September 11, 2011

Orchard Park: As Seen in Better Homes & Gardens, 1950!

imageHere’s a real blast from the past from Burbed reader Swan.  You’ve probably noticed all the 1950s-era tract houses in Silicon Valley, as they’re the reason there’s so little room to build anything new except next to high-value spots like freeways, train tracks, airports and power lines!  But did you ever wonder what it was like for people buying these houses when they were new?

Now you can get just a taste of that idea, because look what Swan has to share.  Here’s the actual SALES BROUCHURE for the Orchard Park development in Santa Clara. The builder was Kaiser Homes.

Let’s put on our fedoras or our cloches (and no cross-dressing, that was not acceptable where we’re headed) and take a ride back to Santa Clara, 1950!

Orchard Park Brochure 1

Oh my, California “Rancho” models!  Looks like using lots of quote marks was quite the thing in 1950. Even the name of the development is in quotes, and there’s also 3-bedroom smartly styled “1950 Creations” (note no period).

The picture above is the “Studio Rancho” model, just in case you’ve seen one lately.  Anyway, let’s continue with our trip down memory lane.

Orchard Park Brochure 2

Whoa, lots of text here, some quite tiny. I’ll type it up so you don’t have to squint, right after the break.


I swear, I don’t write this stuff, they did.

Never before such Quality Features in popular-priced homes

Split brick fireplaces in all models  ★  No. 1 Select Red Cedar shingles and white Dolomite heat-reflecting roofs  ★  Solid sheathed exterior wall  ★  “Wolmanized” floor girders  ★  Gutters and drains complete with all homes  ★  2” x 6” T&G “Vibrationless” subfloors, “Gibraltar” construction  ★  Dual “Holly” Console wall furnace with separate high, low, medium controls  ★  “Fenestra” steel casement rolled edge windows with rotors and screens  ★  2” x 8” saw-sized insulated redwood ceiling  ★  Select oak flooring  ★  Floor-to-ceiling individual wardrobe closets  ★   Built-in vanity with plate glass mirror  ★  Spacious “picture” windows with “hobby” shelves in 3-bedroom models  ★  Natural Mahogany wall with built-in bookcases and bar in den  ★  Solid Mahogany paneled dinette wall  ★  “Queen Mary” Adjusto showers  ★  Floor-to-ceiling closet in bath convertible to stall shower  ★  Recessed kitchen cabinets  ★  Thermostatic Heat in all 3 bedroom models  ★  Double sink with chrome swing spout  ★  Sliding glass panel “pass through” from kitchen to dining area in Rancho models  ★  Ceramic tile (Hermosa and Pomona) in tub enclosures and floors  ★  “Formica” counter and splash  ★  “Schlage” polished brass hardware  ★  Heavy duty steel medicine cabinet with plate glass mirror  ★  Lifetime Chrome Finish Bath Accessories  ★  Polished brass knocker and chimes  ★  Beam edge garage doors  ★  Choice of interior wall color, tile color, linoleum color, “Marlite” . . .

image“Wolmanized”?  Help me out here!  What’s “Marlite”?  What is Pomona tile and why doesn’t it merit any quotation marks?  At least I do remember what a “picture” window is, because the house I grew up in (built in 1954) had one.  It’s just a big window in landscape orientation.  And wow, they had Formica back in 1950!

Onward with the quotation marks, under the photo of the (white, of course) kids on a bike and a trike, next to the sign that says “HAPPY Children LIVE HERE  DRIVE SLOWLY  Kaiser Homes”

“Pretty as a picture” Orchard Park is located between the exclusive “Rose Garden” district of San Jose and the prim “University Square” residential section of Santa Clara.  A fine network of major thoroughfares make “Orchard Park” easily and quickly accessible.  The “Park Avenue Luna Park” City bus line traverses “Orchard Park” on a twenty minute schedule.  Schools, churches, stores and recreational areas are right at hand. Here, among congenial neighbors is living at its very best.  Special low prices and terms for homes in the new unit make it easy for you and yours to live here too—if you act at once.  SEE the lovely new homes in the new unit TODAY.

