|Neighborhood of San Jose|
Willow Glen Branch of the San José Public Library.
|Elevation||115 ft (35 m)|
Willow Glen is a neighborhood of San Jose, California, in Santa Clara County. The neighborhood has walkable tree-lined streets, diverse architecture, specialty shops, and independent businesses. The historic downtown on Lincoln Avenue between Willow Street and Minnesota Avenue is a well-known downtown community, with a variety of restaurants and shops.
The neighborhood began in the mid-1800s as an unincorporated community adjacent to San Jose, California. By the 1860s the small unincorporated community needed its first school, and Willow Glen Elementary School was founded in 1863. Willow Glen continued as an unincorporated community until the 1920s, when the City of San Jose ordered the Southern Pacific Railroad to re-route the Southern Pacific Railroad trunk line which at that time was going down Fourth Street. The Southern Pacific then proposed to re-route down Lincoln Avenue. In order to forestall that attempt, Willow Glen was incorporated as a city in 1927. The railroad was instead re-routed to its current route through a then-unincorporated area now known as North Willow Glen, where its principal user is now Caltrain.
Being a city, however, required thinking about issues such as sewage. Willow Glen had no sewer system – individual homes had their own cesspools or septic systems. Because the area was marshy before being drained for Willow Glen, the high water table resulted in raw sewage often spilling above-ground from flooded cesspools. Rather than build their own very expensive sewage treatment system, in 1936 Willow Glen's residents opted to be annexed to San Jose and be linked to San Jose's sewage system, the measure passing by a vote of 17 to 38.
Willow Glen includes areas within zip code 95125, though not all of the zip code area can actually be considered to be part of the Willow Glen neighborhood, and there are areas within the 95126 zip code that many people would consider to be part of Willow Glen. Willow Glen has no officially defined boundaries, and area residents have been known to debate where the neighborhood ends. The Willow Glen Neighborhood Association's by-laws reserve voting memberships to individuals and businesses within boundaries of the Association defined by the San Jose 2009 Greenprint - Willow Glen Planning Area Map, and within 1/2 mile of Greenprint boundary.
"Willow Glen" was named for the marshy wet area between the Guadalupe River and Los Gatos Creek. The soggy land tended to produce vegetation like willows and cattails that were somewhat unique to the immediately surrounding area. As both waterways run south to north, the marsh was damper and less livable the further north it went. What was historically called 'Willow Glen' would have actually originated at its northernmost point where the Los Gatos Creek runs into the Guadalupe River. This is the approximate site of the SAP Center in downtown San Jose today and would not be considered part of the Willow Glen neighborhood. Overtime, the historical community developed between the Guadalupe River and Los Gatos Creek, roughly two miles south of the point where they intersect, and beneath what is today Highway 280.
Generally, most Willow Glen residents agree on the community's northernmost and easternmost borders. Debate about where the community ends centers mostly on the lesser defined western and southern borders.
Highway 280 is almost universally accepted as the community's northern border. It has long separated and distinguished the Willow Glen neighborhoods of North Willow Glen, Palmhaven, and the Meridian-Pedro corridor from downtown San Jose. In turn, these areas house arguably Willow Glen's two most famous historical landmarks, the "Roberto Adobe & Sunol House Museum" and the "Willow Glen Trestle" spanning the Los Gatos Creek.
Meanwhile, the Guadalupe River was the original, natural, eastern border of Willow Glen during its time as a municipality and many Willow Glen residents would consider it the community's easternmost border today. Most Willow Glen roads that cross the Guadalupe either end or change their names shortly thereafter. Minnesota Avenue, one of the community's oldest and most important thoroughfares, abruptly turns at a 90 degree angle upon reaching the Guadalupe River and runs along it’s western bank for more than a half mile before ending shortly after crossing “Willow Street.” The road never crosses the river. “Pine,” like Minnesota, starts at “Meridian Avenue” and abruptly ends right at the Guadalupe River’s western bank. “Willow Glen Way,” another historical thoroughfare, starts at Meridian and ends less than a 10th of a mile after crossing the Guadalupe River. Historically, only “Willow Street” and “Curtner Avenue” ran from what was traditionally San Jose and unincorporated south Santa Clara County across the Guadalupe and through Willow Glen. The traditionally non-Willow Glen neighborhoods of Tamien, Guadalupe Almaden, and Canoas Guadalupe, all share the common characteristic of falling east of the Guadalupe River.
