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This website is a constant work-in-progress, with articles updated regularly throughout the site. Much of the information comes from local railroad fans such as yourselves. If you have information regarding local railroads, photographs or railroad documents, or you feel a mistake has been made or information omitted from an article, leave a comment on the appropriate page or email me at This site would not be possible without your help and support. Thank you! – Derek R. Whaley

Friday, May 9, 2014

Grove Park & Bunker Hill Picnic Stop

William C. Shore at the Bunker Hill
reenactment at Bunker Hill Park, 1898.
(Elayne Shore Shuman)
Picnic stops were all the rage when railroads first hit the Santa Cruz Mountains in 1878. When the tracks reached the sleepy town of Los Gatos in 1878, a small empty property just east of the station and beside the creek boomed into a seasonal retreat. William Cadwell Shore first came to California in 1849 during the Gold Rush. In 1881, he moved to Los Gatos where, in 1884, he opened the Union Ice Company just south of the railroad depot. The property he purchased in 1881 was large and expansive and included a long stretch of Los Gatos Creek. The railroad may well have used his property prior to his ownership but, regardless, he allowed it to be used by the railroad to entertain visitors. The area became known as Grove Park and whether Shore charged a price for its use is unknown. It had few amenities but ample oak and sychamore trees plus creek-side real estate. The South Pacific Coast Railroad regularly brought three to four trains there on weekends, introducing drunk revelers to the Santa Cruz foothills. Visitors also included schoolchildren who would walk there by crossing the creek under the stone arch bridge that connected East Los Gatos and West Los Gatos.

Grove Park, c. 1890 (Los Gatos Museum)
On June 17, 1897, Grove Park was renamed Bunker Hill Park in memory of the Battle of Bunker Hill, the starting battle of the War for American Independence. That year, a large reenactment of the battle was fought and demonstrations of muskets and historical artifacts from the Revolutionary War were on display. The next year, and perhaps in later years, such reenactments on June 17 were repeated in honor of the war and in recognition of the park. Bunker Hill Park remained a popular destination for picnickers not desiring to make the climb over the mountains to Santa Cruz. Due to its proximity to the town, it also was more popular for corporate picnics. Among its amenities, the park included a dancing platform which could double as a skating rink, benches, large trees, and a seasonal swimming hole located just south of the park.

In 1920, after World War I, the park was renamed once again, this time to Memorial Park, though trains rarely, if ever, deposited tourists there anymore. By this time it was the community park for the town of Los Gatos and a respectable place for locals and visitors. Revelers were expected to go to other remote locations such as Sunset Park or Brookdale for their indecencies. Locals, though, could enjoy the new swimming pool that was built on the south side of the park in 1927.

Bunker Hill Park, 1907 postcard. (California History Center)
Memorial Park survived the first expansion of CA Route 17 in 1938 but it was directly in the path of the Los Gatos diversion constructed in 1956. In that year, the highway was extended down the center of Los Gatos Creek, with the creek diverted into culverts and channels, to Saratoga Road (CA Route 9), completely eliminating the park. Today, only a few isolated trees remain of the original park. Park Avenue in Los Gatos leads to the outskirts of the park, but the majority now sits beneath Highway 17, destroyed forever by the onslaught of the automobile.

Digital, book-formatted sample version available here.

  • Richard A. Beal, Highway 17: The Road to Santa Cruz, 2nd ed. (Aptos, CA: Pacific Group, 1991).
  • Peggy Conaway Bergtold, "Los Gatos History Timeline", Los Gatos Weekly-Times <> (Accessed 8 May 2014).
  • Peggy Conaway Bergtold & Stephanie Ross Mathews, Legendary Locals of Los Gatos (Arcadia, 2014). 
  • Bruce MacGregor & Richard Truesdale, A Centennial: South Pacific Coast (Boulder, CO: Pruett, 1982).
  • Stephanie Ross Mathews, Postcard History Series: Los Gatos (Arcadia, 2009).

1 comment:

  1. "Sunset magazine began in 1898 as a promotional magazine for the Southern Pacific Transportation Company, designed to combat the negative "Wild West" stereotypes about California." - from Wikipedia

    Having lived in Monterey County I can remember palm trees planted at the sites of stations past and present - Pacific Grove, Monterey, Salinas, Gonzales, and many more. There were also the name changes away from the Mexican - Watsonville for Pajaro, Del Monte Junction for Castroville. Just a bunch of tricks, but some left a lasting presence; I like to spot the old landscape 'package' within some overgrown wasteland.