If walls could talk

Caroline Hoxett (1869 to 1927) was the original owner of the

Owning the sleekest kitchen stove or the largest whirlpool bath
doesn’t interest Morgan Hill residents John and Mary Khan. They’d
rather enjoy the charm and idiosyncrasies of their 110-year-old
home any day.
The couple, both in their mid-90s, live on Shadowbrook Way just
off of Hale Avenue. Like many other historic homes in the South
Valley, theirs has a colorful past.
Owning the sleekest kitchen stove or the largest whirlpool bath doesn’t interest Morgan Hill residents John and Mary Khan. They’d rather enjoy the charm and idiosyncrasies of their 110-year-old home any day.

The couple, both in their mid-90s, live on Shadowbrook Way just off of Hale Avenue. Like many other historic homes in the South Valley, theirs has a colorful past.

The Khans’ home was constructed in 1895, but not on the property it sits now. It was built on a parcel on Wright and Peak avenues and was moved by a trailer to the Khan property in 1956, because that’s where the owners wanted it.

A man named Clarence Peterson built the home as a gift to his wife, who was traveling to California from Europe but died on the journey. Mary Khan’s father, Albert Raney, bought the house in 1908 and lived there alone for about a decade. His family moved from North Dakota to live with him, and John and Mary Khan have been there for 50 years.

The original structure was 1,400 square feet but has since expanded to include two bathrooms, a laundry room and an additional bedroom. Much of the structure’s stucco fell off when the home was hauled to its current location and had to be replaced, along with the roof. Most of the home’s hardwood floors have been carpeted.

Carol Khan Agaliotis, John and Mary’s daughter, said she and her parents love the old house, especially its large wrap-around porch and open, airy feel.

“The thing I like best about it is it still retains its end-of-the-19th-century and early-20th century character,” she said. “And the high ceilings, too. They don’t lend themselves to cleaning, but they keep the house very cool in the summer. It’s very comfortable.”

Unique architecture is part of the reason former Gilroy mayor Roberta Hughan enjoys living in her historic home on Fifth Street in Gilroy, also known as the Hoxett house. The sweet smell of bay trees adds to the home’s old-time charm, and the stained glass windows reflect pastel light onto the hardwood floors.

The home is named for Caroline Amelia Hoxett, a generous benefactress who came to Gilroy around 1868. Her husband Thomas, owner of the first bakery in Gilroy, built a considerable fortune playing the stock market. He spent a large part of his earnings constructing the Italianate home for his wife, who died in 1927.

After her death, the Gilroy Women’s Civic Club used the house as a meeting place until about 1973, and Roberta and her former husband John Hughan bought the house a year later.

“I like every bit of it,” Roberta Hughan said. “I like the spaces and the stained glass windows. We restored it as much as possible, which took many, many years. I’d say most of it was done in about 10 years. My kids would probably say different.”

Hughan, a retired architect, said the design of the 2,200-square-foot structure appeals to her because it’s neither extremely elaborate nor overly simple. Restoring the home’s Victorian details has become one of Hughan’s hobbies.

The house was in good shape when the Hughans bought it, mainly because the civic club kept it well maintained. Only the kitchen has been remodeled, although the Hughans added some closets to the three bedrooms as well as plumbing, wiring and heating throughout the house.

The Hoxett house is one of several notable homes on the Gilroy Museum’s historic Fifth Street walking tours, which feature 27 historic homes and buildings. Similarly, the Hollister Historical Society offers self-guided walking tours of more than 50 historic structures throughout the city.

Standing tall at 582 Fifth St. is a Queen Anne Victorian home built in the 1880s, originally owned by William Voss Hollinberry who also owned the Hollister Hotel.

The structure features a number of stained glass windows that were shipped to Hollister from Italy.

An almost identical home once sat adjacent to the Fifth Street house, but it was leveled by a fire that left only the landscape and sidewalks.

Another Queen Anne Victorian in Hollister saw a glimpse of fame when it was featured in the 1981 film adaptation of “East of Eden” starring Jane Seymour. The structure, located at 800 Monterey St., was built in 1893 and includes several features of homes characteristic of the wealthy, such as an engraved triangular decoration above the entrance.

Though the Queen Anne Victorian was one of Hollister’s most popular styles of residential architecture, the house at 446 Sixth St. is a quaint Pioneer-style home with a simple, box-like shape. The Burnet brothers built the house around 1869, and Sheriff Jeremiah Croxon purchased it about four years later.

According to the historical society, Croxon never learned to drive a car, and the barn he used for his horse still stands behind his old home.

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