Willow Glen's western border has changed over the years following San Jose's many different annexations of swaths of formerly unincorporated parts of Santa Clara County between San Jose and Campbell, CA. Some restrictive opinions cap Willow Glen's western end at Meridian Avenue, which serves as the starting point for most of Willow Glen’s most important west to east running roads, while others assert that Leigh Avenue, which largely runs along San Jose's contemporary border with Campbell, is a more appropriate end. Indeed, while Meridian serves as a starting point for Willow Glenn Way and Minnesota and some important neighborhoods, Leigh is the starting point for “Willow Street,” which is perhaps the most important and historical of all major Willow Glen roads. In either case, few believe Willow Glen expands to the industrial areas west of San Jose's Southwest Expressway.
Today, Willow Glen's southern end is the most ill defined and subject to debate. This is primarily because, as the region has grown in population, many of the newer developments and municipal amenities servicing Willow Glen's population were placed south of Curtner Avenue -- which is the political border between San Jose City Counsel District 6 (serving Willow Glen and the Rose Garden) and District 9 (serving greater Cambrian and Blossom Hill). As such, many new schools, roads and developments are located far south of walking distance to Willow Glen's epicenter, the half-mile Lincoln Avenue corridor between Willow Street and Minnesota Avenue, and resident's in the more historical Willow Glen area are responsive to completely different political representation at city hall than residents living in the newer south. This leads to some restrictive opinions that claim Curtner Avenue is Willow Glen's true southern end. Others peg Foxworthy Avenue and even Hillsdale Avenue as the community's southern border.
Willow Glen neighborhoods are almost exclusively composed of custom or semi-custom homes in a diverse range of architectural styles. Many architect-commissioned houses can be seen in the neighborhood, including Victorian, Neoclassical (Queen Anne Cottage and Neocolonial), Colonial Revival, Craftsman, Mission, Prairie, Spanish Eclectic, Eichler Homes, and Tudor. In recent years many smaller houses have been replaced with larger houses.
Dancin' on the Avenue (DOTA) is Willow Glen's annual street party that occurs on one day in summer. It is celebrated along Lincoln Avenue, between Willow Street and Minnesota Avenue. The event is organized by the Willow Glen Business Association.
Founders' Day occurs in September although it has not been celebrated every year. The event celebrates the rich history, cultural heritage, and progressive present of the neighborhoods, homes, and community of Willow Glen. The highlight is a festive parade that proceeds down Lincoln Avenue. The origins of Founders' Day are not known. Archives of the Willow Glen Resident newspaper indicate it originates from the area's nine years of independence from San Jose between September 8, 1927 and September 4, 1936. Another view is that it celebrates the work of Antonio Maria Sunol who built Laura Ville in 1847.
Willow Glen residents have a distinct Christmas tree decoration tradition. This tradition involves buying similar, very small, Christmas trees and placing them in the front yard ten feet from the sidewalk with multicolored lights. People and businesses in the neighborhood generally make significant decorations every year, both within the neighborhood and in the Lincoln Avenue business district, drawing visitors from all around the area.
The tradition of a Christmas tree on each residence's lawn was started in 1950 by Robert and Arlene Cimino. Trees were purchased in bulk from the Knights of Columbus and delivered to participating homes. The Ciminos moved from the area in 1956 and the tradition was continued by Frank Badagliacca, Jr. Hi wife, Dolores Badagliacca, came up with the idea of putting a single white light on the top of each tree. The tradition now stretches to over 200 streets in the greater San Jose area.
Although no railway stations exist within Willow Glen, the area is served well by VTA light rail and Caltrain stations on or near its borders: Fruitdale, Race, Curtner, Tamien, Diridon, and Virginia.
The two sections of the Los Gatos Creek Trail terminate in Willow Glen. The connection requires on-street travel through much of Willow Glen.
One section of the Guadalupe River Trail terminates near the far north east edge of Willow Glen but otherwise does not run through it.
The Highway 87 Bikeway runs along the eastern edge of Willow Glen but terminates at Willow Street at its most northern point.
The Three Creeks Trail runs diagonally through Willow Glen and passes close to downtown.
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