See the new “Studio Rancho” Popular California Ranch House Model delightfully furnished by L. LION & SONS

And that second paragraph uses about six different unrelated fonts in this BIZARRE mix of CAPITALS and lower-case PRESAGING REALTARDSPEAK through THE decades.

So University Square is “prim”?  I have a different word for that neighborhood, which also has four letters.  So, anyone ever heard of Luna Park?  And how about that fine network of major thoroughfares?  We’ll be taking another look at them soon.  But you have to act at once.  TODAY.


And let’s have a blow-up of that map so you can admire the fine network of major thoroughfares, as soon as I’ve figured out what the heck electroliers are.

Orchard Park map

Swan assures me that “Los Gatos Rd” is now Winchester, as I was surprised a major thoroughfare like that one was missing from the fine network.  Here’s the text below the map:




And here is the same area in the map, today.  Sorry about the freeway and the airport getting in the way of the fine network of major thoroughfares.


Are you ready… for the INSIDE of the brochure now?  Yes, there’s MORE.

Orchard Park Brochure 3ab

Here are the six home models you can choose from.  Fortunately I’ve got the half-sections blown up so you can see the model homes a little better.  Here are The Studio, The New Englander, and The Carmel.

Orchard Park Brochure 3a

Plus there’s a floorplan above of the 2 bedroom plan (bedrooms on the right, kitchen in upper left, living room lower left, the garage shares a wall with the living room but no door into the house).  Here are both plans a little bigger.


But wait, there’s much more! The Palm Springs, The Rancho, and The Contemporary! Plus the 3 bedroom floorplan (living room in same place, dining room in upper left, kitchen to its right, two bedrooms on lower right, one on upper right, the garage abuts a bedroom).

Orchard Park Brochure 3b

And here’s the text with the model pictures:


Formerly an Orchard Grove, beautiful shady full bearing fruit trees have been carefully preserved to “picture frame” each home site throughout “Orchard Park”

Shown on this page and on front cover are the sensational new Kaiser “California Ranch House” models, typical of which recently merited National Recognition in “Better Homes and Gardens” magazine.

With slanted ranch-type ceilings and heavy exposed beams, the Rancho 2 bedroom dwelling have the ingenious E-X-P-A-N-D-A-B-L-E features to meet the needs of a growing family.

Also shown are the new “1950” series of Kaiser 3 bedroom homes.  All of these dwellings are now under construction in the attractive new unit of “Orchard Park.”  All have inherent features of quality, durability, beauty and convenience, plus excellent location of “good address” to make them outstanding values.

See these homes.  Note the rugged construction features and refinements of quality never before found at any house at anywhere near these new unit low introduction prices and terms.


Prices less than $10,000… Terms as low as $59.50 per month




Hurry!  ACT at ONCE!  TODAY!

Comments (31) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:11 am

31 Responses to “Orchard Park: As Seen in Better Homes & Gardens, 1950!”

  1. Divasm Says:

    Wow this is quite a treat, thanks for this gem! How exactly does that “expandable” (I’m too lazy to do caps and dashes on my iPad) work? Do you push a button and get a popup guest room in your yard?

    I grew up in a house just like this and I have to wonder why we need such bigger homes now…families weren’t significantly smaller? I guess you could argue that furniture is bigger but that’s to fill bigger homes!

    We do have a lot more electronic staples I guess…have you ever tried to figure out where to put your huge screen TV in one of these living rooms that hasn’t been updated? Sometimes there aren’t even outlets. And of course we need rooms for our computers and our kitchens all need microwaves and bread makers and dishwashers.

    Or perhaps this is the ultimate proof that America has an obesity problem…new homes have doubled in size in the last 50 years, just like us!

  2. madhaus Says:

    This one was a lot of fun, I’d love to have more old sales brochures for homes if anyone has some to share. Swan also identified some properties as lining up with the different models mentioned, but this piece was getting a little too long anyway. We’ve got a place coming up soon that is in the development and I’ll link back to this article and mention which model it is.

    You can’t tell by looking at the map, but the Santa Clara border is north of Newhall and West of Winchester (Los Gatos Road), which means most of this development is actually in San Jose. I wonder if this land was all County with a Santa Clara mailing address, and then San Jose annexed it.

