Historical Saratoga in Santa Clara County

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Saratoga Historical Society Museum - Saratoga, CA

Part of Silicon Valley but different from it in both look and feel, Saratoga, California has been a logging hub, a tourist center and is now home to the Bay Area rich.

Saratoga in California is named for its namesake, Saratoga Springs, in New York. The whole city is designated as a California state historic landmark, and its state historical marker is attached to an imposing white memorial arch that has changed location at least three times since it was erected. This somewhat matches the city of Saratoga itself, which has changed its name and dominant industry several times.

Early Residents and Settlers of Saratoga, California

The original people of the Saratoga area were ancestors of the Ohlone Indians. According to Mildred Brooke Hoover’s Historic Spots in California, the De Anza expedition passed this way, but it wasn’t until 1846 that Jose Noriega and his father in law, Jose Fernandez, received a land grant and settled. Manuel Alviso later acquired the grant and named the area Rancho Quito, still remembered today in Quito Road, a country lane lined with laburnum and ornamental cherry trees.

The area was heavily forested, and logging soon became a major industry. In 1847, William Campbell signed a contract with Alviso and set up a sawmill approximately two miles west of today’s Saratoga. The small community that formed around that mill was named Campbell’s Gap, the earliest name for Saratoga. The city of Campbell was named for this miller, who subsequently sold his holdings; when Campbell’s Gap received a post office in 1852, it was named for Martin McCarty, an early settler who came over from Ireland.

Industry and Name Changes For Historic Saratoga, California

McCarty built a toll road to bring the logs down to town; this spot is marked by a local historical marker in the downtown stretch of highway 9 before it winds its way up into the Santa Cruz mountains. This was the spot where McCarty had laid out plots for building, and still holds old-fashioned “wild west” structures. This strip of land is where Saratoga’s restaurants are centered, for the most part.

In 1850, hot springs were discovered in the area and the townsfolk voted to change their name to Saratoga, with a nod to the famous springs in New York. The Congress Springs resort was opened and became a famous tourist destination. The town’s industrial season gave way to agriculture; the open meadows became wineries and orchards. The Paul Masson Mountain Winery is just outside town, and is itself a state historic landmark.

Modern Times in Saratoga, California

As time passed, Saratoga started to be home to the rich, and in 2005 was named one of the top 50 most expensive zipcodes in the USA. It is a suburban community at the edge of Silicon Valley, far different from the hustle and bustle of San Jose and environs.

Saratoga is a Certified Local Government, which means it is qualified to designate its own local historic landmarks. The Chamber of Commerce publishes a walking tour with several of the structures sporting small plaques, and there is an interesting history museum that, while usually only open at weekends, does have outdoor exhibits that can be viewed year-round.

Saratoga is found at the south end of Silicon Valley, where state highway 9 starts heading up into the Santa Cruz mountains and thence to the coast. Saratoga Avenue, which leads into the city, is an exit from the freeway, state highway 85.