|Survey Map of Alma and Lexington|
(Courtesy Duncan Nanney)
The earliest origins of Alma are not entirely known. Even the name is shrouded with mystery, with one story stating the town was named after a road that led to the New Almaden mine, while another states the town was named after a local prostitute. In either case, the word is Spanish for "soul." When the village was first founded in 1862, it was a part of nearby Lexington and went by the name of Forest House. The name was a reference to a small hotel found beside the north-south road that led over the mountains and eventually became Highway 17 (but was also known as the Glenwood Highway).
|Original 1859 Lexington School in Alma|
|The second Forest House, c. 1870|
(From John V. Young, Ghost Towns of the Santa Cruz Mountains)
|Original downtown general store beside the railroad tracks, c. 1890s.|
|Downtown Alma with the general store, 1915.|
|Picnickers posing beside a fence, c. 1900s.|
|Ellis Ranch, just south of town, was one of the largest properties in Alma. The train runs right through it in the center.|
|A pair of excursion trains parked outside Alma Station, c. 1900s|
|Second Lexington School at Alma, 1913.|
Oddly, Alma was also closed that year even though the route from Los Gatos was not significantly damaged by the winter storm. Likewise, Alma appears on virtually all railroad maps, showing the significance of the station.
|Alma Station in the 1930s before the line was closed. A parked flat car waits to be picked up.|
|Alma Station in 1950, probably converted into a small local business.|
The tracks have been removed and the reservoir is likely being built.
While many trains continued on over the mountains or stopped at formal picnic stops, some chose Alma itself as its destination. The town had a swimming hole, orchards, fields, redwoods one mile north, and meadows. The latter three of these also brought freight trains to Alma periodically so as to help transport goods back into the Santa Clara Valley. Even at its height, there were not many people living in Alma. At most, a dozen families made a living in the region, with another half dozen available from nearby Lexington. Life in the valley was not harsh, but the available land for cultivation and use was limited, with rocky hillsides closing the valley in.
|A bridge from 1923 buried under the reservoir, 2008.|
(Courtesy Brian Liddicoat)
|The site of Alma in 2008 when the reservoir was drained for maintenance.|
- Mildred Brooke Hoover, Historic Spots in California (Sanford UP, 2002).
- "Lexington School," Los Gatos Public Library (2012).
- John V. Young, Ghost Towns of the Santa Cruz Mountains (Great West Books, 2002).