    The thing that makes me guffaw the most about the brochure is its claim of “good address,” in a tremendous development with E-Z Terms. Didn’t we already discuss how much respect you’d get living here? And as to those terms, some things never change. Not “How much is the house” but “How much can you pay.”

  3. Petsmart groomer Says:

    Nice one, madhaus!

    According to this, $10K in 1950 is about $90K now.

  4. Petsmart groomer Says:

    > new homes have doubled in size in the last 50 years, just like us!

    Average square footage of a single family house in 1950: 983 sq ft.

    (source: National Association of Home Builders)

  5. The Gilroy Alex Says:

    Wolmanized/Wolvanized? wood was a kind of pressure-treated wood, some kind of preservative put on it. To give an idea of how good it worked, the old Portlock Pier on Oahu had that kind of wood, and under the silver, shaggy, exterior from a couple decades of exposure to the warm Pacific, the wood underneath was as fresh as it came from the sawmill.

  6. nomadic Says:

    Yeah, I remember my parents calling pressure-treated wood “wolmanized.” What made me stop reading and go look up was electrolier.

    Awesome find, by the way! Thanks for sending it in, Swan.

  7. steve Says:

    a fantastic post!

    links to 4 separate eichler sales brochures from the san mateo highlands:

  8. madhaus Says:

    Okay, don’t laugh. I just spent two hours at the Sunnyvale Heritage Museum talking to the nice archivist lady about what home brochures they have for all those tracts that got thrown up in the 1950s and 60s.

    We went through the catalogs, dug through boxes, and found a big file full of brochures. None this old, though, I suspect the file was put together by either a very busy house-hunter or a real estate agent. The homes seemed to be late 1960s to mid 1970s, but I didn’t cross check addresses with build dates. I’m going to go back and scan a bunch of them in and will feature them from time to time.

    Best of all, the brochures weren’t just from Sunnyvale, so we can hit several other cities. There were developments in Mountain View, Los Altos, Cupertino, Saratoga, Los Gatos, and San Jose.

    One thing I read that had me scratching my head was a boast that a GM plant was coming to Sunnyvale, but Santa Clara was suing them over 200 feet of land that was in their city. Is that why GM put the place in Fremont instead? It was odd that the Chamber of Commerce was so thrilled about this when their whole story of themselves was that Sunnyvale didn’t have heavy industry that polluted.

  9. nomadic Says:

    Cool, madhaus! Nice of you to take time out of your Sunday to gather more material to entertain us.

    The neighborhood featured today appears to be short sale central. Prices are in the $480k-500k range and 4 out of the first 4 I clicked on were short sales. Take a look:!lat=37.33488425049852&long=-121.94199968997526&market=sanfrancisco&max_num_beds=3&num_beds=2&sf=1,2&uipt=1&v=6&zoomLevel=16

  10. Mike from 1951 Says:

    Everything you look at from the 50’s will look, oh, about, say, 60 years old, and making fun of it is like making fun of your grandmother’s hairstyle — way, way too easy. Just imagine what they’ll say about this blog in 2070.

    Notice that 101 was Bayshore Hwy then — 4 lanes, with stop lights, state-of-the-art.

    Each new development was enticing because it was at the edge of town … for about 6 months.

    “Electroliers” in this context are street lights.

  11. The Gilroy Alex Says:

    #6 – I grew up calling it “Wolvanized” lol. I also called a ladder a “lather” for a while, confused “shears” and “Sears”, and other funny ways of saying things. The ultimate was “e-kill-i-vent” for “equivalent” which was pretty damn cool but my 2nd grade teacher wasn’t having it.

  12. nomadic Says:

    #10 (Mike), I don’t think you caught our tone correctly. I think looking at these old brochures is really cool. It’s interesting to see what things were like back then, and also interesting that some terms (like electrolier) are a mystery now. I can just imagine the post-WWII families with a kid or two deciding it was time to buy a house and moving into these places.

    However, the ACT NOW, TODAY bit was hilarious. Some things never change!

  13. Real Estater Says:

    Home was worth $10K in 1950. Let’s see…If price doubles every 10 years, it’d be worth:

    $20K in 1960
    $40K in 1970
    $80K in 1980
    $160K in 1990
    $320K in 2000
    $640K in 2010

    That sounds about right for price in Santa Clara today.

