Looking Back: The Kell House at Curtner and Almaden

Leonard McKay's photo of the Kell House, summer of 1961. Courtesy of History San Jose.

Photo: Leonard McKay's photo of the Kell House, summer of 1961. Courtesy of History San Jose.

In November of 1965, my family moved from downtown Willow Glen to the Meadowbrook tract in a southeast pocket of Willow Glen (now referred to as Canoas Gardens).  This tract is located at the base of the San Juan Bautista Hills, on property that had once belonged to Thomas and Margaret Kell. Though I was only six at the time, I remember my father and I driving across the new Almaden Expressway to the large field at the corner of Curtner and Almaden Road.  We parked the car under some tall trees along the banks of the Guadalupe River, and walked through the field to an old farm house. This had been Thomas and Margaret Kell's house. The section of their property that it stood on is now known as the Willow Glen Plaza.

 

Located in the Willow Glen Plaza on the former Kell property, this late 1960s McDonalds is one of the last remaining with the large external arches.

Photo: Located in the Willow Glen Plaza on the former Kell property, this late 1960s McDonalds is one of the last remaining with the large external arches.

 

After Thomas and Margaret were married, Margaret’s father, Martin Murphy Sr., wrote telling of life in California. Tom and Margaret eventually decided to move out from Missouri and in 1846, they joined Margaret's father on his homestead near Morgan Hill. In 1847, they established their own ranch at Almaden Road and Curtner.  The ranch extended north of Malone Road, as far south as Koch Lane, and east to include part of the San Juan Bautista Hills where the First Baptist Church (“The Church on the Hill”) is now located. Devoted Catholics; the Kells donated a back portion of their property to the Catholic Church for use as a cemetery (Kell or Holy Cross Cemetery). The house itself was built by hand from local redwood, and may have been the oldest frame house in Santa Clara County at the time that it was torn down in the late 1960s.

Further reading in the California Room:

Comments

What a shame. A historic home demolished to make way for McDonald's and a a smattering of other forgettable replacements. The 1950s and 60s were disastrous for San Jose history. So much was destroyed only to be replaced by garbage that is predictably now blight.

we've lost some wonderful buildings, though I'm thankful for the ones we've saved (many through the efforts of the Preservation Action Council: http://www.preservation.org/).

Thanks for posting this. I also grew up in the area in the 1960s and remember much about the way things were. My first job was cutting apricots, and when I was big enough to move the ladders, I graduated to picking cots. Even into the early 1980s there were still tracts of orchard land but these are all gone now. Many thanks to the Preservation Action Council.

Hey Ralph, I sent you an email a while back with the location of where the Kell street sign was at. That'll be cool to update this post with that image. :D

Thanks again for the link to Kell Way. We don't really get into updating posts unless there's a correction to be made, but here's a Google Maps link to the street. It seems likely that Kell Way is named for the Kell family who owned their huge parcel a short distance north of the street: https://www.google.com/maps/@37.276811,-121.8792613,3a,17.3y,158.15h,98.43t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sNzDS8Sb5zIQxbQ7fMHQHKw!2e0!7i16384!8i8192

If not, there should be one stating some interesting info about the Kell family.

though there isn't one that I'm aware of. I offered the Starbucks in the shopping center a copy of the old Kell farm house that once stood on the site, but they're unable to display it due to franchise restrictions.

for example there were 2 on new jersey only one remains , on Foxworthy theres 1 on Jacob 2, on kirk 1 on leigh 2 on booksin 1 and Jarvis 1 just was bulldozed under, plummer only 1 remains cherry ave has 2 or 3 theres one at willow glen closer to markham you get the idea

Will have to check on these one of these times, thanks!

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