Institute members converged from the East Bay, South Bay, and San Francisco at the History Museum of Los Gatos on March 27th. Dawn Maxson gave us a leisurely tour, beginning with the story of the handsome stone building, part of a flour mill from the 1850s that hosted rock concerts in the early 1970s. We learned about other tidbits of Los Gatos history, including that it became a kind of health resort because the air was considered good for people with asthma and lung diseases. The town had a “sketchy” reputation in the late nineteenth century and considered local prohibition of alcohol in 1906, but the measure was defeated. The website historylosgatos.org has a large archive of historic photographs and other information about the town.
We then toured the temporary exhibition, “American Bohemia: The Cats Estate in Los Gatos.” Photographs, memorabilia, a time line, home movies, and other materials told the story of Sara Bard Field and Charles Erskine Scott Wood, who bought the property in 1919 and moved there full time in 1925.
Several of us stayed in Los Gatos for dinner and an evening program sponsored by the museum. The guest speakers were Dona Munker of New York, who is writing a book, Sara and Erskine, An American Romance, and Tim Barnes of Portland, an expert on C.E.S. Wood. They made it clear that both Wood and Field were remarkable and controversial individuals. Their accomplishments and interests were too numerous to go into here, but each has an article in Wikipedia. Notable visitors to The Cats included Ansel Adams, Benny Bufano, Bennett Cerf, Charlie Chaplin, Robinson Jeffers, Eleanor Roosevelt, Carl Sandberg, John Steinbeck, and Lincoln Steffens.