TwentyEight: The Tollgate


Continuing the ‘Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley’ year long quest.

Subscribe to this blog by entering your email in the right sidebar>>>>>


The Pacific Congress Springs Resort Hotel around 1900
The Pacific Congress Springs Resort Hotel around 1900

Starting in 1847, the little pioneer town nestled in the foothills of the Santa Cruz mountains of Santa Clara Valley had been called Arroyo Quito, Campbell Creek, Campbell’s Gap, Tollgate, McCartysville, and Bank Mills over the years. In the middle of the Civil War, the townspeople came together to decide a permanent name. Just upstream from their town was a spring which had almost the same chemical content as Congress Springs, of Saratoga Springs, New York, so they named their small town Saratoga, and it remains today.

Once an industrial town, producing lumber from the nearby hills, flour mills, paper, cardboard, furniture, tanneries, much of the power was derived from Saratoga Creek. A large resort was constructed at Pacific Congress Springs, , which burned down in 1903. More history can be found here.

Today, Saratoga is one of the upscale communities in Silicon Valley, with its small town feel of tony boutiques, little shops and high-end restaurants. In it’s short downtown of about 5 blocks it is, in my opinion, the highest concentration of the best rated restaurants in the San Francisco Bay area. The winding roads in the surrounding hills reveal estates with personal vineyards, horse stables, and other indications of affluence.

Riding through Saratoga on my Harley-Davidson Road King every few months into the Santa Cruz Mountains, I always love to see Saratoga Creek as it runs year round…even through all the recent droughts.

It would have been nice to paint the Congress Springs area, but it is now grown over, and access is limited. (Based on my observations from the road, with it’s chain link fence, it is probably used as a water source for Saratoga.) I painted Saratoga Creek downstream from there as it flows through Wildwood Park in the middle of town.

Below is the finished piece, an intimate scene of Saratoga Creek—

The Tollgate, 8x10, oil on board
The Tollgate, 8×10, oil on board

Click this link for a map of all painting locations.


Four: Victorian Lore, Five: Just Down the Drive

Alum Rock Park sits in the foothills just east of San Jose. Founded in 1872 with its dozens of mineral springs, it soon became nationally famous as a health destination. Stone grottos were built around 20 springs, along with bath houses, hotels, saloons, a zoo, and other facilities over the years. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, San Jose residents and others could take the trolly from downtown east to commune with nature, partake of the mineral baths, and other attractions. All that is gone now except the stone bridges, grottos, and stairways. The park has basically ‘returned to nature’. More history can be found here. Here are a few historic photos of the park. Click on any image to see a larger version.

Alum Rock Park is a little over 7 miles from my home and Penitencia Creek flows through the park, the subject of painting number four. I painted one of the old stone bridges (built in 1913) in the afternoon. A few deer and a flock of wild turkeys kept me company for awhile. Here is a link to the location.

Alum Rock bridge over Penitencia Creek.
Alum Rock bridge over Penitencia Creek.
The almost finished painting on the easel.  There was no direct light in the canyon by the time I completed the piece.
The almost finished painting on the easel. There was no direct light in the canyon by the time I completed the piece.
Victorian Lore 8x10 oil on panel
Victorian Lore 8×10 oil on panel

There is a lot to paint here and I would like to return soon before all the fall color is gone, but also need to start covering more streams!

Painting five is just outside the entrance of the park along Penitencia Creek. Eucalyptus trees always make great subjects as they reflect a lot of the local light. I painted right along Penitencia Creek Road. Here is a link to the location.

The scene along Penitencia Creek.
The scene along Penitencia Creek.
My easel along Penitencia Creek close to the entrance to Alum Rock Park.
My easel along Penitencia Creek close to the entrance to Alum Rock Park.

In the painting, you can see the road bed in the middle background, and a bit of suburbia in the background.

Down the Drive (Penintencia Creek) 8x10 Oil on board
Down the Drive (Penintencia Creek) 8×10 Oil on board

There are also a lot of good spots to paint along the creek outside the park, but will hold off as a backup in case I run out of ideas in other areas in Silicon Valley.

OK, I confess. I went to Alum Rock Park on Monday, but it was closed, so did painting number five just outside the park. I returned on Tuesday and did painting number four. I thought the title was catchy so reversed the order. I never said I would number them exactly chronologically!