A Walk Back in Time…
Gilroy's Rich History
on Monterey Road
he Gilroy Historical Society offers a
tour of historical sites nine times a year.
They are on the first Saturday of the
month and usually last two plus hours. Each tour is different:
for example, January is Monterey (Downtown) Street, March is
Women’s History Tour and November is Old St Mary Cemetery.
For the complete schedule go to Gilroy Historical Society
On this particular Saturday morning, fourteen of us joined
Connie Rogers at the Gilroy Museum on Fifth Street. We
proceeded down to the corner of Fifth and Monterey where the
actual tour began. One thing became obvious. There is a ton of
historical material along Monterey Street. The Gilroy Museum
has a walking tour booklet that references 48 buildings
between Fourth and Sixth Streets. Connie also had several
pages from the Historic Registrar, City of Gilroy. Around 1986
the City of Gilroy commissioned the firm of Bonnie L. Bamberg
to do a survey of historical sites. The study documents
information on over 600 sites and buildings in Gilroy.
Connie and her magic book kept all enthralled with
significant and, sometimes, less-so historical facts. Walking
the downtown with an historical eye one notices interesting
and beautiful details. The black glazed tiles, glass blocks,
medallions, shields, and carvings missed as we hurry about our
business. These interesting details are everywhere…one only
has to look for them!
We walked down the west side of Monterey Street to
Seventh where we crossed to the Train Station on the east side.
The tour proceeded up the east side to the old Strand Theater
just before Fourth Street.
So many sites have fascinating stories old and new. For
example, the soon to be Golden State Brewery at 7562
Monterey Street started out as The Elks Lodge upstairs and
a furniture store downstairs. It was built by William Radtke
in 1928. The building was built on the site of the Piedmont
Hotel. Afte r the Elks moved out it had several lives before it
became the Ford’s Department Store, which was the oldest
mercantile business and department store chain in California.
The 1989 earthquake severely damaged the Ford’s Department
Store empire and before long the Gilroy Ford’s closed. Since
then it has gone through several owners. Most recently it has
been a gym and fitness center. A lot of history and stories for
Another point on the history of the downtown and Gilroy in
general are the multiple reminders of that history. The Paseo
between Fifth and Sixth hosts seven panels on the history of
Gilroy. A stroll down Monterey Street notes the presence of
GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN
numerous plaques placed by the Gilroy Downtown Business
Association and the Gilroy Historical Society. These markers
highlight some essential facts about the building. One marker
on the side of the Gilroy Antiques shop commemorates it
as the offices of the Chesbro Doctors. Below it someone has
mounted a fun-loving plaque: “On this site in 1897
Monterey Street has an active history and hopefully a
vibrant future that respects that history. A special thanks to
the Gilroy Historical Society in general and to our tour guide,
Connie Rogers, in particular, for all their work to keep this
historical perspective alive.
Written By Larry J. Mickartz