Looking Back: A Little House on Almaden Road

I must have passed this house a thousand times over the years. It stands on a corner on Almaden Road, just before the railroad underpass that brings you to Willow Glen Way. It's one of those intriguing little houses that always drew my curiosity. I had an opportunity to go inside back around 2006 when it opened for business as a cigar store. Still operating as a cigar store, I decided to stop by and see what more I might learn about its history.

Rumors

Cluttered old tan house at 1650 Almaden Road is currently the home of West Coast Cigars.
Image: The house at 1650 Almaden Road is currently the home of West Coast Cigars.

I soon found myself chatting with one of the regulars, who revealed that there were a number of undocumented rumors about the old house. One popular rumor is that it had been used as a brothel. Another rumor is that a professional wrestler had lived there, and yet another that there may be an automobile buried somewhere on the premises. Wandering around inside the store, I found a photo of the house in 1885 on a back wall, and decided to see what more I could learn using California Room resources.

The interior of the cigar store showing what was presumably the front parlor and dining area beyond. It appears that the lounge extends into one of the former bedrooms, and that another bedroom is being used as the humidor.
Image:The interior of the cigar store showing what was presumably the front parlor and dining area beyond. It appears that the lounge extends into one of the former bedrooms, and that another bedroom is being used as the humidor.

An Old Photo

The photograph depicted two women on the front porch of the house, with a caption saying that it was a circa 1885 photo of Carolina Teigeler at the house built by her son John. The first directory I searched was 1884. There was no listing, so I proceeded to 1890, since we have a gap between 1885 and 1889. I found an 1890 listing for Henry Tigler (misspelled) at the corner of Almaden and Stone Avenue. Henry was another son of Carolina's, and he worked at the San Jose Box Factory on North San Pedro Street. The corner where the house stands is currently Almaden and Stone Court, but before the Almaden Expressway came through, Stone Avenue curved over to Almaden Road.

Image:The photo that hangs in the back of the cigar store. It features Carolina Teigeler and presumably her eldest single daughter Louisa, who would have been 16 years old when this c.1885 photo was taken. Photo courtesy of West Coast Cigars.
Image:The photo that hangs in the back of the cigar store. It features Carolina Teigeler and her teenage daughter Mary in this c.1885 photo. Photo courtesy of West Coast Cigars.

Directory Searches

Along with the directory searches, I began looking to see what I could find online. What I discovered is that Carolina was born in Prussendorf, Germany, in 1837. Her full name was Hanna Carolina Friederica Ernestina Ahlgrim. Her first marriage was to a man named Bendschneider. She had two children during this first marriage: Wilhelmina in 1858, and Johanne (Anna) in 1862. The same year as Anna's birth, she married Conrad Teigeler (Hessen, Germany, 1827) in Chicago. Carolina had six children with Conrad: John (1863), Conrad (1865), Louisa (1869), Henry (1870), and finally Mary and Mary Maria (both 1872, presumed twins). Conrad died in Chicago in 1880 at the age of 53.

Image: Cemetery with the Teigeler headstones in the foreground. I located the markers with the assistance of findagrave.com.
Image: Cemetery with the Teigeler headstones in the foreground. I located the markers with the assistance of findagrave.com.

Though Carolina died in 1904 at 67 years of age, it appears that various members of the family lived in the tiny house from about 1885 until John passed away in 1949. Over the years, the house was assigned various addresses, from Route C, Box 371 Stone Avenue, to its current address of 1650 Almaden Road. Following John's death, the house has been occupied by Clyde and Bertha Henningsen, Robert and Maxine Paselk, Gracie's Auto Cleaning, Manuel Perez, RL Construction, and currently West Coast Cigars. There were several periods of time where the house is listed as "vacant."

Image: Humidor with shelves of cigars at West Coast Cigars.
Image: Humidor with shelves of cigars at West Coast Cigars.

Further Reading in the California Room

 

Comments

Really interesting--I love this kind of local history. Glad to have discovered your blog!

Always nice to get positive feedback!

Carolina was my great great great grandmother so this was a very interesting read for me! Thank you for the article!

Megan, thanks so much for your note. I noticed some additional family photos (John and Henry) on ancestry.com which you're probably familiar with.

The good stuff keeps on coming. Can't wait to read the local history stories in 2018 :D

Great article, thanks for taking the time. I grew up in that house. My mother Bertha (Hensley) Henningsen was born in that house. As a young boy growing up in that house, it seemed huge. I remember the ceilings being really high, so what it didn't have in square feet it made up for in cubic feet. To address the RUMORS, the brothel was about a block and a half north between the Latin Quarters and the east west RR tracks. When it burned down, body coins were found in the debris. Kind of confirmed what people whispered about. Soon after the ashes cooled a Taco stand went up. Instantaneous revitalization. Not sure about the car being buried there on the property. I know at one time (I was told by my father) the Guadalupe River ran a short distance behind the house. When they dug the new channel about a half mile to the west, who knows what all went in the old channel to fill it up. Maybe a car or two. The professional wrestler story is interesting because the way I recall it, it was about a midget wrestler that owned the gas station across the street to the north. Newby's Gas Station. I can see the guy today, short in stature, muscular and bald. They called him Shorty and he was an employee that worked from the glass booth on the north end of the lot. He looked just like the small of stature wrestlers that performed at Civic Auditorium in the late 50's. Back to the house. When my parents decided to move around 1960 I thought it was a big house. When I came back and visited several years ago, it had shrunk, it was truly a tiny house on Almaden Rd. In spite of the fact my parents bedroom had been turned into a walk in humidor, it was and is still the Old Home Place. A Tiny House with big memories that sheltered the Tegler- Hensley- Henningsen clan for some 80 years.

Clyde, thank you so much for giving us "the rest of the story." It's so great to learn more about the house, the creek, and the rumors! Feel free to send any additional photos to me at ralph.pearce@sjlibrary.org I'll be sharing all of this with the folks at the cigar store as well. Thanks again!

I really enjoyed the history of this house. Thank you for sharing!!

I love learning the history of our area!

I really enjoy it too.

My parents Bob& Maxine and my 3 brothers were raised in the old farm house from 1963-1973. At that time open fields/orchards on 2 sides.our family built a 36 foot trimaran sail boat in the “backyard” back of the 2 story Pump house. Have many found memories growing up there. We put in a swimming pool next to the house and “chicken coops “ left side of the front door was a century plant that bloomed just prior to my parents leaving on the sailboat adventure.

My parents Bob & Maxine Paselk and my 3 brothers live in the old house from 1963-1973. We built a 36 foot sailboat in the back yard ( behind 2 story pump house). Boat was towed to Alviso and launched in 1970. The house was surrounded on two sides with walnut orchards. We put in a swimming pool between the house- pump house- and the chicken coop. Many photos and fond memories.

Thanks for sharing your memories. It's great to see that this old house has captured the imagination and interest of so many!

I am a great-great granddaughter to Carolina Teigeler. The other lady on the steps is her daughter, Mary, who is my great grandmother. Mary met John Hensley in San Jose, they married about 1895 and had 10 children, one of whom was my grandmother, Georgina Hensley. John bought the Oak Hill Cemetery plots shown above - he and Mary are also buried there at Oak Hill. A family member did some geneology research on our families, and these details are outlined there. We have many photos of these family members who were photographed at studios in downtown San Jose dating to before 1900.

Thank you for adding to the story! It's great to learn more about the family, and I've corrected the photo identification. I'm wondering if your great-grandmother Mary and Mary Maria were twins? Thanks again for your contribution.

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