Homes of Willow Ranch Tour 1950-2005

On June 10, 2005 PAC*SJ hosted a 4 home house tour of America’s most popular style - the ranch. A special tour/party will kick off the fund raiser with food, music and optional 1950's attire made this a memorable evening. Designer/builder of Willow Ranch, Bob Dodge was the guest of honor.  On June 11, tours were conducted with docents in 50's attire and the homes that gave visitors great ideas on how they can sensitively update their homes, whether they live in an Eichler, Victorian or anything in between.

The ranch style is derived from the early California adobe ranchos of the 1700's and early 1800's. A great example of this architecture is San Jose’s #1 landmark, the 1797 Peralta Adobe located on St. John St. These single story structures with low front porches basking in the comfortable California sun, encouraged entertaining, both inside and out.

In the 1950's, ranch style homes were best represented in Willow Glen’s Willow Ranch designed and built by Bob Dodge and his uncle, Walker Vaughn. Architectural magazines of that period touted Willow Ranch as the ultimate in ranch style living. The high priced development was given an exclusive feel, ranch style gates at its entrance were erected and homes were built on over sized 1/3 to 1/2 acre lots. The development was kept rural by building the development in a walnut orchard, streets were not paved, no street lights or sidewalks were allowed. Open yards (no fences), clustered mailboxes on the street, and open breeze ways which connected homes to garages encouraged neighbors to interact.

On Cottle Ave., the first street built in the pre-tv 1950's, homes had large front porches and front court yards with bbqs and fireplaces which naturally led to neighbors getting together. On Westgate Ave., the second street built in the mid 1950's, homes incorporated large family rooms to facilitate tv watching and swimming pools that necessitated fences. Entertaining moved to the backyard. These homes reflect how architecture adapted to technology and is continuing to adapt to home theaters, high tech lighting and security systems.

The four homes featured each reflected very different approaches on how to update and personalize one’s home while remaining compatible with the neighborhood.

Recently, the Maestri home tastefully doubled its size incorporating a new 450 sq ft kitchen with a real wine country feel, reflecting his profession as a wine/liquor manufacturer and distributor. Ceilings were raised to 10 and 12 feet with layers of moldings . The back yard is replete with a new pool, water fall and putting green. The owner’s goal was to make the home open and livable, reflecting his San Jose and Hawaiian heritage. It is obvious this home owner loves Willow Ranch; this is the third home he has lived in the development.

The Gallagher/Hyland home was the last home built in the development and is the largest. Here’s a real opportunity to see how the pros live. The couple owning the home are proprietors of Geppetto’s Workshop, where she is a kitchen designer and he is a general contractor. The home boasts beautiful cabinets galore, the master suite has a vaulted ceiling, and a back loggia with a fireplace and pizza oven, making this outdoor room a year round pleasure. The homeowners have successfully created a sophisticated elegant home while keeping it friendly for their large family.

The Zetterquist home is owned by a designer/contractor who has been remodeling his home for 26 years. Layer upon layer of moldings were added to rival any period home. The owner’s goal was to give the home a real east coast farmhouse look that has evolved over generations. The house includes a game room _ with elaborate exposed timbers and an 1800's bar. Recently, a 750 sq ft master suite that looks like it is straight out of a turn of the century European hotel was added.

The Melehanhome has been sensitively enlarged with the addition of a large family room with a high cathedral ceiling and the addition of a master suite complete with fireplace dressing room. Photos adorn the walls and portray this family’ s deep roots in the Valley of Heart’s Delight that extends back over a century. The kitchen was redesigned 12 years ago and shows that if done well, a kitchen can stand the test of time. The home owners goal was to keep the home true to the Ranch Style design. This home’s spacious back yard with its outdoor kitchen and pergola will be open during the tour to enjoy snacks, purchase special gift items and chat with special guests.

Though all unique, a common thread is reflected through all four homes: a love and commitment to their neighborhood and to the city of San Jose.