. This post originally published on LiveInLosGatos.com.
Many think of Harwood Road as the far eastern boundary of Los Gatos, which it nearly is, but there’s much more to this humble road than that. Travel uphill to the top of the road and you can see views of the entire valley and get into beautiful Belgatos Park and Santa Rosa Open Space, but the majority of the street, the straight part of Harwood Road, has the distinction of following the Mount Diablo Meridian.
View of downtown San Jose from near the top of Harwood Road and Belgatos Park
Back in California’s early days, great tracts of land known as Ranchos or Spanish Land Grants were defined by features that sometimes changed: they might run north to the edge of a creek, east to a tree, south to a boulder, etc. Some of these landmarks could move a bit over time, but when you’re dealing with a tract of thousands of acres, these alterations are very small overall. (more…)