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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Further Reading in the California Room
- German Pioneers in Early California by Erwin Gustav Gudde
- Records of the First German Evangelical Lutheran Church, San Jose, California
- California Room Index: German
- California Room Index: Cigar