  14. madhaus Says:

    #13, meet #9. These houses were priced at $640K in 2006. People who paid that much for them are in a world of hurt now.

  15. Real Estater Says:

    Specific example can be misleading. The house in #9 backs up to 280, which explains why it’s worthless.

    In general houses in the $600K range in Santa Clara were worth around $10K in 1950. If you happen to have bought a house that backs up to the freeway at the peak of the market prior to a historic economic event, yes you are hurting. Using such exceptional example to make your point is frankly ludicrous.

  16. madhaus Says:

    RE, try to keep up. There is not one house mentioned in #9, but a series of houses, and a range is given as well.

    The houses in question are on the small side; 2/1s and 3/1s unless added on to. $600K is an appropriate price for a larger home in this area but not the Orchard Park small ones. By 1955 the 3/2 was a more common layout and 4 bedroom homes were being added to the mix. You wouldn’t get that for $10K, though. $10K was about as low as you could go and still get a house and a yard.

    One thing I saw in the historical museum: a road map with a legend showing development price ranges. Unfortunately, there was no key, just the ranges. Like it was supposed to be printed with different color inks and they forgot to run it through. I would have so shared that here. Anyway, $10-12K was the lowest price range in 1956 when the map was given out. The highest was 22-24K.

  17. nomadic Says:

    There are nine houses in #9. Seven of them are short sales. So what was your point, exactly?

  18. Sunny(vale) Kim Says:

    If you happen to have bought a house that backs up to the freeway at the peak of the market prior to a historic economic event, yes you are hurting.

    In 2008 Real Estater said:

    Like I said, having something is better than having nothing at all. In other words, having a house in San Jose beats renting in Palo Alto any day!

    I am trying to imagine what would Real Estater say in 2006.

    “Don’t buy now. Looks like market peaked.”


    “Having something is better than having nothing at all. In other words, having a house backing up freeway beats renting in Palo Alto any day!”

  19. SEA Says:

    Funny how he always makes money in the past…

  20. A. Lewis Says:

    Great posting! Awesome to look back at the past.

    And also makes it so clear how little value has been added to so many homes in 60 years. In my part of the East Bay, there are blocks full of Eichler-esque homes all built together in 1955-1960. Many of them have had a single owner since then (many have recently passed away), and they did very little or no work on the home – so why should you pay more than the inflation-tracked price on the place? Especially if some parts are 60 years old and need replacing!

    When I see a really nice, high quality renovation, I can respect a higher price. But it’s amazing how many people will buy old stuff for just slightly less – people need to learn about value in housing, something their grandparents in the 50’s probably had an easier time evaluating.

  21. DreamT Says:

    “people need to learn about value in housing”
    with all due respect, Aa., “people” purchase land + improvement, not just a dwelling. The “old stuff” you’re referring to does not even amount to one third of the full assessed value.

  22. nomadic Says:

    But A., why should anyone do anything to their house when all they need are light bulbs and Drano? 😉

  23. nomadic Says:

    BTW, there’s someone in Orchard Park that appears to have been there for at least 50 years, if not since Day 1:

    It’s a short sale listed at $490k. Assessed value: $64,253. Way to tap the ATM, gramps!

  24. madhaus Says:

    Listing for Sunny Vista says it’s a 3/1.5, public facts says it’s a 3/1. Can you say NO PERMITS on that half bath?

    At least this one has had some work done on it (family room, roof replaced 6 years ago).

  25. SEA Says:

    “Roof is only 6 years old.”

    Does this add any value? Of course, it adds to the WTF is the agent thinking value.

  26. Swan Says:

    I’m glad everyone enjoyed the Orchard Park sales brochure! We purchased a home in the neighborhood back in 2004 (wish I’d paid only $10K) and the previous owner left a copy of the brochure for us. There are still quite a few original owners in the neighborhood and they love to tell how long they’ve lived there, how much they paid for their house, the history of the area and so on. It will be fun to see if anyone comes up with more of these old brochures!

  27. Swan Says:

    #25 – Adding to the “WTF is the agent thinking value” is the next door neighbor is a registered sex offender.

