Lexington School's History
About 10,000 years ago, the Ohlone came to the Bay Area from the north. By 500 CE, there were about 10,000 Ohlone living in the Bay Area, and some had settled in the place we now call Los Gatos.
By 1810, all of the original Ohlone who lived off the land were gone because of European contact. By 1832, there were less than 2,000 Ohlone alive. Today, not one full-blooded Ohlone is alive. Evidence of the ancient Ohlone have been found in what is today the Lexington Reservoir. The area was used for grinding acorns.
Ohlone leader Patrick Orozco and confirmed Ohlone bedrock mortars in Lexington Reservoir
In the early 1800s, raising cattle and cutting lumber were the main activities in the Santa Cruz mountains for the new European and American settlers. In 1849, a man named Zachariah “Buffalo” Jones (named for his loud booming voice) built a redwood sawmill near the northern end of where Lexington Reservoir is today. The sawmill was named Jones Mill. In 1857, Jones Mill was sold to a man named John P. Henning. He renamed Jones Mill “Lexington” because he was from Lexington, Missouri. It became a busy little town with a hotel, livery, blacksmith shop, and eight sawmills.
Mid-1800s map of Lexington Town
In those days, it would take people three days just to get from Los Gatos to the summit by foot or horse because there was so much brush. In 1858, the first stagecoach road was completed that linked Los Gatos to Santa Cruz. Stage coaches would stop at Lexington on their way to Santa Cruz.
Stagecoach on what later became Santa Cruz Highway
In 1859, the first Lexington school was built by Louis Hebard. It was a one room schoolhouse, and it was the only school between San José and Santa Cruz.
The first Lexington School (before and after painting) in Lexington
Children would come to school by walking, running, horse, donkey, or buggy.
Lexington school children in the 1800s
The Toll House which is now a hotel and restaurant in Los Gatos, was originally built in Lexington. It was moved in 1865.
The Tollhouse in the late 1800s
The town called Alma was located a mile south of Lexington, also located in today's Lexington Reservoir. Alma became a town in 1873 with six sawmills and a store. It eventually became busier than Lexington.
The town of Alma
In 1876, a railroad was built between the Oakland area and Santa Cruz. It skipped Lexington, but stopped in Alma, so more people began to live in Alma and the Los Gatos area.
Train passing Lexington
Train stopping in Alma with school children from San Francisco
In 1911, since Alma was busier than Lexington, the first Lexington school was destroyed and rebuilt in Alma as the second Lexington school.
The second Lexington School in Alma
In 1915, Santa Cruz Highway was built. The railroad to Santa Cruz was torn down in 1940 and Highway 17 was created.
Traffic on Santa Cruz Highway passing through Alma
In 1952, Alma and Lexington were abandoned to make way for the new Lexington Reservoir. The dam and reservoir were built to provide more water to residents in Santa Clara and San José. There were about twelve families at Lexington and about fifty families in Alma who had to move. By December, the water was rising behind the dam.
Last home being moved from Lexington before the reservoir filled up
Lexington students went to school at Louise Van Meter school while the third Lexington school was being built. Part of the old school was actually moved and became part on the new school. On September 14, 1953, the third Lexington school, with 150 students, was opened where it still stands today.
The third and current Lexington in the 1950s
Newly added Second and Fifth Grade Rooms
Lexington School in the 1960s
In 2010, there are plans for Lexington to be remodeled for its fourth time in 150 years!
Information and images gathered from various sources. Many thanks go out to local authors and historians Marlene Wiley, Bruce Franks, Bill Wulf, John S. Baggerly, Peggy Conaway, John V. Young, Richard Beal, Billie J. Jensen, and the Los Gatos Public Library. Special thanks goes Jorge Barriga for sharing the photos and information from the historial files of his late wife, Joan Barriga.
If you have any questions, corrections, or stories or photos to share about Lexington, please contact Barbara Lougée, Librarian and Computer Lab Specialist at Lexington.