Casa Grande, New Almaden - San Jose, CA
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member DougK
N 37° 10.713 W 121° 49.162
10S E 604803 N 4115332
Quick Description: Casa Grande, Spanish for Big House, is a highly regarded piece of California architecture. The recently restored building now houses the Quicksilver Mining Museum as well as park staff and volunteer offices.
Location: California, United States
Date Posted: 11/13/2010 9:11:51 AM
Waymark Code: WMA409
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member QuesterMark
Views: 5

Long Description:
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Casa Grande is the keystone building in the New Almaden Historic District and the second oldest building in Santa Clara County after the Peralta Adobe

The modern history of New Almaden and Casa Grande began in the 1824, when Secundino Robles discovered ore deposits later identified as quicksilver. In 1845, before the major California Gold Rush, Andres Castillero filed documents with intent to mine the area and named the mine Santa Clara. In 1846, Castillero sold his share of the mine to The Barron, Forbes Company, who then changed the name from Santa Clara to New Almaden. Henry W. Halleck was the manager of the New Almaden Quicksilver Mines in the 1850s. Halleck commissioned architect Francis Meyers to designed and built the Casa Grande in 1854. Originally planned as a one story building, approval was gained for a second story residence. Casa Grande was constructed in the Federal style using brick, adobe and heavy timbers. John McLaren, designer of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, assisted with the landscaping.

Casa Grande, owned by the mining company, served for decades as the residence for the New Almaden Mine superintendent, starting with Halleck. Finally the mines became unprofitable and closed in 1912, when the Quicksilver Mining Company went bankrupt. A series of private owners operated businesses at Casa Grande. From 1915-1925, first owner George Sexton only stayed at Casa Grande when visiting from his home in New York. In 1927, brothers George and David Black acquired Casa Grande from Sexton's estate. They opened the first two floors to businesses, while they lived on the third floor. After installing several swimming pools in the back yard, they opened Club Almaden, a summer resort.

From 1964 to 2000, Casa Grande served as home to The Opry House. In 1997, Santa Clara Parks Department bought the property and did not renew the Opry House lease. The Quicksilver Mining Museum, formerly at the Carson House, was moved to the main floor. The top floor is used for park offices and museum employees.

Casa Grande closed in January, 2009 for extensive remodeling and earthquake improvements. Even after surviving five major earthquake in the bay area, Casa Grande's exterior needed maintenance. The brick and adobe exterior seen in old photos is now covered with a modern wood-like exterior. It re-opened on Nov 13, 2010 after $5 million of renovation.

Casa Grande, Back View Casa Grande, Front View facing street

Casa Grande Sign Club Almaden Sign

Superintendent's Desk Black Fireplace

The Tea Setting A Corner for Tea A Corner for Sitting

Parlor View 1 Parlor View 2 Doll for the Youth

Excerpts from the San Jose Mercury News story, by Lisa Krieger on the re-opening:

Casa Grande, an 1854 Classic Revival-style home built by architect Francis Meyers, was the official residence and office of mine superintendents, as well as a country retreat for wealthy mine investors. In all of Santa Clara County, only Peralta Adobe is older.

Its heyday came under the watch of manager James Butterworth Randol, a young New Yorker who had been secretary of the Quicksilver Mining Co.

Under Randol's strict supervision, the mining village became a model town. Roadways and cottages were kept trim and newly painted. A tollgate was installed to keep out gamblers, prostitutes and thieves. Randol created an innovative Miner's Health and Welfare Plan, where miners and families received medical care.

But his wife, Christina, a beautiful redhead, was homesick. So Randol diverted Alamitos Creek to create a large private lake in their backyard. The grounds were landscaped with the help of John McLaren, who designed Golden Gate Park. In 1888, Randol remodeled the mansion, installing a gymnasium for sons William and Frederick and enlarging the nursery for the three younger children. Distinguished guests included millionaire William Ralston and the Comstock Silver King's James Fair.

New Almaden gained a reputation as a place of innovation long before Silicon Valley, because its engineers learned efficient ways to pull mercury, or quicksilver, from cinnabar, the red ore that oozes from coastal California's mountains.

This mercury proved very valuable during the Gold Rush, because the element helps extract gold and silver -- revolutionizing the mining process. More than $75 million worth of minerals were pulled from the mines.

In these boom years, voices of miners echoed through the hills, as they worked dangerous 10-hour shifts, six days a week, in hot and wet shafts that were more than 2,000 feet deep. Flumes released sulfur gases into the air. Toxic slag was flushed into the creek.

Explosions reverberated through the valley. Shrill whistles ended each shift. Dirt roads were filled with teams of horses, who carried mercury flasks out to the little hamlet of San Jose, then Alviso, where it was shipped up the Bay to Sacramento and the gold and silver mines.

Then it all ended, the rich veins of cinnabar depleted.

Casa Grande, one of the few surviving artifacts of that period, was saved in 1998 with its purchase by Santa Clara County Parks Department.

Name of Historic District (as listed on the NRHP): New Almaden

Link to page with the Historic District: [Web Link]

NRHP Historic District Waymark (Optional): [Web Link]

21350 Almaden Road San Jose, CA

How did you determine the building to be a contributing structure?: Other (Please explain in the Private Message field)

Optional link to narrative or database: [Web Link]

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