  28. Dewane Says:

    Interesting fact: “Exclusive” was realtor-speak for “all white” in those days.

  29. Today we celebrate Henry the K [] Says:

    […] anything real-estate related runs on weekends. One of our most well-received weekend articles was a long-form post about Orchard Park. Orchard Park was a 700-home development built after World War II on the San Jose-Santa Clara […]

  30. Julie Thompson Says:

    Just loved the Kaiser brochure! My grandparents had a few homes off of Newhall…Kenwood, Cory and Tulip…Was a wonderful place to grow up…I went to Cory til the 3rd grade…I still live in a tiny home off of Newhall…Thanks for the memories! I still miss the OLD Valley Fair! XO Julie

  31. Michael Mortimer Says:

    My folks bought a Kaiser home in 1950, for that advertised price of $10,000. There’s was on 2415 Tulip Road, which happens to currently be listed for sale. Some interesting things noted:

    – I thought the home was a three BR house. But on looking at the brochure I think it was a two BR, and the room I thought was a BR was considered the “TV den room” back when new. (See in the brochure where they mention a wood paneled den.In our house, that’s the only room that is wood paneled.

    – Although the rage now, back then hardwood floors were standard, ready for your wall-to-wall carpet (an option). Getting the house ready for sale, last month (June 2018) we had day laborers tear out the carpet and shine the hardwood floors.

    – I guess back then tubs were common for bathing, showers became popular after servicemen returned home from WW II. In our house I always wondered why the bathroom contained large floor to ceiling cabinets. Now that I look at it, the cabinets are the size of a shower stall. So that’s what it was, the place to install an optional shower.

    – In the mid 1960s my folks did a major remodel and add-on to the house. Included was adding a large dining room, kitchen dining area, and second bathroom that included a large tiled shower.

    – The remodel also included adding a front entrance to the house, to change its character and look.

    – Our house had a free-standing one-car garage (obviously in the 1950s there were still many one-car families. Nowadays, that garage just won’t do. People want a two-car garage, half for storing junk, and parking one car.

    – Our house lot is huge. My understanding is that this was done to allow for owners to add on to the house, which is what my folks did in the sixties.

    In 2018 what I see happening, new owners are tearing down these homes and building new two-story houses from the ground up. Some are gutting the interiors, adding on a room or two, or adding a second floor.

    – If it were me, I would raze the house and erect a modern two-floor home, with five bedrooms and a two-car garage. The lots are commonly about 5500 to 5900 sf. With that much land and considering people nowadays don’t want to waste space with a huge patio/backyard.

    – You can google 2415 tulip road, San Jose to see my folks house. The pics show the size of the patio, even after they added the formal dining room, kitchen eating area, and bathroom.

    – Note: Our address is in San Jose. If I recall correctly, the Santa Clara border was Newhall Street, which was a couple blocks north.

    – As noted, the busy street on the west end of the map was NOT Los Gatos Rd.; it was Winchester Blvd.

    – Note: The north end of the Cory Area is bordered by two cemeteries, the non-denominational cemetery at the west end of Tulip Rd, and the large Catholic cemetery (Mission cemetery) bordered by Winchester, Newhall, and Monroe streets.

    – A lot of things featured in the brochure or mentioned about the area remain in 2018. Benjamin Cory school is still there. That’s where I went to kindergarten in 1960. St. Clare’s Catholic school remains in Santa Clara, that’s where I attended for grades 1-8. (Back then it was a safer time, so I walked home from school every day.)

    – Shopping has changed a lot. “Auto Row” that started at Saratoga and Steven’s Creek Blvd. got rid of all the fruit orchards. Now there’s miles of car dealerships, many of them established in the 1960-70s.

    Valley Fair – the big shopping mall grew with the times and developers wisely made it upscale, with all the upper scale boutique stores having a presence (Louis Vuitton, Tiffany, Neiman Marcus).

    Santana Row has been added, corner of Winchester at Steven’s Creek Blvd. (across the street from Valley Fair mall). The selection of stores and restaurants is a big hit. (Note: It replaced two San Jose landmarks: Courtesy Chevrolet, and Town & Country shopping center).

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