gmhTODAY 18 gmhToday Feb March 2018 - Page 56

O Morgan Hill's Historic Downtown n a cold but sunny Saturday morning in December, TODAY joined a small group of eight for the two-hour walking tour of Morgan Hill's historic downtown district. We were lucky that morning to have two guides from the Morgan Hill Historical Society. Clay Pytlik took the lead. Rick Smith was the back-up with a notebook of historic photos that helped provide context for the dialogue. Both Clay and Rick have interesting backgrounds. While Clay is a relatively new Morgan Hill resident, she is an established colonial history scholar with experience leading historic tours in Iowa and West Virginia. Rick is a long-term Morgan Hill resident and has been a docent at Villa Mira Monte. This year, he hopes to be a lead tour guide. The tour starts below the Poppy Jasper glass wall on the north side of the Fourth Street Plaza Garage. We received a well-designed brochure on the highlights of the tour, but the commentary was more than enough to keep our attention and interest. Walking tours create an awareness of details that are lost on most drivers. I have often driven along Third Street and never noticed the Victorian Queen Anne details on homes in that area. The tour is an interesting experience well worth the two hours. One little piece of info, the Grange Hall (circa 1907) on Fourth Street did not start out as a Grange but as the second grammar school built in Morgan Hill. This is indicative of a different way building in 1907. The third grammar school, originally located at the corner of Dunne and Monterey, is now the home of Morgan Hill’s Community & Cultural Center. Over a period of ten years, the home was moved, in 13 pieces, to its current location at 410 Llagas Road. It received the Governor’s Award of Excellence in Historic Preservation in 2003, and has taken on a new life as the Stratford School. Another fact: during the widening of a downtown section of Monterey Road in the late 1930s, the buildings along the west side of the road were moved back by approximately 17 to 20 feet. The structures built on mudsills, including the Methodist-Episcopal Church (circa 1893) at 17175 Monterey Road, were pulled back by horses. This building has several unique features including the bull’s-eye window facing Monterey Road and the original pressed tin ceiling. Ladera Grill was originally the Skeels Hotel (circa 1910). The front of the building had to be blasted off for the widening of Monterey. In 1926 the Crown Prince and Princess of Sweden stayed at the Skeels Hotel during their visit to dedicate Sveadal, the Swedish resort located along Uvas Creek. Continuing our walk down Monterey Road, there were stories upon stories connected with most of the buildings. 56 gmh GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018